May 18, 2021

Screen Time: Week of May 17, 2021

The Staple Singers, from ,1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything' (Asif Kapadia, Danielle Peck, James Rogan; dirs)

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

When the pandemic put a halt to our travel plans, little did we imagine that we’d find an unlikely travel guide in Orson Welles. Six extant episodes of the 25-part Around the World with Orson Welles are streaming on through June 20. Contrary to what the name suggests, this series takes us only around Europe, as Welles takes a break from the rigidity of his filmmaking form and presents us a more laid-back look at the cultures and people of the Basque country, Vienna, Paris, London (back when London was in Europe!) and Madrid. Featuring appearances by Elaine Dundy, Kenneth Peacock Tynan, Jean Cocteau, the series is a delightful recap of an older Europe. 

Closer to home, D.W Young’s The Booksellers takes us on a tour of New York City’s world of books. Featuring Fran Lebowitz, Susan Orlean, Gay Talese, and a host of other book enthusiasts, the film takes us on a tour of New York through its bookstores, but also ensures an engagement with the fascinating form of the book itself. Apart from The Criterion Channel, you can also watch the documentary on Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play, and iTunes. 

PBS Short Docs, a curated series of short documentaries streaming on the YouTube-based PBS Voices, showcases the work of independent and diverse filmmakers. Currently playing is the three-part series Out of the Dark, which addresses important topics related to Mental Health Awareness Month. A Pride Month-centric offering is on the cards for the summer.

A documentary about documentaries! What’s not to love? In Louis Theroux: Life on the Edge, the eponymous British-American documentary filmmaker reflects on his 25-years-long career. The episodes look at faith, religion, capitalism, criminal, justice and family and how each of these have shaped our worlds but also the world of Theroux and his work.

Filmmaker Asif Kapadia, who gave us films like Amy, Diego Maradona and Senna, is back with a new eight-part docu-series 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything, which premieres May 21 on Apple TV+ . With The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, The Who, Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, and many more, the series looks at the indelible mark the political and cultural upheaval of the year 1971 left on the musical tastes of fans all over the world.

To end things on a sweet note and to continue AAPI Month celebrations, head over to PBS’ Independent Lens on May 24. Alice Gu’s The Donut King tells a lesser-known story about how Cambodian immigrants gifted America one of its favorite foods—the donut! This an American Dream story, told through the eyes of people who escaped the brutal Khmer Rouge, only to enter the beguiling sweetness of the capitalist oasis that is the United States.