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doc talk | peter keough

HFA honors filmmaker Saul Levine

A scene from Pamela Tanner Boll’s “A Small Good Thing.”
A scene from Pamela Tanner Boll’s “A Small Good Thing.”(Mystic Artists)

For almost 50 years, Saul Levine has been making films that integrate the personal and the political, discerning the universal in everyday experience while underscoring the formal artifices of the medium itself. His first format of choice was Super 8, and his prolific output of short diaristic films — letters — transforms the home movie into glimpses of the real. The Harvard Film Archive will screen Levine’s voluminous body of work in a multi-part retrospective, beginning with “Saul Levine, Part I: 1966-77,” screening Sept. 11-14. The program consists in part of a series of short films called “Notes,” such as the 1969 “Note to Pati” (screens Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.) in which rapidly, jaggedly spliced images of a family cavorting in the snow and a bird clinging to a tree branch take on the aura of abstract painting and resemble, at times, the interior of the human eye.

“Saul Levine, Part I: 1966-77” will screen at the Harvard Film Archive in the Carpenter Center, 24 Quincy St, Cambridge. Levine will be present at all screenings.

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Go to hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/films/2015sepnov/levine
.html#one.

Shiny, happy people

So you’ve spent a lifetime trying and still haven’t found the secret of happiness? Welcome to the club. Some help, though, might be found in Winchester native Pamela Tanner Boll’s “A Small Good Thing,” which profiles a variety of individuals living in the Berkshires — farmers, community activists, a yoga teacher — who have turned away from the ethos of conspicuous consumption and material success. Instead, they have found satisfaction in a simpler, more holistic life of service and a connection to nature. I wish I had known this before I went into hock buying a Lexus! Boll might have more authority on this subject than most because she co-produced a documentary about profound unhappiness, Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman’s 2004 Oscar-winning “Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids.”

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“A Small Good Thing” screens on Friday at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. as part of the Fall for the Arts program at the Nextdoor Theater, 40 Cross St., Winchester. Admission is free.

Go to asmallgoodthing
film.com.

Pecking order

For many people, if not all, happiness would be incomplete without birds, and those avian fans should enjoy watching “Counting on Birds: Tales of Migration,” a DVD set of five programs produced by New Hampshire Public Television in which host Willem Lange sojourns from New England to South America to record the peregrinations of these intrepid, tuneful, feathered beauties and meets fellow bird enthusiasts along the way. The episodes range from “Bird Tales,” in which Nicaraguan schoolchildren, an artist, an inmate, and others discuss the nature of their obsession, to “Journey of the Broad-Winged Hawk,” which follows the annual 4,500-mile migration of the title raptor from the woodlands of northern New Hampshire to the rain forests of Ecuador.

“Counting on Birds: Tales of Migration” will be available on DVD Tuesday from Public Media Distribution, LLC for $29.99.

Peter Keough can be reached at petervkeough@gmail.com.