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  • Originally published 07/28/2013

    ‘Our Nixon’ uses hundreds of reels shot by staff members

    These days, Dwight Chapin shoots movies on his iPad. But in the Richard M. Nixon White House, he and his colleagues John Ehrlichman and H. R. Haldeman were Super 8-wielding auteurs, capturing intimate moments that eluded the press corps: Tricia Nixon before her wedding; the president in Beijing enjoying a ballet about a workers’ insurrection; Pope Paul VI shot sideways (because Haldeman had smuggled his camera into the Vatican).The images, surreptitious and otherwise, are included in “Our Nixon,” the impressionistic documentary directed by Penny Lane that has its premiere Thursday on CNN. The film makes use of hundreds of reels of  home movies shot by Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Mr. Chapin, some of which had been confiscated by the F.B.I. during the Watergate investigation. The footage remained largely unseen for 40 years.“They weren’t being hidden,” Ms. Lane said. “They were being ignored.”

  • Originally published 06/13/2013

    Nixon's White House – caught on Super 8

    An administration under fire over covert wiretapping, whistleblowers hailed as heroes and lambasted as traitors, a president's reputation on the line … You could be excused for detecting a whiff of Nixon-era sulphur in the US political atmosphere these days. With the trial of Bradley Manning, the Department of Justice's pursuit of journalists who use national-security sources and, of course, Edward Snowden's revelations of NSA data harvesting filling the headlines, state-sanctioned subterfuge and divisive whistleblowing dominate US politics more than at any time since the days of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate.

  • Originally published 06/10/2013

    How a documentary changed Guatemala's history

    Most documentaries record and preserve history – only a few change the arc of history.In Guatemala in the early 1980s, a young American documentary filmmaker named Pamela Yates bore witness to massive crimes and atrocities at great personal risk to make her film.This year, a quarter-century later, her footage became critical evidence used to convict a military dictator of genocide. The Central American country had been torn apart by decades of U.S. funded civil war when General Efrain Rios Montt seized power in 1982 and launched a scorched earth campaign against the Mayans and leftist guerillas....

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Making the Historical Documentary "Makers"

    Professor Betsy West on the set of Makers. Credit: Columbia University School of Journalism.Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.--Maya AngelouThis past February marked the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s now classic The Feminine Mystique, a study of what Friedan called “the problem that had no name” -- the widespread unhappiness of many women who felt stymied by traditional female roles and had few options for meaningful work outside the family.  Friedan’s trailblazing book, with her call for educational and occupational reforms, has been seen as inspiring the modern women’s movement, and the ensuing conversation led Friedan to found the National Organization for Women.

  • Originally published 01/31/2013

    PBS Takes a Look at Henry Ford

    Henry Ford is the latest subject of “American Experience,” which will be broadcast on PBS stations on Tuesday from 9 to 11 p.m. Other subjects include Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.Ford is the only one of the three who left a company with his name. Carnegie and Rockefeller are better known for philanthropic foundations, although Ford also created a foundation with his name on it.If there’s a lesson from Ford for today’s entrepreneurs it is this: Don’t stay in charge of the company too long.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Judging Mayor Koch’s AIDS Record, Whispers Aside

    There’s a moment toward the end of “Koch,” a soon-to-be released documentary by Neil Barsky on the extended political career of the city’s 105th mayor, in which Edward I. Koch, eternally single, is asked to address questions surrounding the longstanding interest in his sexuality. He responds as he has done for a long time now, declaring that it is no one’s business. He argues that his engagement with the issue would set a precedent for gross intrusions into the personal lives of political candidates, a bit of narcissistic posturing that seems to ignore the extent to which that field has already been trampled by mad dogs and wild horses.In the past, Mr. Koch, who is 88, handled the question by joking at the absurdity of any fascination with the sex life of an old man — presumably he has not kept up with the boundless tabloid interest in Hugh Hefner’s late-life erotic shenanigans or with Cialis ads. Certainly Mr. Koch has maintained a more vigilant security apparatus around his intimate life than most contemporary public figures one can think of.

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