The Amish Shunned Shows The True Reality Of Amish Life

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS proved time and again throughout 2013 why it is the last true bastion of worthwhile educational programming. Where History Channel, Discovery Channel, and The Learning Channel have all allowed themselves to fall victim to the plague that is “reality television”,PBS has stayed the course, standing tall while the aforementioned networks have become but pale shells of what they once were. As 2014 is still in its infancy, PBS continues to prove to audiences why it sits atop the broadcast spectrum with the release of the latest piece in its American Experience series, The Amish Shunned. The first part of this presentation that audiences will appreciate is the stories shared by those on both sides of the divide. Audiences won’t find any Breaking Amish or Amish Mafia style stories here. What audiences get in this presentation is real reality. Just as key to this new documentary is its editing. The entire presentation runs roughly two hours. The manner in which the documentary was edited goes a long way toward keeping viewers engaged throughout the course of the program. The last piece of the whole that makes The Amish Shunned is the cinematography. The work of those behind the cameras works directly with the editing and the storytelling to make this piece another impressive presentation from PBS proving why it remains the last bastion of true worthwhile programming.

 

The stories presented in The Amish Shunned are the central piece of the whole that makes this program well worth watching. They are nothing like the overhyped, over the top drama ofAmish Mafia and Breaking Amish. Instead, viewers see the true emotional impact on young Amish individuals in their decisions to leave their communities. Right from the program’s outset, audiences are introduced to a young Amish girl that had made the decision to leave her community. It’s shocking to learn the lengths to which she had to go in order to make her escape. Just as eye-opening is the revelation of how she (and other Amish individuals) initially feel a certain amount of guilt for leaving the Amish church despite knowing they need to break away. Her story of her departure from the Amish church is just one of many that are shared over the course of this program’s roughly two hour run time. Each of the stories shared by those that have left the Amish church presents more drama than audiences will ever get from those shows on Discovery and TLC. They are far more moving, too.

 

The stories shared by the subjects in The Amish Shunned are in themselves quite moving and powerful. Making the stories so powerful in part is the program’s editing. Editor Rachel Clark is to be commended for her work. The transitions from one subject’s story to the next are clear and solid. On top of that, her ability to reach the emotional heart of each story with her editing is to be applauded. As audiences will notice throughout each story, footage of daily life within the Amish community is used to heighten the emotional depth of each story. And it works quite well. On a more subtle yet important level, audiences that watch closely will notice that the face of the program’s first subject is shown a little more each time she is re-introduced each time throughout the program. This editing illustrates how she is becoming increasingly open to her new lifestyle and feeling less guilty for having broken away from the Amish church and culture. As subtle as it is, it is a powerful statement. And it’s just one of so much expert editing done throughout this piece that audiences will appreciate about this new release.

The editing and storytelling both are integral pieces to the overall presentation that is The Amish Shunned. Just as key to the overall presentation is the camera work. The work of those behind the cameras works in direct connection with the documentary’s editing. The wide shots of the Amish countryside are outstanding to say the very least. The serenity portrayed in those shots in comparison to those of the city life that the program’s subjects have taken will actually lead some to wonder in the backs of their minds why in fact they would leave such peace and serenity.  That isn’t to say that they shouldn’t have.  But it definitely opens the door for some discussion.  It’s just one of so many examples of how effective the cinematography was in this piece.  There is much more worth noting in terms of the documentary’s cinematography.  And audiences will find out just how much more there is to note when they order the program for themselves.  It is available now on DVD and can be ordered direct from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=30498866&cp=&sr=1&kw=the+amish+shunned&origkw=The+Amish+Shunned&parentPage=search.  More information on this and other documentaries from PBS’ American Experience is available online at http://www.facebook.com/AmericanExperience and http://www.pbs.org/americanexperience.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Dancing: A Man’s Game Will Have Gene Kelly Fans Dancing With Joy

Courtesy:  Entertainment One/Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc./Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation

Courtesy: Entertainment One/Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc./Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation

The art of dance is something that has been traditionally associated more with women than with men.  Any man that has ever openly admitted to being a dancer or even a fan of the dance arts has been stigmatized.  Terms such as “sissy” and worse have been commonly used for said men.  It’s a sad reality even now into the 21st Century. Thanks to Entertainment One’s brand new re-issue of Omnibus: Gene KellyDance: A Man’s Game though, one can hope that the fight to make dancing socially acceptable among men. This is the biggest and most important of the positives in this new re-issue from E1.  Just as important to the documentary is its historical aspect.  This is just one episode from one of television’s most revered series. It’s also an example of what once made NBC a powerhouse among television’s very limited options during its day.  In watching the near hour-long presentation, one must also take into account the actual presentation of the episode.  Considering the age of this episode’s footage and its quality, one can’t help but be impressed.  That along with the bonus booklet brings everything full circle and makes Omnibus: Gene KellyDance: A Man’s Game a piece of entertainment history that any viewer will appreciate for one reason or another.

