Doc Talk | Peter Keough

Documentaries on outer space, chronic fatigue, and Arthur Miller

Rebecca and Arthur Miller in “Arthur Miller: Writer.”
Inge Morath © The Inge Morath Foundation/Magnum Photos/HBO
Rebecca and Arthur Miller in “Arthur Miller: Writer.”

The documentaries in the 17th annual Irish Film Festival (March 22-25) are not just about the Emerald Isle, but extend to the limits of the solar system and beyond. That’s how far its Global Vision Documentary Award winner, Emer Reynolds’s “The Farthest,” ranges. It looks back at the launching of the Voyager spacecraft in 1977 — which is now looking back at us from 12 billion miles away and counting. Reynolds combines interviews with the scientists and technicians who worked on the project, archival footage, and stunning photographs from the Voyager itself to remind us of that landmark scientific achievement and rekindle the passion for discovery that it embodies.  

“The Farthest” screens March 24 at 4:30 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with the director and MIT professors John Winston Belcher and Anna Frebel, moderated by Jen Myronuk, co-founder and producer of STEM on Stage.

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Sick and tired


It’s bad enough suffering from a mysterious ailment that leaves you so enfeebled you can’t get out of bed, but Jennifer Brea and others afflicted with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), otherwise known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), must also endure the doubts of physicians who suggest it might all be in their minds. In her wrenchingly intimate documentary “Unrest,” Brea relates how, after a mysterious fever, she became so exhausted that at times she was not even able to use a wheelchair. Stymied in her work at getting a Ph.D. and frustrated by the inability — or unwillingness — of the medical profession to establish a cause or find a cure, she takes to the Internet to organize other sufferers around the world, launching a campaign bringing attention to their plight and demanding action. 

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Unrest” screens March 22 at 7 p.m. as part of the Emerson Bright Lights series at the Paramount Center. Co-presented with the ReelAbilities Film Festival and MIT’s Women Take the Reel series.

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Miller’s crossing

Whether it’s the disenfranchisement of the middle-class in “Death of a Salesman” or the paranoid irrationality in “The Crucible,” the plays of Arthur Miller (1915-2005) never lose their relevance.

His daughter, filmmaker Rebecca Miller (“Maggie’s Plan”), offers a personal portrait of the artist in her documentary “Arthur Miller: Writer.” Drawing on interviews she conducted with her father toward the end of his life as well as interviews with artists he influenced, such as the late Mike Nichols and playwright Tony Kushner, the film provides intimate glimpses into Miller’s life and creative process.


Especially resonant today is his recollection of being called before the House Un-American Activities committee in 1956, shortly after he married Marilyn Monroe. “They saw a chance for some good publicity,” he said. “This a country of entertainers; even the fascists have to be entertaining.”

“Arthur Miller: Writer” can be seen Monday at 8 p.m. on HBO. It will also be available on HBO On Demand, HBO NOW, HBO GO, and partners’ streaming platforms.

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Peter Keough can be reached at