Through the Lens

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. 

There are 1.5 million active-duty personnel in the U.S. Armed Forces. Sexual assault is an increasing problem within those ranks. In many, if not most cases, it's swept under the carpet: only 8 percent of sexual assault cases are prosecuted in the military, and only 2 percent of those cases result in convictions. The Academy Award-winning filmmaker Kirby Dick's documentary film The Invisible War sheds light on the suffering of thousands of military rape victims, and Thursday we're rebroadcasting our conversation about it. (Rebroadcast)

To some people, Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining set the standard for modern horror cinema. For others, it was the result of a talented filmmaker slacking off. And then there are the ardent fans convinced they've decoded the film's hidden messages of genocide, cabals and the nightmares of history. Rodney Ascher and Tim Kirk made a film about these conspiracy theorists that investigates the act of criticism and what it means to be a fan. They'll join Doug on Friday to talk about ROOM 237. (Rebroadcast)

A missing girl, a cult-like organization and its guru, a well-meaning public agency no one has ever heard of, and the actual brick-and-mortar cities of the San Francisco Bay Area. These are the ingredients in a reality-bending game profiled in Spencer McCall’s documentary film The Institute. More than 10,000 people played the Games of Nonchalance, but who was behind them and what was the point? Wednesday, we’ll journey through the looking glass with McCall to explore a world teeming just beneath the surface of everyday life. (Rebroadcast)

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