Omnibus: Gene Kelly—Dance: A Man’s Game is an important piece of entertainment history.  It’s important first and foremost because it touches on a topic that still is very pertinent to society even today.  Simply put, it transcends generations.  It also crosses the lines in terms of its key viewer base. It manages to reach not just one but many different audience groups by having a famous actor discuss said topic. So whether audiences are fans of Gene Kelly the actor, Gene Kelly the dancer, dancers themselves, fans of the dance arts, or even athletes, this episode of one of television’s groundbreaking series reaches so many audiences without even trying.  Kelly makes an argument in support of dance that has been used countless times since this episode.  It had even been used at the time of this episode, obviously, and before.  The argument in question ties together the movements of athletes into the world of dance. The argument in question is used in hopes to dispel the long-held stereotypes centered around men that dance.  Unlike all of the other times that this argument has been used, Kelly enlists some rather famous friends to help illustrate how the two separate worlds are in fact more closely related than one might otherwise think.  The value of this episode of Omnibus is crystal clear from this factor alone.  But there is even more to appreciate in this near hour-long episode of NBC’s landmark series.  The historical value of this episode is just as important as the episode’s content.

The content of this episode of Omnibus reveals that it is timeless to say the very least.  It covers a topic that is still very relevant even now in the 21st Century.  That is just the beginning of this re-issue’s value to viewers.  Looking at this episode from a larger historical side, its value is increased even more. Viewers today are offered so many channels thanks to cable and satellite.  Yet despite the massive number of channels, viewing options are actually quite limited.  Television today is limited largely to crime and medical dramas, reality (voyeur) TV, countless awful rip-offs of Star Search, and just as many news magazine shows that are front loaded with real life crime stories.  PBS is television’s only network today that offers any programming even remotely near the level of Omnibus.  That’s because even the once powerhouse Discovery Communications networks (Discovery Channel, TLC) and History Channel have fallen victim to the reality show virus.  To that extent, it goes without saying that any television history buff will appreciate this episode of Omnibus if only for the fact that it serves as a reminder of what once made television great.

Any television history buff will appreciate this episode of Omnibus first and foremost because it serves as a reminder of what once made television great.  On a deeper level, television history buffs will appreciate this episode because of the quality of the footage.  Gene Kelly’s episode of Omnibus was originally broadcast on December 21st, 1958.  That is a span of nearly fifty-five years.  Audiences see in this episode the original footage from that broadcast.  There are some audio jumps throughout the course of the episode’s near sixty-minute run time.  And the footage itself is quite grainy.  But all of this is a good thing.  It’s a good thing because it means viewers today are seeing this episode almost exactly as it was in its original broadcast.  For some, that will certainly generate a warm and happy feeling of nostalgia.  For others, it will be appreciated as that audio and video mix shows just how far television has come since its infancy.  Regardless of the effect of the footage on viewers, the general positive emotional and historical appreciation felt by viewers pushes this episode of Omnibus even higher.

Everything that went into resurrecting Gene Kelly’s episode of Omnibus makes it a wonderful watch.  But one would be remiss to note, too the bonus booklet included with the DVD. The booklet included with this DVD is a bonus in every sense of the word.  It offers an in-depth look at Kelly’s own career, as well as everything that went into bringing this episode to life.  There is even a copy of the episode’s script included as a visual aid for viewers among so much more.  That much more includes photos taken from the set of this episode, publicity photos, newspaper reviews of the original broadcast, and even Kelly’s own words in which he explains his view of society’s stereotype of men and dancing.  That mass of information brings everything full circle in this brand new release from Entertainment One and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation.  It will be available on DVD Tuesday, December 17th, just in time for Christmas.  Audiences can get even more information on this release and all things Gene Kelly on the official Gene Kelly website, http://www.GeneKelly.com and the official Gene Kelly Legacy Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/GeneKellyTheLegacy.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Magic School Bus Box Set Will “Rev Up” Viewers Of All Ages

