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doc talk | peter keough

A return engagement for ‘The Grateful Dead Documentary’

“Last Days of Solitary” premieres on Tuesday at 9 p.m. on PBS’s “Frontline.” FRONTLINE

Much has changed in the 40 years since the release of “The Grateful Dead Documentary.” Directed by Jerry Garcia himself, along with Leon Gast (“When We Were Kings”), the 1977 film chronicles a legendary five-night stand of performances at Winterland in San Francisco in October 1974.

Garcia, who died in 1995 at age 53, would at least be pleased to know that his herb of choice is now legal in Massachusetts. (Sort of.) And he might be heartened to see that there’s a screening of his documentary as part of “The Grateful Dead Movie 40th Anniversary” program, which also includes exclusive footage from the long-awaited, yet-to-be-released documentary about the band, “Long Strange Trip,” by Amir Bar-Lev (“The Tillman Story;” “Happy Valley”).


If Garcia were still around, in the words of the song “Ripple,” he would take you home. If he knew the way.

The event takes place Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Regal Fenway Stadium 13.

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Long running

If the hundreds of thousands of visitors crowding the streets of the city haven’t tipped you off by now, the 121st running of the Boston Marathon is set to begin Monday morning.

After the hoopla, you might want to take a look at the world behind the fanfare and excitement by watching filmmaker-marathoner Jon Dunham’s documentary “Boston: An American Running Story.” It takes up the story from the first Marathon in 1897 that fielded 15 runners to the triumphant resumption of the race in 2014 after the 2013 terrorist attack.

With narration from Matt Damon and a score performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, it doesn’t get much more Boston Strong than that.

“Boston: An American Running Story” screens Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Regal Fenway Stadium 13.


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Save the plants

Given the state of the planet and its diminishing environmental returns, a latter-day Noah’s Ark might not be a bad idea. That is true of plants as well as animals, and as seen in Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz’s documentary “Seed: The Untold Story,” passionately committed farmers, scientists, lawyers, and others have taken steps to insure that the legacy of 12,000 years of agricultural progress remains secure in the face of coming hard times.

The situation is already desperate — 94 percent of seed varieties have disappeared and biotech chemical companies control most of what’s left. Taking on these odds are seed advocates ranging from the countercultural Will Bonsall, of the Scatterseed Project, to the esteemed icon of environmentalism and primatology, Jane Goodall.

“Seed: The Untold Story” premieres on Monday at 10 p.m. on “Independent Lens,” PBS. It begins streaming online on Tuesday.

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Cruel and unusual

Psychological torture in US prisons gets a harrowing look in Dan Edge and Lauren Mucciolo’s “Last Days of Solitary,” shot during the filmmakers’ three years of intimate, unprecedented access to a Maine prison, where they studied the reasons for and consequences of solitary confinement, a 200-year-old penal tradition in America. With more than 80,000 prisoners in solitary, many for decades at a time, the US leads the world in this practice. But not only does solitary confinement cause extreme trauma to those it is inflicted on, it has little rehabilitative value. Those who have been released after undergoing it are more likely to be recidivist, repeat offenders.


“Last Days of Solitary” premieres on Tuesday at 9 p.m. on PBS’s “Frontline.”

For more information go to

Never forgotten

With even the White House press secretary misrepresenting the Holocaust, what better time to hear the truth from those who actually experienced it, as shown in R. Harvey Bravman’s “Soul Witness, the Brookline Holocaust Witness Project,” which is returning to the Coolidge Corner Theatre after selling out its premiere screening in January. Culled from some 80 hours of video interviews conducted by the Town of Brookline from 1990-96 of residents who witnessed the Holocaust, it is a horrifying, inspiring, and minatory record of their lives before the war, the years of intensifying oppression, and then the ultimate nightmare.

The voices include those of survivors of the death camps, others who successfully hid or escaped, some who fought in the resistance or put their own lives in jeopardy by helping someone else. It is a gripping, terrifying, and life reaffirming history lesson that cannot be repeated too often.

“Soul Witness, the Brookline Holocaust Witness Project” screens on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. A discussion will follow with the filmmaker, Brookline chief diversity officer Lloyd Gellineau, and family members of witnesses featured in the film.

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Peter Keough can be reached at