DVD: Folk Tales, Eco-Activism, & Art as Therapy | August 2017 Xpress Reviews

Timeless folk tales are rejuvenated for a young audience; two documentaries explore the poor effects of artificial light on fireflies; an analysis of the Battle of Waterloo.

As One: The Autism Project. 82 min. Kino Lorber. 2017. $29.95. UPC 738329215378.

Professional Viewing –Taking place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, this documentary introduces a diverse group of 10 children ranging in age from four to 16 and all with autism spectrum diagnoses. The nine boys and one girl, along with teachers and performing artists, develop a comedic musical variety show over the course of 12 weeks that is performed for parents and family members. The project’s goal was to help the children with the development of social skills and interactions and to increase their self-confidence through the arts. Each child responds in his or her own way to the challenges of the endeavor. Some children and their families speak English, others speak Arabic, and some of the children do not speak at all. (When Arabic is spoken or where the English is unclear, there are subtitles.) One of the teachers is a behaviorist who provides helpful background information on the children and their interactions during the project’s development. VERDICT Possibly useful for in-service programs for teacher and other school professionals; best used in education methodology classes.–Ann Brownson, formerly at Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, SC

The Bob Barner Library. 47 min. Weston Woods. 2017. $49.95. ISBN 9781338184594.

PreS-Gr 4 –Barner’s books have always been a fun way to introduce young students to scientific topics. Rhyming text and vivid collage illustrations introduce a subject, and the nonfiction text provides further information. Four videos based on his titles have been gathered and rereleased into this collection. Stars! Stars! Stars!, from 2005, has a young boy and his dog giving a lively tour of the solar system. Dem Bones, first released in 2003, takes viewers into a jazzy rendition of the song while skeletons perform and bones are highlighted. More bone information follows. Dinosaur Bones (2006) features a T. rex as a host who has an inside view on dinosaurs and the bones they left behind. Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! (2008) is a simple introduction to bugs of all sorts. Each program has a different style of kid-friendly animation: bright, humorous, and eye-catching. The narration includes well-suited child and adult voices that match Barner’s colorful and bright collage illustrations. However, the scientific information is not always accurate. Pluto is no longer a planet. Spiders aren’t really considered bugs. The cause of the extinction of dinosaurs is still a matter of debate. VERDICT While a lot of fun, the lack of current scientific accuracy makes this a poor choice for school purchase.–Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary, Federal Way, WA

Brilliant Darkness: Hotaru in the Night. 21 min. total. Green Planet Films. $29. $150 (PPR). UPC 714497274164.

Gr 6 Up –Two brief documentaries offer an overview of the harmful effect that artificial light has had on fireflies. As man-made light pollution has become more pervasive, it has disrupted the natural patterns of firefly lives and reproductive cycles. The males of each firefly species have unique patterns of flashes that they use to attract females. Both short films offer scenes of fireflies in their natural habitat, their lights winking mysteriously in the darkness. The footage is impressive, if at times repetitive. “Brilliant Darkness: Hotaru in the Night” (12 minutes long) includes scientists and experts who share their concerns about the threats to fireflies; this piece would have benefitted from better organization and context. “Light of the Genji,” at only nine minutes, offers a more cohesive explanation supported by maps and charts. It also includes examples of various species and their unique flash signatures, illustrated with simple diagrams. One infamous English species, the femme fatale, mimics the flash patterns of others species and then kills them. VERDICT “Light of the Genji” is a supplemental purchase for classes that are already studying the harmful effects of man-made pollution on the natural world.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

The Coming War on China. 113 min. Bullfrog Films. 2017. $350. $95 (rental). ISBN 1941545769.

Gr 9 Up –The latest film by award-winning filmmaker John Pilger looks at the U.S. military buildup in the Pacific and the “pivot to Asia” policy, positing an inevitable war with China initiated by the United States. Despite many China experts watching this issue carefully, the film relies on pop nonfiction author James Bradley for most of its commentary (The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia, 2015). Sadly, the film’s refusal to place issues in a wider and deeper context makes it unsuitable for classroom use and consistently undermines an otherwise intriguing theory. For example, the film highlights that U.S. bases in South Korea are 400 miles from Shanghai, but fails to mention Pyongyang (Korea barely rates a mention despite current political tensions, the film never nothing that this is where Chinese and American troops have actually fought). Taiwan is also never discussed. Such omissions make it too easy to dismiss the underlying truth and broader argument. However, there are lengthy and largely effective indictments of human rights abuses on the U.S. bases on the Marshall Islands and the local opposition to military bases on Okinawa. The film also suffers from the inevitable problem of a long production schedule covering a fast-changing issue. Trump appears only in the final few minutes, as it mostly focuses on issues current in 2015. VERDICT The film opts for sensationalism over nuanced examination. An additional purchase for public libraries where there is an interest in Sino-U.S. relations.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA

Denial. 92 and 57 min. Bullfrog Films. 2017. $360. $95 (rental). ISBN 1941545823.