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video Group/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video Group/New Kideo

The history of television is rife with programs that most audiences will agree are timeless.  Among some of the most well known are the likes of: The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle & Friends, Looney Tunes, and The Flintstones just to name a few.  These classics have transcended generations and gone on to become family favorites decades after they ended their runs.  Now in the twenty-first century, a whole new crop of cartoons has gone on to be added to that list.  Among the newer cartoons deserving of the title of “timeless” are most of Nickelodeon’s modern classic Nicktoons from the 1990s and the focus of today’s review, Scholastic’s The Magic School BusThe Magic School Bus has been broadcast on a number of networks.  It has run on PBS, TLC, and most recently, Qubo.  It would seem that Qubo has dropped the classic cartoon though, sadly.  Thankfully, Scholastic has teamed up with New Video and New Kideo in the past year or so to release this modern classic on DVD for both its original audiences and a whole new generation of young fans.  The companies have already put out a number of compilations containing episodes from the justifiably timeless show including the complete fifty-two episode collection. Most recently, the single-disc compilation, The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle was released alongside another new triple-disc collection, The Magic School Bus: Revving Up.  The prior of the two new compilations is impressive in its own right.  The latter of the pair offers just as much enjoyment as the prior, if not more.

The Magic School Bus: Revving Up takes twelve more of the original series’ fifty-two episodes and compiles them for this collection.  The twelve episodes culled for this set are each spread across three more sing-disc compilations within the larger box.  And just as The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle does, the episodes contained on each disc of The Magic School Bus: Revving Up follow a given theme.  The first of the compilations within the box is The Magic School Bus: Under Construction.  This compilation contains the title episode of the larger box.  The kids have to save the Magic School Bus in this episode as it’s in danger of being condemned by their school district’s Vehicle Maintenance Inspector, Junkett.  Get it?  Junkett? Junk It?  Ba-dump-bump-bump.  The late Sherman Hemsely (The Jeffersons, All in The Family, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) voiced the character of Inspector Junkett.  Junkett wants to condemn the bus because he claims it has so many problems.  So it’s up to the kids to find out what’s making the bus sick and in turn save it from being condemned.  It’s one more fun filled episode that parents and kids alike will love watching again and again.  And as with every episode of this modern classic series, it’s another great tool for kids to learn at home or in the classroom. 

The title episode from the new triple-disc set, The Magic School Bus: Revving Up is a joy for parents, teachers and students.  The same can be said of its companion episodes in this first of the set’s discs.  All four episodes on this disc take a look at the different ways in which technology works.  There’s a lesson on how computers work, and even one on construction technology that is just as relevant today as it was in its original broadcast.  These episodes are just part of the whole that makes this set so enjoyable.  Also included across the three-disc set are episodes that teach about how electricity works, and about animals and their habitats.  Whether one is a parent, teacher, or youth, every one of these episodes will entertain viewers of every age.

All twelve episodes culled for this latest multi-disc set are enjoyable in their own way.  They are so enjoyable thanks to the show’s writing staff.  Each episode contained here maintains the standard established in prior collections of simple writing.  The episodes’ writing is simple, but it doesn’t leave viewers feel like they are being talked down to (including adults).  It makes viewers feel like they’re actually watching Ms. Frizzle’s class learning each lesson rather than themselves.  At the same time, they know that they too are learning a lesson without the educational aspect being too overt.  It’s one more of so many positives that can be discussed.  To point out all the positives would take far too much time and too much time.  So suffice it to say that the writing, along with the animation and lessons in general make this latest compilation of episodes one more must in the living room or the classroom.  It is available now in stores and online.  Parents and teachers can order it online via the New Kideo website, http://www.newkideo.com.  And to keep up with all of the latest releases from Scholastic and New Kideo, parents and teachers can go online to the New Kideo website or the official Scholastic website, http://www.scholastic.com or each company’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo and http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic.     

