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An epic and yet intimately human masterpiece.
Stunning, inspiring documentaries. The first, a brisk historical overview of North Dakota farmers organizing a democratic-socialist party to take over the state government 100 years ago, could have been dry and academic. Instead it gleefully explodes documentary forms with energy, humor, and irreverence, inspired by the heart and wit of its narrator, a 95-year-old veteran of those political struggles. The filmmakers make great use of rare film footage from the era, as well as still photos filmed in motion the way Ken Burns did later, only unlike the gentle politeness of that "Ken Burns effect," here the camera moves with dynamic, angular verve and personality. The second and third films are more personal, cinema-verite portraits of Henry Martinson, the narrator of the first, and he's a revelation. Whether debating, singing, speechifying, dancing, joking or reminiscing, he radiates an intense authenticity, humility, optimism, and a kind of groundedness we hardly ever see any more, especially at the movies. Now touring the US in limited screenings, I hope these get a decent release on disc or streaming soon.