Nazca Desert Mysteries, New York Radio History, and Dedicated Hobbyists | Real Reels

This month’s must-see documentaries include the mystery of Nazca geoglyphs, hobbies that become a life’s work, the rise of Radio Z100, and an Irish school’s techniques for stopping the cycle of violence.

A Life’s Work. 90 min. First Run Features. 2021. DVD UPC 2022991826. $19.99.

There is regular dedication to your work or cause, and there is the kind of dedication portrayed in David Licata’s documentary. Its interview subjects each focus on a different topic—extraterrestrials, gospel music, trees, architecture—but are linked by their obsessions. Also, and this is key, they likely will not finish their projects in their lifetime. Enjoyment of this film may depend on one’s interest in the topics themselves, to which big sections are dedicated, as it is a bit slow-moving. VERDICT Almost like four different docs linked loosely by a theme, with some topics more interesting than others.

Nazca Desert Mystery. 55 min. PBS. 2022. DVD UPC 4188704719. $24.99.

Approximately 1,500 years ago, lines, animal shapes, and geoglyphs were etched into the earth in Peru by the Nazca. Part of PBS’s Nova series, this documentary attempts to uncover the people who made them and why the lines exist in one of the most arid deserts in the world. Until the 1920s advent of aviation, archeologists didn’t even know the lines were there, but in the 100 years since, much conjecture has been made by academics around the globe. Are they religious, cultural, or economic? Are descendants of the Nazca still nearby in Peru? These questions and more will be answered by the assembled experts in this film. VERDICT A fascinating glimpse into pre-Hispanic Indigenous culture, via an archeological mystery.

Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York. 63 min. Kino Lorber. 2021. DVD UPC 3832926124. $19.99.

In New York radio history, the rise of Z100 in 1983 from worst- to best-rated station in the market was the stuff of legend. Station owners brought in a colorful DJ from Florida to overhaul a programming change, and the new format of top-40 music was ultimately influential to stations across the country. Director Mitchell Stuart’s doc is a breezy trip down a nostalgic memory lane full of eccentric DJs, confrontational stances on air against other stations, and lots of 1980s music. Z100’s rapid change of fortunes was almost like a viral movement, long before social media introduced the notion of going viral to the masses. VERDICT Chronicles a bygone era for rock music lovers when radio was all-powerful and influential.

Young Plato. 102 min. Passion River Films. 2021. DVD UPC 7297589504. $29.99.

In the predominantly Catholic neighborhood of Ardoyne in North Belfast, Ireland, the kids are still dealing with a legacy of sectarian violence from the Troubles. This documentary follows an Elvis Presley–loving headmaster of a boys’ primary school as he attempts to engage students with philosophy that they can then share with family and others in the working-class neighborhood. Surprisingly funny and sweet-natured, Neasa Ní Chianáin and Declan McGrath’s film has an inspiring, hopeful message and shows the power of communication among the school’s staff in how they connect to and respect their students. A minor quibble is the lack of personal details about teachers and students. Learning more about their lives outside the school would have made the film even more powerful. VERDICT A thoughtful look into one school’s techniques to stop the cycle of violence in its community.


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