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com

Scholastic, New Kideo Impress Again With Latest Single-Disc Magic School Bus Collection

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video

Ms. Frizzle and her students are back yet again for another set of adventures in another new single-disc compilation of episodes.  The new compilation, The Magic School Bus: In a Pickle offers audiences four more episodes that see Ms. Frizzle and her students investigate the process that turns a cucumber into a pickle in the set’s lead episode.  That episode is joined by two more episodes and a bonus fourth episode that investigates another way that something rotting actually benefits other living beings.  The kids also learn how water molecules and how microbes create different scents.  Regardless of which episode viewers choose, each episode offers plenty of family friendly entertainment and equally fun science lessons worth watching again and again.

The lead episode in The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle sees Ms. Frizzle out on “trial” by her own students after Keesha’s cucumber has “gone missing.”  Ms. Frizzle is the main suspect since the cucumber was left in the classroom while the kids were on vacation.  This is a great set-up for this episode’s lesson as “The Friz” has to prove her innocence.  And it’s a creative way to let the kids take control before learning that there’s so much more to the world than they realize.  It’s an example of writing done right.  What kid doesn’t like doing adult things such as playing court?  That makes the episode even more relatable and enjoyable for viewers of all ages.  It’s just one of the truly standout episodes included in this compilation.  For that matter, it’s just one example of writing done right.  The writing in all four episodes included in this set provides its own share of entertainment.

The writing behind all four episodes included in The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle is impressive first and foremost because of its ability to entertain and inform audiences.  The irony of the writing is that many parents will be amazed at what they have actually forgotten since they themselves were children.  As Jeff Foxworthy proved with his short-lived show, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?, we lose a lot as we get older.  So keeping this in mind, the balance of entertainment and educational content in each episode makes for another wonderful starting point for both parents and children alike.  What’s more, when one takes into account the current state of public education in America, a set such as this becomes an increasingly important, not just entertaining, set for any family.  While it may have been off the air for some time, its material is still just as impactful as any classroom if not more so.

The writing behind each episode in this set is just as important as it is educational.  Its animation is just as impressive.  This critic has noted many times before the increasing de-evolution of animation in children’s programming and the connected dangers of that de-evolution.  More and more programs across the board are switching to either flash animation or CG based “animation” in general.  The Magic School Bus was neither of these.  Each episode of this show–including the ones in this set–was hand drawn.  One might ask what makes this difference so important.  This is important as it serves as a starting point for another discussion.  The discussion in question is of the show’s identity.  Anyone that remembers the days of classic hand drawn animation will recall how every cartoon had its own animation style, thus helping to establish its identity.  This cartoon definitely had its own identity thanks to its original hand drawn animation style.  It’s one more aspect of this new release that especially parents and teachers will appreciate.  It isn’t the last of the set’s positives, either.

So much was done right with the episodes included in The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle.  The episodes culled for this set are each impressive examples of what still makes it a fan favorite cartoon to this day.  It is a fan favorite among viewers of every age.  There is one more aspect of this compilation that makes it a nice addition to any family’s home library.  That aspect is that all four episodes contained within this set follow one recurring theme so to speak.  Each one sees the class shrinking down to microscopic size as it learns its lessons.  From learning how water and soap react with dirt to how smells form to how microbes turn a cucumber into a pickle, all three of the set’s main episodes follow that same theme of the class learning about the microscopic world.  The bonus fourth episode, The Magic School Bus: Meets the Rot Squad doesn’t take the class into the microscopic world.  But it does see the class shrinking down once again.  This time, the class learns a biology lesson and even an environmental lesson.  So while it may not go directly with the set’s other episodes, it’s still a nice addition and worth the watch every time.  The single-disc compilation is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from the New Kideo website at http://www.newkideo.com.  Parents and teachers can also keep up with the latest releases from New Kideo on the official New Kideo Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo.  Even more information from Scholastic is available online at http://www.scholastic.com and http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can keep up with all of the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

 

Honey Boo Boo, Bruce Willis, The Bachelorette Focus Of Us Weekly This Week

Courtesy:  Us Weekly Magazine

Courtesy: Us Weekly Magazine

 

Courtesy:  DKC Public Relations

Courtesy: DKC Public Relations

The latest edition of ABC’s hit reality dating show, The Bachelorette is winding down.  Its finale will air on Monday, August 5th.  As audiences count down to this season’s finale, Us Weekly magazine takes an in-depth look at the upcoming season finale for its cover story.  One of the big revelations from this season’s last episode is that of her final three suitors, contestant Desiree Hartsock will see one of the trio depart the show before the rose ceremony.  Making matters even more interesting for viewers is that the the departed contest in question was the object of Hartsock’s affections.  And in learning of the subject’s departure, Hartsock was left quite broken-hearted.  An insider with The Bachelorette was quoted of saying about this season’s final episode, “Des didn’t see it coming.”  When asked about how she felt about seeing herself in the upcoming finale, Hartsock told Us Weekly, “No one’s excited to see themselves cry.”  The new edition of Us Weekly hits newsstands tomorrow, Friday, July 26th.

