Doc Talk

Two dance films that will move you

Emelie Mahdavian follows four female dancers in “After the Curtain.”
Emelie Mahdavian
Emelie Mahdavian follows four female dancers in “After the Curtain.”

Two documentaries screening at the Brattle Theatre on Tuesday show how the ethereal art of dance is closely bound to the harsh realities of history and political change.

Like the members of the Bolshoi Ballet in the 2015 documentary “Bolshoi Babylon,” the four female dancers in Emelie Mahdavian’s documentary “After the Curtain” (showing at 8 p.m.) contend with the turmoil of internal and external politics. Unlike the Bolshoi members, though, they don’t have the advantages of a long hallowed tradition and international renown.

They live in the Soviet Republic of Tajikistan, a place which has grown wary of western art forms and the women who participate in them. Mahdavian’s documentary celebrates its protagonists’ courage in increasingly anti-art and misogynist circumstances.


Webb Wilcoxen and Ian Brownell’s “A Time to Dance: The Life and Work of Norma Canner” (6 p.m.) shows how dance can elevate not just the soul, but heal the body and mind as well. Presented in partnership with the American Dance Therapy Association, the film tells the story of Canner, who, after a career as a Broadway actress in the 1940s, pioneered dance movement therapy, a method that improves the lives of outsiders and the disabled through dance. The screening will feature a discussion with Brownell and dance/movement therapist Donna Newman-Bluestein, who is a former student of Canner.

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Hard hitting

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When former New Orleans Saints defensive back Steve Gleason blocked a punt and set up a touchdown in the team’s first return to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, he inspired a city in ruins and stumbling toward recovery. When he was diagnosed in 2011 with ALS at age 34, he inspired people again by making a video journal for his unborn son of his ordeal and of his determination to help others similarly afflicted. Filmmaker Clay Tweel condensed and adapted the footage into “Gleason,” an intimate, heart-breaking, life-affirming documentary.

Tweel will be in Newport, R.I., on Tuesday for the newportFILM screening of his film at 6:30 p.m. at the Casino Theatre, followed by a discussion.

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Straight dope on the pope

Not everything a pope writes or says is ex cathedra. Sometimes he just wants to slip off the tiara and red shoes and share his innermost feelings and thoughts with a friend.

Pope John Paul II, who became the first Polish pope in 1978, died in 2005, was beatified by his successor Pope Benedict XVI in 2011, and was canonized in 2014 by Pope Francis, was no exception. In 2014, BBC broadcaster Edward Stourton was granted access to more than 300 personal letters between John Paul and the Polish American philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, which were archived in the National Library of Poland. The three-decades-long correspondence was intimate and candid, revealing the pope’s spiritual, philosophical, and political doubts and concerns.


This treasure trove of historical correspondence is examined in the rather luridly titled PBS documentary “The Secrets of Saint John Paul,” directed by Richard Denton. It includes interviews with such experts as John Paul biographer Carl Bernstein and, alarmingly, Mark Lasota, historian of the Polish secret police. The film is available on DVD ($29.95) and digital download on Monday.

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‘Stripped’ Stones

Are they still the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band? Are they the world’s only rock ’n’ roll band? People have been asking the first question about the Rolling Stones since at least 1995, when the band released the album “Stripped,” a compilation of pared-down moldy oldies like “I’m Free,” “Street Fighting Man,” “Let It Bleed,” and, since it hasn’t been covered enough already, Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” “Totally Stripped,” a documentary featuring two studio sessions and three live concerts, accompanied the album’s release.

Two decades later, “Totally Stripped” returns, including an expanded reissue of the album and a “revised version” of the documentary (“directed by the Rolling Stones”). It’s probably no “Gimme Shelter” (1969), but then, what is?

“Totally Stripped” is now available on Blu-Ray ($19.99) and DVD ($21.98). And a totally stuffed version of “Totally Stripped,” clocking in at seven hours and 17 minutes, is also available on Blu-Ray ($109.98) and DVD ($99.98).

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Crüe cut

As any Mötley Crüe fan will tell you, any suggestion that the Rolling Stones are the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band, let alone the only one, is a flat-out falsehood. As if to prove that, the classic 1980s heavy metal band has its own movie making the rounds. “Mötley Crüe: The End,” a documentary directed by Christian Lamb and Jeff Tremaine (of the “Jackass” series) brings to the screen their final concert, which occurred on Dec. 31, 2015 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.


“Mötley Crüe: The End” screens June 14 at 7 p.m. at Showcase cinemas in Revere and Dedham.

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Peter Keough can be reached at