March 25, 2020

Screen Time: Week of March 23

From the Lumiere Brothers' 'Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory.'

Screen Time is your curated weekly guide to excellent documentaries and nonfiction programs that you can watch at home.

Yesterday, March 22, 2020, marked the 125th anniversary of the very first documentary ever produced: The Lumière Brothers' Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory. It's only two minutes long and the title is pretty much what the film is about, but it laid down the foundation for an amazing century-and-a-quarter of mind-blowing reality! And, as if to mark the occasion, what won the Academy Award for Best Documentary this year? American Factory!

A century before COVID-19, there was the Influenza of 1918—back then called the Spanish Flu or Swine Flu. Now streaming on American Experience, Influenza 1918, from Robert Kenner, tells the story of the worst epidemic in US history, claiming over 600,000 victims.  As the killer virus spread across the country, hospitals overfilled, death carts roamed the streets and helpless city officials dug mass graves.

For your viewing pleasure, IDFA has made available 300 documentaries that screened at the festival—for free, including such IDA Documentary Award winners as The First Kid To Learn English from Mexico, George Wallace: Settin’ the Woods on Fire, Hybrid and 4.1 Miles.

Available March 24 on Blu-ray and DVD through Cohen Media, Kim Longinotto's Shooting the Mafia documents the work and life of Sicilian photographer Letizia Battaglia, who as the first female photographer to be employed by an Italian daily newspaper,  found herself on the front lines during one of the bloodiest chapters in Italy’s recent history—the notorious Cosa Nostra's reign of terror over Sicily.

Premiering March 24 on PBS, East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story recounts the history, through its former residents, of a former public housing complex in Atlanta that weathered decades of neglect, decline and crack-induced crime. The document, from Sarah Burns and David McMahon, raises critical questions about how we have created concentrated poverty and limited housing opportunity for our most vulnerable citizens.