Also in this week’s edition Us Weekly, Adam Levine’s fiancé, Behati Prinsloo, dishes on the couple’s engagement and upcoming nuptials.  Prinsloo notes in her interview with Us Weekly that she is still trying to get acclimated to all of the changes.  “It was a surprise,” she said.  “It hasn’t even sunk in yet!  Last night, I forgot I slept with my ring on.  I woke up and went, Oh hello!’”  Levine proposed to Prinsloo only three weeks after the couple had gotten back together. 

In movie news, Us Weekly sits down with actor Garrett Hudlund in this week’s new issue and discusses his choice to not star in the upcoming big screen adaptation of author E.L. James’ novel 50 Shades of Grey.  The magazine has confirmed that Hudlund turned down the lead role of Christian Grey in the interview.  According to a source close to the film, Hudlund turned down the role because “doing a possible trilogy was too big a commitment and producers wouldn’t let him do just one film.”  Fans can check out the new issue of Us Weekly for all of the details on who might take Hudlund’s place in the series’ lead role.

Us Weekly also sat down with veteran actor Bruce Willis for a very candid interview about his image on screen versus who he is away from the cameras.  Willis joked about being a gentleman when asked about his Red 2 co-star Mary-Louise Parker.  “I don’t know if I’m a real gentleman. I would say I’m an OK gentleman.”  Willis proved he was a gentleman as Us Weekly caught him using a prop gun to shoot a blank at a bee that came too close to Parker.  “Yeah, that’s a real thing that happened,” he admitted.  “I shot it in the wing and it spun to the ground. But I did not kill the bee. No bees were injured.”  When he was asked about his role of dad to his four daughters, Willis said, “I love making my kids laugh.  I even try to make my youngest daughter laugh now [Mable, 16 months].  She can’t really run away, even when she doesn’t like my jokes!”

And in what has to be one of the most interesting features in this week’s issue of Us Weekly, June Shannon, Honey Boo Boo’s mom, sits down for an interview and shares her thoughts on parenting.  Us Weekly asked Shannon about her thoughts on keeping her kids from smoking and dressing inappropriately.  When asked about keeping her kids from smoking, she said, “It’d be hard because I did it when I was a teenager.”  When asked about her children’s attire, she had this to say.  “The s—t don’t happen in my house.  I don’t want my girls showing off too much.  I don’t allow [spaghetti strap] tank tops or short shorts.”  Here Comes Honey Boo Boo recently aired a special season premiere that allowed audiences to use a scratch and sniff card to smell certain items throughout the episode.  Leading fragrance guru Sean O’Mara discussed the promotion by TLC; specifically the experience of smelling the pork and beans.  O’Mara said of this experience, “This smelled more like roadkill than pork and beans. I would have played up the barbecue sauce.”  He also shared his comments on smelling the butter in the season premiere.  He said of this one, “It was meant to be butter, but smelled like cake frosting. I wouldn’t use it on a baked potato.”

These stories and much more are all in this week’s new issue of Us Weekly magazine.  It will be available Friday, July 26th on newsstands everywhere.  And for even more from Us Weekly readers can “Like” the magazine on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/UsWeekly or check out the Us Weekly official website at http://www.UsMagazine.com

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Get On The Magic School Bus Again With The Phil’s Picks Blog

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Scholastic is loading up the bus again as the year starts to count down.  That is to say that Scholastic is loading up The Magic School Bus.  That’s right.  On Tuesday, July 30th, two more new DVD sets will be released by Scholastic and New Video.  Next Tuesday, the two companies, along with New Kideo, will release the single-disc set, The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle and The Magic School Bus: Revving Up.  The prior of the pair will be presented in a single-disc presentation with four more episodes from the timeless kids’ cartoon.  The latter is a three-disc set containing a total of twelve episodes, thanks to a fourth bonus episode accompanying the main trio of episodes on each disc.

