Through the Lens


In 2009, four men from a poor New York town were arrested for trying to bomb a pair of synagogues. In the months leading up to their apprehension, the men were befriended by Shahed Hussain, an F.B.I. informant. The attorneys for the "Newburgh Four" thought they had a clear-cut case of entrapment, but the men received lengthy prison sentences.  A new film dissects their story and sheds light on the F.B.I.'s pattern of targeting Muslims in depressed communities and luring them into committing terrorist acts. Filmmaker David Heilbroner joins us Monday to discuss his film. It's called The Newburgh Sting.

Wednesday we continue our Through the Lens series with “Art and Craft,” an intriguing film about a beguiling man. Mark Landis is soft-spoken, slight of frame and long on talent. His artwork has appeared in museums across America, but really, they’re not his. Landis is an art forger and a self-styled philanthropist who donates his fakes to institutions. The filmmakers Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman join Doug to discuss their film about Landis, his enigmatic past, and the people he’s duped.

Thursday, we continue our Through the Lens series with The Case Against 8. In 2008, thousands of same-sex couples married in California, and the backlash was swift. It came in the form of Prop 8, the statewide ballot that successfully defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The film chronicles the ensuing legal battle that resulted in the first federal recognition of gay marriage. Directors Ben Cotner and Ryan White join us to talk about that journey and the precedent it set.

James "The Amazing" Randi is a renowned magician and escape artist, but he can't  abide charlatans. So he turned his energy to exposing psychics and con-artists with intricate investigations and hoaxes of his own. His story is the focus of a new documentary by Salt Lake filmmaker Tyler Measom, the latest in our Through the Lens film series. Tuesday, Measom joins us to talk about Randi's crusade for truth and how all of us, even "The Amazing" Randi himself, are susceptible to deception.

Journalist David Halberstam says when the government is twisting the truth, reporters have their biggest role to play. The new film DATELINE – SAIGON explores that idea through the work of Halberstam and other young reporters who in the early days of the Vietnam War, found themselves at odds with the Kennedy White House, and on a South Vietnamese assassination list. Thursday, director Thomas Herman joins Doug to talk about the journalists who set the standard for front-line war reporting.

In 1975, author Edward Abbey published "The Monkey Wrench Gang." The novel – along with Abbey's anarchist environmentalism philosophies – served as a blueprint for direct action and civil disobedience in the 1970s, ‘80s and even today.  A new documentary called Wrenched looks at how Abbey inspired eco-activist groups like EarthFirst! and more recently the Occupy Movement. We’re joined Monday by the filmmaker ML Lincoln, who directed Wrenched, and by two of Abbey’s close friends, Jack Loeffler and Ken Sanders, to talk about his continuing influence.

Godfrey Reggio

Godfrey Reggio’s films aren’t made of the things that compose most movies. They don’t have plots, or narrative structures, or even characters. Instead, his films fuse images with the minimalist music of composer Phillip Glass to, as Reggio says, take the viewer on a journey, the destination of which is inconsequential. Reggio joins us Wednesday to talk about his unique approach to documentary film and to discuss his newest film, Visitors, which explores our evolving relationship with technology.

 

    

Monday, we begin our 2014 Through the Lens documentary series with "Our Nixon." Throughout Richard Nixon’s presidency, three top aides obsessively documented their experiences with Super 8 home movie cameras. The men were young and idealistic and they had no idea their footage would be seized during the Watergate investigation and they'd all end up in jail. Filmmaker Penny Lane joins Doug to talk about her film, which uses this archival footage to create an intimate portrait of Nixon's White House.

Wednesday we're profiling the film Life According to Sam. Massachusetts teenager Sam Berns has a genetic syndrome called progeria. The name means "prematurely old" and though it's rare, children with the condition show dramatic signs of aging like balding, wrinkled skin, bone loss and heart problems. But Sam's parents – both doctors – weren't willing to accept that he might only live 13 years and they set out to find a treatment. We'll talk to Sam's mother Dr. Leslie Gordon and filmmakers Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine about family, commitment, sacrifice and hope. 

Friday, we continue our Through the Lens documentary series with a portrait of activism and unrest from Cairo's Tahrir Square. The film is called "The Square," and it offers a window into the emotional drama and personal stories behind the news. Director Jehane Noujaim describes the young Egyptians she follows as revolutionaries armed with nothing more than social media and YouTube videos. She'll join us to talk about the evolution of a 21st century revolution. 

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