Real Reels | Top Documentaries To Add to Collections

From Augmented, about the attempt to link the brain to robotic limbs, to The Beatles: Get Back, an intimate and lyrical insider look at the band, these are documentaries to dig into this month. 

Alaskan Nets. 117+ min. Kino Lorber. 2021 (DVD release 2022). DVD UPC 3832925930. $19.99.
Located on a remote island in the southeast of Alaska, Metlakatla is the last Indigenous reservation in the state. The small community, comprised mostly of Tsimshian people, is known for two things: fishing and a love of basketball. Jeff Harasimowicz’s film taps into both of these topics while following Metlakatla High School’s 2018–19 athletics season. At its heart, this is a sports documentary, with thrilling game footage and profiles of players, coaches, and townspeople. But through the window of basketball, the film also captures the economic struggles of the local fishing industry (which has been decimated by climate change), Tsimshian culture, and how high-school sports can give a community the one thing it needs the most—hope. VERDICT Appealing to both sports fans who want a rousing underdog story and those with an interest in Indigenous communities.

Augmented. 84+ min. PBS. 2022. DVD UPC 4188704626. $24.99.
“I would love to become a cyborg.” That quote from Hugh Herr sounds like a line from a science-fiction movie, but it’s real life. MIT biophysicist Herr has dedicated his career to improving the lives of people with amputations ever since he was in a climbing accident at the age of 17 that resulted in both his legs being amputated. At MIT, Herr leads a team of researchers and surgeons in an attempt to link the brain to robotic limbs so the brain can control the movement of the prosthetics. Part of PBS’s Nova series, this is a gripping documentary featuring an attempt to bring innovative, transformative, revolutionary technology to the public in what Herr envisions as a “dramatic human improvement.” VERDICT A fascinating and inspiring combination of medicine, technology, and sport that allows viewers to see science fiction becoming medical reality.

The Beatles: Get Back. 468+ min. Disney. 2021 (Blu-ray release 2022). Blu-ray UPC 8693689459. $35.99.
In 1969, as the greatest rock band of the era was splintering apart, the Beatles allowed a film crew into their inner sanctum to capture them writing and recording new songs. Some of the footage was used in a long-unavailable 1970 documentary called Let It Be, then director Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) got access to the unused material and created this epic deep-dive into the Beatles’ music and individual personalities. His is an intriguing peek into the band’s dynamics and creative process as they crafted new songs in the studio. The interplay between Paul McCartney and John Lennon is especially interesting to watch; no matter the dysfunction within the group, it is clear that these two musicians were magical together. VERDICT An essential purchase for public libraries.

Hello, Bookstore. 86+ min. Greenwich Entertainment. 2021 (DVD release 2022). DVD UPC 3832925910. $19.99.
In 1976, Matt Tannenbaum bought The Bookstore in Lenox, MA, and has devoted his life to books ever since. Like many of the best independent bookstores still in operation, his shop is warm and inviting, a beacon for the neighborhood. What happens to this beloved store when the COVID pandemic hits? It gets complicated. Directed by A. B. Zax, this documentary is a gentle, heartfelt, intimate snapshot of the struggle for a small business to stay afloat in challenging times, as well as a portrait of the soft-spoken Tannenbaum, who has loved nothing more than talking to or reading to customers over the years. VERDICT A balm for book lovers to spend some quality time with a host who truly loves the written word.

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