Man and nature and you (on your lunch break)
The downtown library shows free-to-the-public documentaries this month.
The annual “In Focus” documentary-film series returns to Central Library, 400 Civic Center, this month, with notable docs being shown at free screenings on Wednesdays throughout October in Central’s Aaronson Auditorium.
Each screening begins at about 10 minutes past noon, and all filmgoers are encouraged to bring along some lunch.
Two great things about this series: 1) They always show worthwhile if not outstanding films, and 2) The films are always introduced by an in-the-know expert or professional who inevitably provides useful background, context, interesting asides or the like.
The theme for this year’s In Focus series is, ahem, “Man and Nature.” But don’t let a dull, junior-high-textbook-sounding theme like that dissuade you.
Year in and year out, this is a terrific TCCL event, a well-programmed series of compelling documentaries that deserves a healthy turnout every week. It’s also a nice way to kill your lunch break, next time you’re thinking about brown-bagging it.
Here’s the rundown.
Oct. 7 — “Minik: The Lost Eskimo” (2008)
In 1897, the famed Arctic explorer Robert Peary brought several Inuit Eskimos from Greenland to the American Museum of Natural History. They were to be carefully studied there, basically like human zoo specimens. Within months, most of these Inuit became ill and died. The only one who didn’t die was a boy named Minik — a stranger in a strange land, indeed. This film, originally shown in the “American Experience” lineup on PBS, presents Minik’s story. It’ll be introduced by Dr. Garrick Bailey, a professor of anthropology at The University of Tulsa.
Oct. 14 — “Alone in the Wilderness” (2004)
Perhaps the ultimate “I wish I could leave civilization behind and live in a log cabin somewhere” movie. The film concerns Richard Proenneke, who (at age 51) did exactly that. Proenneke set out for Alaska, settling in the remote, mountainous Twin Lakes area. He then — by hand, alone — built his cabin. He also kept a journal, and employed a motion-picture camera to film himself doing tasks around his cabin, gardening, going for walks, fishing, etc. (Such footage is the basis for this film.) Proenneke lived there for 30 years. A remarkable film about a remarkable life, and it will be introduced by Terry D. Whittaker, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Oct. 21 — “The City” (1939)
A short-film classic. FDR-era populism and propaganda mix with stylized cinematography and wonderful Aaron Copland music in this artful documentary, originally created for the 1939 World’s Fair. The film contrasts the smoke-filled squalor and stifling density of big-city life with the Eden-like possibilities of dwelling in the newly created suburbs, thereby promoting the serene and scenic “new city” of Greenbelt, Md. (which had just been constructed as a New Deal project). Greenbelt was built, more or less, upon the city-related theories of Lewis Mumford, the pioneering urban planner who was likewise a critic, historian and author. And Mumford contributed the crucial “commentary” for this film, which will be introduced by my friend and TulsaPeople colleague Jeff Van Hanken, an assistant professor of film studies at TU.
Oct. 28 — “Pale Male” (2002)
A much-cherished doc that first aired on the PBS program “Nature.” Here is the story of a (now famous) red-tailed hawk that’s been soaring over the streets and skyscrapers of New York City for years. In the early 1990s, this hawk made its nest atop a Fifth Avenue apartment building overlooking Central Park. Local birdwatchers, the insatiable NYC press and animal-lovers everywhere quickly took a liking to the bird, which was nicknamed “Pale Male” because of its light coloring. As narrator Joanne Woodward tells us in this enjoyable, Emmy-winning film — which was shot over a period of six years — the hawk continues to court, breed and hunt as many an enthusiastic birder looks on. The film will be introduced by Dr. Steve K. Sherrod, executive director of Bartlesville’s Sutton Avian Research Center.
(The Central Library is located downtown at 400 Civic Center; for more information, visit
"How Sally Changed My Life"
The above-referenced title — which, I’ll admit, kind of sounds like a Billy Crystal-Meg Ryan vehicle — has been assigned to a very short (total running time is about 15 minutes) but very worth-seeing film to be presented in a free-to-the-public screening at Circle Cinema at 3 p.m., Oct. 25. By way of explanation, “Sally” is a nickname sometimes bestowed upon The Salvation Army — and this film is a documentary that profiles several homeless people now living at The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope in Tulsa (located at 102 N. Denver Ave.). In fact, the film was made by three homeless individuals who themselves reside at the Center of Hope: director/editor John Ross, assistant director Scott Green and cinematographer Jerry Coleman. These men, who call their newly launched film company Cardboard Box Productions (because Mr. Ross once lived in one), will also participate in a post-screening Q&A session. Seating at the Circle is limited — as some of us know all too well — so, if you plan to attend this event, please call 587-7801 to RSVP.
Scott Gregory hosts “All This Jazz” on Public Radio 89.5 KWGS, where he also serves as the producer and editor of “Studio Tulsa.”