Santa is still shopping for those who deserve DVDs with a more serious side.
Think PBS Distribution.
Our fave folk release important titles. Here's three must-haves:
Finding and securing the perfect mate in the animal world brings out the best of the male population. Many go to great competitive and creative lengths to win over their future partner, but the females usually have the final say. After all, the fundamental bonds they will share as a couple will have a direct impact on whether their offspring will survive and thrive. Yet the question persists, can we call these bonds love? Nature takes a provocative look at the love life of animals in Love in the Animal Kingdom.
The search for a mate takes many forms in the animal world. In the Arctic, normally solitary polar bear males sometimes spend weeks using their excellent sense of smell to track the scent of a female who will soon be ready to mate. Introductions take the form of sniffing each other closely, as the particulars of a bear’s age and health can be learned from its scent. In the next step of their courtship, the two will begin to play, which allows the female to test his fitness by seeing if he can follow her up and down steep slopes. Since she’ll be raising the cubs alone, it’s crucial for the female to choose a mate in top condition who will give her strong and healthy offspring for her to rear. Once she decides he’s the one, she reels him in.
When it comes to mountain gorillas in Central Africa, it is a dominant male, the silverback, who offers the opposite sex not just good genes, but also protection for his extended families of females and youngsters. Besides his role as father, he also serves as babysitter, playmate and role model. It’s no wonder that when a young female gorilla sets her sights on the silverback, she uses all her feminine wiles to try and get his attention. She has to move quickly as she’s only got a day or two when she’s fertile. First, she tries the flirtatious act of smiling and gazing straight into his eyes. When that doesn’t work, she tries to make him jealous by carrying on with two immature males, which ultimately does the trick. The silverback charges in and the female gets her man.
For flamingos, the search for Mr. or Mrs. Right is all about choosing a dependable partner to help raise a family in extraordinarily tough conditions. Flamingos nest in the middle of muddy soda lakes where temperatures can soar above 120 degrees, so while one parent searches for food and fresh water, the other must be relied upon to protect the nest from the scorching sun. To find that reliable partner, thousands of flamingos gather on Tanzania’s Lake Bogoria to dance. It is perhaps the largest gathering of courting couples in the animal world. They’re looking for compatibility in age and size, and appearance–eye color and bright feathers are important. Coordinated dance movements single out the best dance partner, the best match. The couples will stay together until the end of their days.
On the Galapagos Islands, dancing is also the courtship method of choice for blue-footed boobies. Like flamingos, they seem to fall for birds most like themselves. They show off their big-blue feet as they dance because it’s an indicator of good health; the blue color is hard to make, especially if the birds are in poor condition. Once they find a partner and nesting starts, however, they continue their courtship displays while also conducting an open “marriage.” Boobies have a wandering eye, and about half have extra-marital affairs, though that doesn’t affect their commitment to each other or their family. The instinct to remain together is stronger than any infidelity as long as the male ensures they’re only raising his biological offspring. There are limits, even for the blue-footed boobies.
The mating game is as varied and intriguing as the animal kingdom itself and though we can never be sure what animals feel, it often looks like love and even the most scientific of observers can find it difficult to know what else to call it.
The Nature of Genius collection features DVD and Blu-ray versions of two outstanding documentaries–“Inspirations” and “Me & Isaac Newton.” Known for films including Gorillas in the Mist, Nell, The World Is Not Enough and Coal Miner’s Daughter, Michael Apted’s documentary roots began in the 1960s with the acclaimed Up series, where from 7 Up all the way to 56 Up, he examines the lives and thoughts of the same fourteen British children.
In the documentaries Inspirations and Me & Isaac Newton, Apted turns his interviewer’s lens to explore the human advances in the arts and the sciences with a slightly humorous approach. How do artists create? How do scientists hope to affect the world?
How do artists get ideas? This is the question and premise underlying “Inspirations,” a documentary exploring the creative force of seven very different artists. The artists profiled–musician David Bowie, painter Roy Lichtenstein, glass artist Dale Chihuly, choreographer Édouard Lock, dancer Louise LeCavalier, architect Tadao Ando and sculptor Nora Naranjo-Morse–reveal a fascinating similarity of experience when it comes to their muse. The artists discuss their solitary and collaborative methods, fears of failure, and the excitement that comes with pioneering new work.
Me & Isaac Newton
This documentary delves into the hearts and minds of seven scientists who have solved old scientific mysteries in creative ways. Ranging in age, each reveals their personal histories and commitment to positively affecting the world. From primatologist Patricia Wright, a former housewife and schoolteacher whose fascination with lemurs led to saving a rainforest, to cognitive scientist and author Steven Pinker, whose studies of the human mind examine its use of language and sensory input, all view life through their own unique lens, with groundbreaking results. The five other individuals profiled include pharmaceutical chemist Gertrude Elion, environmental physicist Ashok Gadgil, author and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, roboticist Maja Matarić and geneticist Karol Sikora.
Addie Rerecich was a happy 11-year-old girl who loved sports and talked a mile a minute. But when a mysterious pain in her hip landed her in the hospital in 2011, she began a downward spiral into the nightmare of a new kind of antibiotic-resistant infection that is confounding doctors across the world. Addie’s precipitous decline might sound unusual, but as FRONTLINE reports in Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria, medicine’s struggle with deadly drug-resistant infections is becoming all too real.
“The world is entering a post-antibiotic era. Doctors tell me there are patients for whom we have no therapy. The bacteria are growing stronger, and the drug pipeline is drying up,” says award-winning journalist David E. Hoffman, who investigates the crisis for FRONTLINE.
In the special, Hoffman examines the alarming rise of superbugs that our modern antibiotics can’t stop – from Addie Rerecich’s case to that of David Ricci, who brings a nasty infection home from India, and to a rare look inside an uncontrollable outbreak at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center–the NIH–one of the nation’s most prestigious research hospitals, where 19 patients were sickened and seven died.
“The rise of antimicrobial resistance is a threat to us all. Prominent public health officials are using words like ‘nightmare’ and ‘catastrophic,’” Hoffman says. “But even though we’ve known about this problem for decades, the alarms have not been met with similar levels of urgency in the public or the government.”
As FRONTLINE reports, after decades of antibiotic overuse, the crisis of untreatable infections has only deepened. Most major drug companies, squeezed by Wall Street expectations and facing steep scientific hurdles, have abandoned the development of new antibiotics. The film takes viewers behind the story of one major drug company’s efforts to overcome the new drug-resistant superbugs–and why, despite those efforts, the drug pipeline is running dry.
“Twenty-five years ago, there were more than 25 large companies working to discover and develop new antibiotics,” infectious disease doctor Brad Spellberg tells FRONTLINE. “Now there’s two, maybe three.”
Compounding the problem is the fact that these superbugs are now spreading in frightening ways with alarming speed, both across the globe and inside hospitals–though few hospitals are willing to talk about the problem publicly.
But FRONTLINE was granted unprecedented access to the NIH, where some of the nation’s top clinical specialists struggled to control the spread of a deadly outbreak in 2011. The specialists remain confounded–and their experience has serious implications for the rest of the country: These new threats have been found in almost every state.
“The average person thinks, ‘Oh, I have an infection, I take an antibiotic, I get better,’” says nurse Tonya Rerecich, whose daughter Addie’s story is featured in the FRONTLINE report. “Yeah, it’s not that simple anymore.”