Tuesday, December 12, 2006

You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train

Deb Ellis and Dennis Mueller, 2004
color and b+w documentary, 78 minutes
Ages 9? & up

Resident 9-year-old says, "Well, I enjoyed it, but I think most kids would be restless and would rather watch a horrible crappy movie called The Wild instead of this." (Um, we didn't see The Wild.)

It ain't for nothing that you're parked at Alternative Films for Kids, folks!

This profile of professor/activist Howard Zinn, author of The People's History of the United States (which has sold a million copies), covers his adult life, which has spanned many of the key social and peace movements of our time. Ellis and Mueller track Zinn from his labor activism to his experience in the air force to his days as a Civil Rights leader at Spelman College to his peace activism during the Vietman War—and beyond. This is a great way for kids too young to read A People's History to learn some people's history—through the life of an engaged historian who continues to work for social justice.

Definitely not The Wild.

Note: contains some graphic archival footage of American police brutalizing demonstrators, bombs dropping during WWII and Vietnam, and Vietnamese civilians under attack.

Whale Rider (in Maori: Te kaieke tohora)

Niki Caro, 2003
color feature, 101 minutes
Rated PG-13
Could be ok for ages 5 & up but prescreen it and judge for yourself!

I had to wait a few years to show my 7-year-old daughter this amazing tale of a girl who turns life around for everyone in her New Zealand Maori village, because the conflict that drives the story—her grandfather's rejection of her leadership because she is a girl—is so unsettling and sexism is a complex topic. Keisha Castle-Hughes is perfect as Paikea, a girl born into a long line of male chiefs in a society drifting away from its roots. The PG-13 rating seems to come from fly-by uses of d*** and b******, but the real caution is the harshness of grandfather, played beautifully by Rawiri Paratene, who requires a miracle to convince him of the rightness in his family line. This is a story of love among family, community, ancestors and planet that defies gender expectations all around.