Thanks to Scholastic, New Video, New Kideo, and the Phil’s Picks blog and Facebook page, you can enter for a chance to win one or both sets.  On Friday, August 9th, one copy of The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle and The Magic School Bus: Revving Up will each be given away to one lucky winner.  And one lucky grand prize winner will take home both sets, totalling fifteen episodes.  All you have to do in order to enter is first, “Like” the Phil’s Picks Facebook page.  Once you have done that, just write on the Phil’s Picks timeline or send a private message noting that you want to be entered for a chance at one or both sets.  It’s that easy.  Entries will begin being taken next Monday, July 30th.  So mark your calendars, spread the word and good luck!

Those that aren’t lucky enough to win one of these new sets can still pick them up online at the New Kideo website, at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-magic-school-bus-in-a-pickle/ and http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-magic-school-bus-revving-up/.  Parents and teachers can order even more Magic School Bus DVDs and other new DVDs on the New Kideo website.  And to keep up with even more giveaways and all the latest new releases from New Kideo, parents and teachers can “Like” the New Kideo Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews and giveaways, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Defiant Requiem One Of The Most Powerful, Deeply Moving WWII Stories Ever Told

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Defiant Requiem is one of PBS’ best documentaries of 2013 and one of the best documentaries of 2013, period.  If ever there was a work that proved the importance of supporting PBS, this documentary is it.  The near ninety-minute program tells the story of a group of Jewish captives that used music as a means to tell the world of their mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis.  It is a piece that will appeal not only to those with a love and respect for classical music, but also for anyone that has ever had or has any interest in the history of World War II.  It is so deeply moving that it must be seen to understand and appreciate this.

As a bit of background for viewers, Verdi’s Requiem is one of the most beautiful yet intense works in the history of classical music.  What makes this musical masterpiece by itself so interesting is that it was considered sacred music, despite the fact that Verdi himself was supposedly an agnostic.  Its ten-part “Dies irae (Day of Wrath)” segment incorporates themes of mortality and judgment.  These themes definitely are in contrast to Verdi’s own alleged beliefs.  Put into the context used by the Jewish prisoners of the Terezin concentration camp, these themes take on a whole new meaning as they were sung towards the very individuals who treated them as less than humans.  This was absolutely brilliant of fellow prisoner and composer Rafael Schachter to do.  As audiences will learn through the course of the program, it was because of Schachter’s efforts that the Jewish prisoners at the camp were able to use their rehearsals and performance of the music as a source of strength both personally and as a people.  It allowed the prisoners to confront their captors in the presence of the Red Cross without fear of retribution.  This alone is deeply emotional.  Whether one is an expert in music history, war history, or history in general, it will still leave any viewer deeply moved on a number of levels.

The music of Verdi’s Requiem is itself extremely moving and powerful.  Once one understands the extent of its emotional influence, it makes the story told by the Terezin survivors that much more moving.  The program features interviews with the survivors, and shows their reactions to the Requiem being performed for them and their families’ decades later at the very sight of the pain that took so many lives.  The symbolism of the performance left barely a dry eye in the house during the performance.  The sight of the survivors’ emotions will bring about certain emotions among viewers at home, too.  The inclusion of archived pictures ties directly into the stories shared by the survivors.  It brings everything into crystal clear view, expertly illustrating the horrors experienced by Jewish prisoners at Terezin.

Along with stories from the survivors of Terezin, Defiant Requiem also features re-enactments by professional actors.  The re-enactments on the part of the actors in Defiant Requiem are on par with another of PBS’ major documentaries from earlier in 2013, The Abolitionists.  It’s something that is being seen less and less frequently on certain other networks by comparison, making this documentary that much more impressive and necessary both inside and outside the classroom.  It also makes PBS that much more important for those searching for educational programming, and that much more worth financially supporting with viewer contributions.  If the archived pictures from Terezin made the story crystal clear, the re-enactments made them crystal clear at an Ultra High Def level, for lack of better comparison.  As painful as it is to learn of what happened, these re-enactments, archived pictures, and performance of the Requiem help bring history alive.  They help viewers of any age understand what happened within the walls of Terezin.  All assembled together, everything included in this new documentary makes it one that crosses interests and in turn makes it one of the best documentaries of 2013.  It will be available Tuesday, July 23rd and can be ordered online from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=20427106&cp=&kw=defiant+requiem&origkw=Defiant+Requiem&sr=1.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.