Gr 9 Up –The electrical grid is one of the most complex human achievements in the world, yet most do not understand where power comes from. Similarly, many are beginning to learn more about the complexity of gender expression. What do the changing needs of the electrical grid and an understanding of gender have in common? According to this documentary, these two seemingly disparate topics intersect in the life of Christine David Hallquist. Filmmaker Derek Hallquist began making a film about his father’s work as the CEO of a small Vermont electrical company and an early proponent of green energy and smart grids. His father, who transitioned from David to Christine, came out to Derek while filming. Derek tries to tie in Christine’s transition with the changing needs of the planet and the energy grid. He interviews family members, a psychologist, and an author about the ways humans deny facts in order to stick with comfortable, familiar feelings. VERDICT The film is not successful at binding its topics together. Both of these subjects are fascinating on their own, but trying to combine leaves viewers with more questions than knowledge, as neither one receives the amount of attention it deserves. –Geri Diorio, Stratford Library, CT

Favorite Folk Tales. 37 min. Weston Woods. 2017. $59.95. ISBN 9781338091120.

PreS-Gr 3 –This collection of rereleased award-winning folk tales includes three videos: Seven Blind Mice, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and This Is the House That Jack Built. Each classic tale comes alive for audiences thanks to expressive narration, instrumental background music, and bright, colorful illustrations. The disc also includes two bonus interviews with Ed Young and Boris Kulikov. The illustrators discuss their inspiration for the artwork in Seven Blind Mice and The Boy Who Cried Wolf, respectively; they also share special details that watchful viewers will want to keep an eye out for. An additional learning guide helps teachers incorporate the stories into their curriculum with activities to be used before or after viewing. VERDICT These folk tales, whether shown all together or independently, will find a place in many elementary curriculums thanks to their memorable artwork and timeless story lines.–Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School, Glen Rock, PA

Free. 73 and 56 min. (classroom version). Video Project. 2016. $89. ISBN unavail.

Gr 9 Up –The Oakland-based Destiny Arts Center provides an opportunity for at-risk youth to turn their lives, and emotions, into sharable art through dance. Only 20 of the teens who audition each year are accepted, and for those lucky few, it is a life-changing experience. This documentary follows the students from audition to performance, focusing on five of the dancers. Viewers learn of their home lives, challenges, and concerns, and see how these are woven into the fabric of the final pieces. They also learn of the dance director’s background and the reasons why she formed the company. This is not an easy film to watch; rape, molestation, homelessness, cutting, HIV, and other issues are aired in the safe environment of the company, where expression can be both in words and movement. Ultimately, this is a film about hope, change, and life. The DVD contains two versions. The shortened 56 minutes version fits better within a standard class period. Production quality is excellent. VERDICT While not a first purchase, this might provide hope to teens facing challenges, and the adults who serve them.–Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary, Federal Way, WA

Injecting Aluminum. 90 min. Cinema Libre Studio. 2017. $19.95. UPC 881394125421.

Gr 9 Up –Beginning in the early 1990s, a number of patients in France—approximately 1,000 to date—were diagnosed with macrophagic myofasciitis (MMF). Director Marie-Ange Poyet’s documentary, comprised solely of interviews with doctors, researchers, politicians, and patients, explores the connection between MMF and aluminum that is used as an adjuvant in some vaccines. (An adjuvant makes a vaccine more effective.) According to one doctor interviewed, victims of MMF have a genetic variant that inhibits their immune system from effectively eliminating the aluminum adjuvant from their systems, unlike most vaccine recipients. The retention of aluminum in the muscle tissue causes neurotoxicity and results in muscle and joint pain, as well as fatigue. The film chronicles the situation’s origin and why no action has been taken, and offers one possible solution: according to some professionals, calcium phosphate should be used as an adjuvant in lieu of aluminum. As neuropathologist Romain Gherardi states in the film, “You walk a narrow line between wanting to maintain the public health benefits of a vaccine and your refusal to be guilty of an injustice.” Indeed, this film walks a narrow line. There are undoubtedly individuals who have suffered adverse side effects from the aluminum used in some vaccines, but the film glosses over the fact that vaccines save millions of lives annually. VERDICT Recommended for educational situations where critical examination of scientific material is the main focus.–Ragan O’Malley. Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn

Kuu Kuu Harajuki: Music, Baby! 154 min. Shout! Kids Factory. 2017. $14.99. UPC 826663176445.

