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doc talk | Loren King

Films offer journeys from Syria to Walla Walla

Obaidah Zytoon in “The War Show.”

One of the hallmarks of the Arab Spring was how protesters used cellphones to document spontaneous demonstrations for all the world to see. “The War Show,” a 2016 documentary from Syria and Denmark, directed by Andreas Mol Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon, follows radio host Zytoon and friends as they join the street protests in 2011 against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They begin filming the events around them on
iPhones and offering personal commentary. But as Syria spirals into bloody civil war, the hopes of these young artists and activists are tested by violence, the threat of imprisonment, and even death. “The War Show” captures the agony of Syria today through the intimate lens of this small circle of friends.

The Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Palestine Film Festival co-present “The War Show” on June 8 at 8 p.m. and June 11 at 1:30 p.m. as part of a mini-festival of contemporary films being produced in the Arab region of North Africa and the Middle East. The four-film festival runs June 8-11 at the MFA.


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A woman’s story

Jedd and Todd Wider, brothers who’ve produced documentaries about social justice issues for the past 16 years, make their directing debut with “God Knows Where I Am.” Inspired by a 2011 New Yorker article by Rachel Aviv (a consultant on the film) about the death of Linda Bishop of New Hampshire, “God Knows Where I Am” examines how Bishop, a well-educated single mother with bipolar disorder and psychosis, fell through the cracks of New Hampshire’s medical establishment. Drawing from the many journals that Bishop left behind when she was found dead in an abandoned farmhouse in Concord, N.H., where she’d been living alone, the film artfully poses provocative questions about the civil liberties of the mentally ill and the systemic failures to protect those who can’t protect themselves.


The Widers produced Alex Gibney’s Emmy-winning “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God” (2012) about a priest who sexually abused boys at a Milwaukee school for the deaf, and Gibney’s Oscar-winning “Taxi to the Dark Side” (2007), which explored the American military’s use of torture by focusing on the unsolved murder of an Afhgan taxi driver.

“God Knows Where I Am” began showing May 26 at the AMC Methuen 20.

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One of the guys

Boston-area filmmakers Amy Geller and Allie Humenuk, in collaboration with Boston Pride, present their documentary “The Guys Next Door,” followed by a panel talk about the evolution of the American family, on June 4 at 2 p.m. in Coolidge Corner Theatre. Panelists include Jennifer Childs-Roshak, CEO of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts; Emily McGranachan of the Family Equality Council; and John Rosario, a Boston-area psychologist. The discussion will be moderated by Erin Trahan, a regular contributor to WBUR’s the ARTery.

Shot over three years, Geller and Humenuk’s film offers an intimate portrait of Erik Mercer and husband Sandro Sechi and their daughters Eleonora and Rachel Maria, both conceived with Mercer’s college friend Rachel Segall and with full support of her husband, Tony Mercer (Rachel and Tony have three children together). The four adults and five kids have created an extended family with all the joys, tensions, and moments big and small that define families of all configurations.


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Coming home

Local organizations, including the Boston Housing Authority and Horizons for Homeless Children, are sponsoring a screening of “Our Journey Home,” a documentary about public housing that follows three families whose lives have been shaped by struggles to find a place to call home. The screening takes place June 14 at 6:30 p.m. at Regal Fenway Stadium 13 in Boston, followed by a panel discussion. Participants include Joe Finn, president and executive director of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance; Bill McGonagle of the Boston Housing Authority; and Sheila Dillon, chief of housing and director of neighborhood development for the City of Boston.

“Our Journey Home” premiered in New York City in 2015. Since then, it has been on tour to cities across the country to educate audiences about homelessness and challenge perceptions about public housing.

Tickets for both the film and the discussion are $10. For more information, go to


The one-hour documentary “48 Hairpin Bends by Night,” about 77-year-old Giuliano Calore, who braves the twists and turns of the legendary Stelvio Pass in the Italian Alps, screens May 31 at 7 p.m. as part of the Ciclismo Classico Bike Travel Film Festival at Regent Theatre in Arlington. By the way, Calore tries this feat in the dark, with no handlebars and no brakes.

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School year

Director James Redford follows a year in the lives of staff and students at Lincoln Alternative High School in Walla Walla, Wash., in “Paper Tigers.” The alternative high school radically changed its approach to disciplining its students and became a promising model for how to break the cycles of poverty, violence, and addiction. NewportFILM presents a free showing May 30 at the Casino Theater in Newport, R.I. The screening is at 6:30 p.m., followed by a talk with film subject and teacher Erik Gordon.

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Loren King can be reached at