Arts & Culture

5 Documentaries to Inspire and Lift Your Spirits This Spring

Low on motivation? Lacking inspiration? In the market for an extra dose of faith in your own abilities, or even in humankind as a whole? Sometimes those elusive needs can be met in the dim enchantment of a movie theater, … Read More

By / April 8, 2008

Low on motivation? Lacking inspiration? In the market for an extra dose of faith in your own abilities, or even in humankind as a whole? Sometimes those elusive needs can be met in the dim enchantment of a movie theater, and this spring offers a bounty of heartening, galvanizing documentaries that will spur you to action. Here are five films sure to rouse even the most cynical critics.

Young@Heart: Cinematical calls the subject of this documentary a "no brainer," and describes the project as "a very sweet film that simply wants to celebrate things like friendship, talent and passion." The movie follows the Young@Heart chorus—a singing group comprised of seniors ages 72 to 88—as they prepare for a big concert. A movie about a bunch of old people singing might sound boring, but these crazy cats perform covers by bands like The Clash, The Ramones, and James Brown. Much more than a smarmy, precious novelty act, the Young@Heart chorus has been around for 25 years, and the documentary demonstrates how music gives these seniors—and can potentially give us all—the gift of longer, happier lives.
Blindsight: Lucy Walker's documentary about six blind Tibetan children who set out to climb Mount Everest has been called "spiritually aware" and "stirring." The journey is the destination in this film, and the children are shepherded along the expedition by their incredible teacher, Sabriye Tenberken. Also blind, Tenberken is one of the founders of Braille Without Borders, and she's determined to use this adventure to reinforce the self-esteem of her students, whose Tibetan society regards blindness as punishment for sin. Tenberken is assisted by a team of skilled climbers, one of them Erik Weihenmayer: The only blind person to have climbed the "Seven Summits," the tallest peak on every continent.
War Dance: Winner of the 2007 Sundance award for documentary direction, this powerful film focuses on three children in the Patongo refugee camp whose lives have been forever changed by the raging violence in war-torn, northern Uganda. Described as "uplifting" and an "honorable, sometimes inspiring exploration of the primal healing power of music and dance," viewers accompany Dominic, Rose, Nancy, and their schoolmates as they prepare to compete in the country's national music and dance festival. The odds are against them: Schools in refugee camps aren't exactly known for winning awards. Despite the atrocities and inconceivable losses they've known, these kids show that with something to look forward to, hope can be cultivated and increased.
Girls Rock! The Movie: This "cheerfully raucous" documentary has been in theaters for about a month, now, but new screenings are popping up all the time, and you can even request to bring it to your town. The film follows preteen and adolescent girls through a Portland, Oregon-based Rock n' Roll Camp during a crucial point in their development, when issues such as body image, self esteem, and boys are beginning to come into play. Within the all-female community of girls ages 8-18, these budding musicians and blossoming women learn to express, respect, and appreciate themselves (not to mention rock the house).
Planet B-Boy: This "great, populist dance film" explores the spread of break dancing across the globe, and details it's "almost spiritual importance" to the b-boys who claim it as their own. The film follows b-boys and their crews from Korea, France, Japan and the United States as they prepare for and compete in the "Battle of the Year." Hip-hop is shown to be a potentially constructive, unifying force: We meet a white, French b-boy in Paris, whose racist mother is forced to acknowledge and confront her bigotry, and the nationalist father of a Korean b-boy, who begins to see hip-hop as unifying. The movie shows how an art form can be a means of transcending race, nationality, caste, and culture.
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