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Home Movies/Out on Digital: Aug. 3, 2017

Aug. 1, 2017
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Several documentaries have just been released on DVD or Blu-ray, including Kansas vs. Darwin, Dying to Know: Ram Dass & Timothy Leary, I Am the Blues and Alive and Kicking.

Alive and Kicking

Alive and Kicking glances back at swing dancing’s roots in 1920s Harlem and its ancestral ties to hip-hop. But the documentary focuses on the present, showcasing comments from young dance partners for whom swing is a way to dress up, have fun, improvise within set boundaries and develop personal skills. For some, it’s a finger in the eye of contemporary digitalized existence, a way to feel alive. Many scenes were shot at high-stepping ballroom contests.


I Am the Blues

The great postwar blues artists—the Muddy Waters and the John Lee Hookers—are gone, but their musical children continue. I Am the Blues is a journey through the muggy backcountry of the American South with Grammy-winner Bobby Rush and less-known 70-something-year-old survivors of an earlier era. All are filled with memories, are still musically proficient and often capable of moving performances. Tin-roofed juke joints and dusty rural roads are among the settings.


Dying to Know: Ram Dass & Timothy Leary

As astronauts first ventured into outer space, Harvard psychology professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass) began exploring inner space through psychedelics. Narrated by Robert Redford, Dying to Know crisscrosses around the lives of those two academic adventurers with emphasis on a conversation between them shortly before Leary’s death (1996). They weren’t playing around for kicks but used science to transcend science in an exploration of the human psyche—and perhaps the divine.


Kansas vs. Darwin

The 2005 hearing by the Kansas Board of Education on the validity of Darwinism drew international attention and is the subject of this documentary. What emerges is the self-perception of many creationists as rebels, kicking against elitists trying to impose an alien worldview. Their fundamentalism is aided, ironically, by the pervasive relativism of our time in which sincerity trumps factuality. Several Kansans interviewed by director Jeff Tamblyn intelligently blend science with philosophy and faith.


Would white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan pose the same threat they do now if a mainstream Republican were president instead of Donald Trump?

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