Movies

DOC TALK

Laurie Kahn’s film inspired by the public’s love affair with romance novels

A scene from Laurie Kahn’s documentary “Love Between the Covers.”

Joanne Lockyer

A scene from Laurie Kahn’s documentary “Love Between the Covers.”

One field in the arts in which women are dominant is romance literature. Before anyone sniffs with disdain, bear in mind that, as Boston-born Laurie Kahn’s documentary “Love Between the Covers” reveals, the genre is popular in 34 languages on six continents, grosses about a billion dollars a year, and outsells mysteries, sci-fi, and fantasy — combined.

But compared to, say, Stephen King, these authors are unknown to the culture at large. Kahn’s intimate and inspirational film offers a glimpse into their supportive and creative community.

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It is a sisterhood of 100 million readers and writers, a force to be reckoned with in this unpredictable period in the book business. “During the three years we’ve been shooting ‘Love Between the Covers’,” says Kahn, “we have witnessed the biggest power shift that has taken place in the publishing industry over the last 200 years. And it’s the romance authors who are on the front lines.”

“Love Between the Covers” will be available On Demand and Digital HD on July 12. www.lovebetweenthecovers.com

Amazing graze

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“The Sensory Ethnography Lab: Experiments With Cinema,” a retrospective of that collaborative group of documentarians’ works, continues with Ilisa Barbash, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, and Ernst Karel’s “Sweetgrass” (2009), one of the first of their films that got people thinking that these people were breaking new ground in nonfiction film.

For one thing, you will never look at a sheep the same way again after one of the opening shots: a close-up of a ruminating ewe, a look of bemused disdain in her eyes. What follows is a yearlong immersive account of the last round-up of ovine herds as their rowdy handlers shepherd them to the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains for summer pasture.

With no editorial guidance other than the subtle editing, the film records this mini-epic with both empathic intimacy and Olympian objectivity. With majestic landscapes and sheep-level close-ups, it combines the styles of John Ford and Yasujirô Ozu. Call it “Triumph of the Wool.”

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“Sweetgrass” screens on July 17 at 1 p.m. in Menschel Hall, in the Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy St., Cambridge. The screening is free and open to the public.

www.harvardartmuseums.org/visit/calendar

America according
to Ken Burns

Those looking to fill in the gaps in their American history could do worse than check out the SundanceNow Doc Club’s new collection of streaming videos, “Spotlight on Ken Burns” — a retrospective of 11 films by the monolith of modern documentarians. Say what you may about Burns’s once-innovative, now-ubiquitous style, it does deliver the goods about both well-known and obscure stories in American contemporary and classic history.

The films featured include “The Central Park Five” (2012), about five youths falsely convicted of beating and raping a woman in Central Park in 1989, and in which presumptive Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump makes a key cameo; “Unforgiveable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson” (2005), the story of the first African-American heavyweight champion, whose ferocious talent and defiance of a racist society foreshadowed the same circumstances faced by Muhammad Ali half a century later; and “Huey Long” (1985), a study of the quintessential populist demagogue, who held office as US senator and governor of Louisiana in the Depression years and who would find himself right at home in the politics of today.

www.docclub.com/programs/spotlight-ken-burns

Eye opening

The story told in Irene Taylor Brodsky’s documentary “Open Your Eyes” has the resonance of a myth.

Durga and Manisara, married for 50 years, have lived their whole lives high in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal. They are so close to the sun that their eyes have turned white and they are blind.

They learn of a way to restore their sight, but to do so they must leave their home, descend into the valley and journey to the city. The prospect fills them with dread, but when Manisara’s granddaughter, whom she has never seen, jumps into her lap, they decide they must go.

It sounds like something that Joseph Campbell might have written about. Mythic resonance aside, this story also reveals a harsh reality. Over 40 million poor people are blind from cataracts, a condition that can be cured with a simple procedure. Manisara and Durga are lucky to have access to a hospital in the city of Palpa where this treatment has been made available by the charitable Seva Foundation. The millions who are less fortunate continue to live in darkness.

“Open Your Eyes” can be seen on HBO on July 18 at 9 p.m.

www.hbo.com/documentaries/open-your-eyes/index.html

Help wanted

Here’s an opportunity for those frustrated about the grim state of racial justice and who also are looking for a way to advance the cause through the art of nonfiction filmmaking.

The PBS documentary series “POV,” The New York Times, and the MacArthur Foundation have joined to explore the future of documentaries through an interactive project about race and are looking for a “mediamaker to work in hybrid formats.” That means that the successful candidate will work for 20 weeks “to create new forms of documentary and interactive content with a team of Times writers, editors and visual storytellers.”

Sorry for the short notice: The deadline to apply is July 25.

www.pov.org/jobs

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