Documentary Program Changes

February 8, 2008

Forget everything you thought you knew about our documentary program coming up in March…here’s the real scoop:

Through the Eyes of Others;

A documentary series, four Sunday evenings in March

The 2nd, the 9th, the 16th and the 30th at 7 pm at the Essex Library

Documentaries can educate, inflame, propagandize, or sanctify. Also, uniquely, they can take us into other worlds, the closed lives and secret societies that coexist with ours. The four films chosen for this series all provide a glimpse into hidden places. A toxic family tug-of-war is played out against crumbling grandeur. A media circus surrounds a bizarre fratricide down on the farm. Amish teenagers face a dangerous, fascinating passage to adulthood via worldly temptation. And an odd, tragic loner finds himself – but loses his life – through his obsession with grizzly bears. Astonishingly intimate, human-scale and revelatory, these films are quirky gems, like the people who inhabit them. You will never forget them.

March 2nd, 7 pm


Directors: Albert and David Maysle, 1975

Weirdly compelling, funny, tragic; GREY GARDENS became a cult phenomenon, and even spawned a Broadway musical. Welcome to the world of Big and Little Edie Beale; Jackie O’s eccentric, reclusive cousins. Living together in the moldering splendor of their East Hampton mansion, this toxic mother and her middle-aged daughter spar, reminisce, and eerily entertain us, with all the can’t-look-away fascination of a slow-motion car crash. Not to be missed.

March 9th, 7 pm


Director; Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 1992,

Known by all of Munnsville, New York as harmless hermits, the Ward brothers (also including Lyman and Roscoe) live an 18th-century lifestyle in their tiny, grimy shack, sleeping in the same bed through cold winters and tending daily to their hayfields and livestock. Semiliterate and stunted by minimal exposure to the outside world, the Wards are disheveled children in the bodies of aging men; and when Delbert is charged with suffocating his ailing brother Bill, he’s a prime target for legal manipulation and a media circus that’s immediately drawn to his case. Fascinating and full of compassionate humanity. (As seen on

March 16th, 7 pm


Director: Lucy Walker, 2002

Most of us know no more about the Amish than we can glean from books or a casual encounter – which goes a long way to explaining the fascination of Devil’s Playground. The film explores a little-known Amish coming-of-age rite, called Rumspringa. Believing as they do in adult baptism, the Amish require that their young people make an informed decision whether to stay in the community, or to choose the “English” (our) path, and withdraw. For this one time in their lives, Amish youth are allowed to sample freely from the dangerous attractions offered by the modern world; sex, drugs and rock and roll. And they do. The film follows a group of Amish teens struggling with their choices. Moving, surprising, illuminating.

March 30th, 7 pm


Director: Werner Herzog, 2005

Another major Academy kerfuffle occurred when this much-praised documentary was refused Oscar consideration for containing too much archival footage. Hertzog weaves together an extraordinary portrait of a difficult, complex man, amateur naturalist and wildlife advocate Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell, who spent 13 summers filming himself and his beloved grizzly bears in Katmai National Park, slowly unravels mentally until he comes to believe that he has become one of them. His fate, which seems inevitable from the outset, is only part of the story. Hertzog’s combination of Treadwell’s footage with interviews and his own musings make a fascinating film, and bring a strange, alienated, yet ultimately sympathetic man, back to life.