Gr 1-4 –The animated TV series Kuu Kuu Harajuku follows the adventures of five fashionable girls—Love, Angel, Music, Baby, and G—members of the fictional pop band HJ5. Much like a modern-day version of The Monkees, each episode usually revolves around the band members having to avoid wacky situations or fighting off enemies so the group can perform onstage. Segments are entertaining enough, filled with one-liners and bright colors to maintain interest, but there’s a noticeable lack of substance, since the girls mostly care about clothes and their appearance. For a series based on a fictional band and produced by Gwen Stefani, there’s a surprising lack of music to accompany the piece. But the biggest problem is that the four characters, based on Stefani’s backup dancers the Harajuku Girls, don’t at all resemble their Asian counterparts and seem to look more like Bratz dolls, which further diminishes the value of the series. VERDICT Mindless fun for larger public library collections.–Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI

My Love Affair with the Brain. 57 min. Bullfrog Films. 2017. $350. $95 (rental). ISBN 1941545777.

Gr 10 Up –This documentary examines the life and career of neuroanatomist Dr. Marian Diamond, professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley. Diamond, now 90, has studied the brain for 60 years and educates students (more than 60,000 in person and 1.7 million on YouTube) using humorous techniques, such as removing a human brain from a hatbox. Her fascination with the organ began as a teen growing up in California, and she broke into the male-dominated field of science in the early 1960s. Studying rats, Diamond tracked the plasticity of the brain in “enriched environments” involving exercise, proper diet, socialization, and love. Prior to this, the prevalent theory was that the brain’s development was tied only to genetics. Later in her career, Diamond even studied the physical differences of Albert Einstein’s brain. In an example of applied science and humanitarianism, she tested her theories among children in Cambodia for 10 years to positive results. The picture and sound quality of this program are excellent, and it is narrated by The Big Bang Theory actress (and neuroscientist) Mayim Bialik. VERDICT While Dr. Diamond is an inspirational figure for many women pursuing careers in the sciences, this program is likely of limited interest to those studying brain development and the history of psychology.–Ryan Henry, Daviess County Public Library, KY

Not Without Us. 72 and 57 min. Video Project. 2016. $89. ISBN unavail.

Gr 7 Up –Focusing on the December 2015 round of climate talks in Paris, this documentary follows several activists expressing global concerns ranging from climate refugee crises to privatization of water resources to industrial agriculture to the damage caused by extractive industries (coal, oil, mineral). Various environmental groups are featured, including 350.org, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Indigenous Environmental Network, and Global Grassroots Justice Alliance. Many facts are presented that will give viewers pause, such as a 3.5 degree average rise in the global temperature will mean a 4.5 degree rise in Africa, which is not survivable. The technology being described for dealing with climate change is not yet in place—it is likened to driving a bus with no brakes toward a river with no bridge to get across. A multitude of viewpoints are presented which provide much food for thought and topics for discussion or further research. While both versions are too long, in most cases, for a single class period, they can easily be viewed in portions over two days. VERDICT This would be useful in social studies, political science, and environmental science classes.–Cynthia Ortiz, Hackensack High School, NJ

Waterloo’s Warriors. 100 min. Dreamscape. $24.99. $199.99 (PPR). ISBN 818506020282.

Gr 10 Up –Divided into two parts, this documentary describes the bloody saga of Napoleon’s conquest of Europe and his confrontation with the British and the Prussians in June 1815 at Waterloo, Belgium. So intense was much of the battle that one person died or was injured every second. Much of the historical information is presented by contemporary scholars. Filmed on location, actors play the roles of Arthur Wellesley, the (Irish) Duke of Wellington, and other Irish and Scottish volunteers who had likely joined the British military to avoid starving at home. As many as one-third of the English troops were native Irish, and one-fourth of Wellington’s officers were of Scottish descent. Two elderly women, portraying the surviving witnesses of the battle, describe their experiences while at the scene. The narration explains how the fighting came very close to becoming a disaster for the British. The arrival of the Prussians at the last moment saved the day and prevented Napoleon from dominating all of Europe. VERDICT This film’s use may be limited to schools offering classes in European history; some prior knowledge of Waterloo would be helpful.–Eldon Younce, Anthony Public Library, KS

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Kotolena Review

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Posted : Oct 26, 2017 06:43




Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

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