doc talk

PBS ‘Makers’ film looks at women in space

NASA’s 1978 class of women astronauts.

Now we take for granted the notion of female astronauts, but for two decades it was strictly an all-male affair. Not so well known is how women finally breached that barrier.

Michael Epstein’s “Makers: Women in Space” is one of six documentaries in the “Makers” series about pioneering women airing on PBS. It relates the story from the earliest days of the space program, when female candidates — some of them proven to be more qualified than their male counterparts — were still denied. That story continues on up through the triumph of Sally Ride, who in 1983 became the first woman in space, and the tragedy of Christa McAuliffe, victim of the 1986 Challenger disaster.

“Makers: Women in Space” can be seen at a special screening at 7 p.m. on Monday at WGBH studios, One Guest Street, Brighton. It will be preceded by a reception at 6 p.m. and followed by a Q&A with NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, who is featured in the documentary. The event is free, but those wishing to attend should register at


Subsequent “Makers” films can be seen on PBS on Oct 28 (“Women in Business”) and Nov. 4 (“Women in Politics”), both at 9 p.m. Previous episodes can be accessed on the website.

Close-up of an employee of TRW Inc., the American corporation involved in a variety of businesses, mainly aerospace, during a scientific demonstration at the NASA, for Apollo 11 mission, leading to the moon the crew composed of astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins. USA, 1969. (Photo by Mario De Biasi/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images) 26doctalk Women in Space (airing on PBS) "Courtesy of MAKERS"
Mondadori via Getty Images/file
A TRW employee at NASA in 1969.

Engineer Marleen Martinez in “Makers.”

Gorilla warfare

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Things have been looking up for our simian cousins in the recent “Planet of the Apes” movies, but here in the real world the plight of the mountain gorilla, native to Congo, looks grim. And conditions endured by the human inhabitants aren’t much better, as war, famine, and disease have wreaked havoc in the long-suffering nation.

The Netflix-produced documentary “Virunga,” directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, shows how the National Park of the title offers hope for both ape and human. Unfortunately, only a few brave park rangers stand between the magnificent beasts and ruthless poachers, rebel soldiers, and greedy corporate exploiters.

The NewportFilm program will screen “Virunga” on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Casino Theater, 9 Freebody St., Newport, R.I. Wine and refreshments will be served before the screening beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20.

For more information, go to

Quick cuts

If you take voting for granted, you might feel differently after seeing the women of Nigeria’s Pro-Democracy Movement in Harvard lecturer Joanna Lipper’s “The Supreme Price.” They risked all for the rights we sometimes don’t even take the trouble to exercise. The free screening is Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Cambridge Main Library, 449 Broadway, followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker.

For more information, go to


Meanwhile, though not as corrupt as in Nigeria, our own democratic system could use an overhaul, as demonstrated in “Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes,” John Ennis’s investigation of the overwhelming power of money in determining elections. It’s available Nov. 1 on VOD, and will be available on DVD on Dec. 2 for $15.98 from TDC Entertainment.

For more information, go to

Finally, if you still need encouragement to become involved in the democratic process, tune in to “Midterms,” A.J. Schnack’s up-to-the-minute documentaries on key races in the swing states of Iowa, Colorado, and North Carolina. You can still catch episodes 2 and 3 when they air on Al Jazeera America on Sunday and Nov. 2 at 9 p.m.

For more information, go to

Peter Keough can be reached at