People still get riled up when they remember Atlanta Falcon quarterback Michael Vick's pit-bull fighting hobby, but has anyone wondered what happened to the animals rescued from his bloody ring?
Darcy Dennett's documentary "The Champions" follows up on the fates of five of these beautiful, mistreated animals. Groups such as PETA and the Humane Society of the United States determined that their viciousness, instilled by brutal conditioning and training, was irreversible. They insisted on having the dogs euthanized.
Some resolute and courageous animal lovers thought otherwise, however, and rescued all five, including Cherry, who will make an appearance when the film is shown on Thursday to begin the newportFILM 2016 documentary series.
Also in attendance is Cherry's owner, Paul Fiaccone, who will join the director and others in a panel discussion following the screening, which starts at 7:15 p.m. at the Casino Theater in Newport.
This event is supported by Wag Nation in partnership with Potter League for Animals, Handsome Dan's Rescue, and Best Friends Animal Society. A portion of the proceeds will benefit these organizations (in part, no doubt, because they have such cool names).
For more information go to www.newportfilm.com/film-events/films/champions.
Who needs special effects when you have real-life extreme action as depicted in documentaries such as Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi's mountain-climbing cliffhanger "Meru" and Marah Strauch's thrilling and tragic "Sunshine Superman"?
Strauch tells the story of Carl Boenish, one of the founders of BASE jumping. Boenish was the kind of guy who couldn't pass by something towering and perilous without wanting to leap off of it with a parachute — and when he did so, he took along a camera. Much of his footage is used to vertiginous effect in Strauch's film, which is also a powerful love story and an investigation into the limits of human aspiration.
"Sunshine Superman" will make its broadcast premiere on CNN on Jan. 17 at 9 p.m.
For more information go to www.cnn.com/shows/cnn-films-sunshine-superman17.
Demonstrating the potential of recycling, not to mention found art, a group of Paraguayan children transform items scoured from one of South America's landfills into musical instruments for their youth orchestra. That is the subject of Brad Allgood and Graham Townsley's delightfully titled "Landfill Harmonic," a documentary receiving its New England premiere in the Belmont World Film's annual Family Film Festival, which runs Friday through Jan. 18.
The resourcefulness and imagination of these children does not go unrewarded, as their story becomes an online sensation and the kids find themselves sharing the stage with some of their favorite bands, including Megadeth. Watching the film should inspire kids to make the most of what they've got, and encourage parents to be more tolerant when their children bring home inexplicably coveted pieces of junk.
In addition to "Landfill Harmonic," the festival also offers "It's Easy Being Green: Short Films About Animals and the Environment," featuring award-winning animated and live action shorts. Following the screenings, the three 12-year-old environmentalists from Lexington featured in the short film "Save Tomorrow" will conduct a discussion.
The future, if there is one, looks like it will be in good hands.
"It's Easy Being Green" (screening at noon) and "Landfill Harmonic" (at 1:30 p.m.) are part of the Jan. 17 lineup at the Studio Cinema in Belmont.
For more information go to www.belmontworldfilm.org.
Herzog goes viral
Having already shot documentaries on every continent, Werner Herzog ventures into cyberspace for his latest search for "the ecstatic truth." He journeys through the Internet in "Lo and Behold Reveries of the Connected World."
The exact focus of his inquiry is hard to determine from the trailer on YouTube, but it seems to involve cyber-terrorism, online bullying, the end of the world, and cosmic consciousness. It also features Herzog's inimitable (though many have tried) voice-over saying things like "This is an extraordinary moment in the life of human beings…"
True, that reflection is not up to Herzog's concluding reverie in "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" about albino radioactive crocodiles, but certainly "Lo and Behold" is a film not to be missed.
"Lo and Behold" is scheduled to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, which runs Jan. 21-31.
For more information go to www.sundance.org/projects/lo-and-behold-reveries-of-the-connected-world.
Not just a love story
People with an autism spectrum disorder face challenges in communication and social interaction. They also fall in love. Matt Fuller's documentary "Autism in Love" profiles four people who try to overcome this seemingly insurmountable dilemma. Some, like Stephen, find the person they love and get married. Others, like Lenny, bitterly lament their condition and rail angrily at how others get to go to college and have families while he remains "down here." "I'd rather be a normal man," he says, holding back tears of rage, "than an autistic person with a million dollars." Expect no rose-colored glasses with this film.
"Autism in Love" can be seen Monday at 10 p.m. on PBS.
For more information go to www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/autism-in-love.
Making a law suit?
These days, some documentarians — Alex Gibney, director of "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief" is a prime example — have found themselves getting flak from their subjects if they find their portrayal to be unflattering.
Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi, directors of the Netflix 10-part documentary "Making a Murderer" about the apparent framing of an innocent man on a murder charge, got a thumbs down from the former DA who prosecuted him, Ken Kratz.
"You don't want to muddy up a perfectly good conspiracy movie with what actually happened," said Kratz.
"Ken Kratz is entitled to his own opinion," said Ricciardi in an interview with thewrap.com. "But he's not entitled to his own facts."
I see another documentary — if not a lawsuit — in the making.