More than just propelling horse racing into a new spurt of popularity, Seabiscuit may trigger younger fans' fascination for the hardscrabble background of the story and the history of America's Great Depression.
Earlier this year, WGBH Video released one of the most eloquent documentary treatments of that era: Riding the Rails, which whizzes by in an insight-packed 72 minutes. And it holds particular appeal to high-school viewers.
Riding the Rails chronicles the teens of the '30s who rode freights to escape the hardship or the dreariness that hit their families after the economy collapsed. It tells their story with the help of 10 eyewitnesses who hopped box-cars, slept in hobo jungles, bummed meals and did odd jobs until they joined the Civilian Conservation Corps or the Works Progress Administration or the service, or returned home and stuck things out.
Co-directors Michael Uys and Lexy Lovell open up a fresh subject without simplifying or inflating it; their mixture of newsreel shots and straight-to-the-camera reminiscence is both tough-minded and briskly poignant. The images of trains rattling through the countryside keep the talking heads from getting static and convey the free-floating romantic feeling that never completely left even those who felt wounded by the experience.
What's moving and intriguing is how seasoned and wary the teen-agers look in the footage from the '30s - and how spry and engaged the interviewees are in their 70s and 80s.
`Cinema Paradiso' in Little Italy
Baltimore's Little Italy Open Air Film Festival ends its summer run tonight with Cinema Paradiso - and whatever one thinks of the picture, its celebration of neighborhood movie-going in a small Italian town couldn't be more apt for the season finale.
At one point, the town projectionist manages to throw a movie's images through the open air to a wall in the town square. For fans of the Open Air Film Festival, it should be a precious 3-D moment. Music starts at 7 p.m., the feature at 9 p.m.
Bunuel at the Charles
Tomorrow at noon, the Charles' weekend revival series presents one of Luis Bunuel's late absurdist frolics (and one of his own favorite films): The Phantom of Liberty, a string of surrealist anecdotes ranging from 1808 to present-day Paris. As he noted in his autobiography, My Last Sigh, Bunuel himself was most pleased with "the love scene between the aunt and her nephew in the hotel room ... the search for the little girl, the visit to the cemetery (shades of the San Marino cemetery) and the ending in the zoological gardens with the unwavering gaze of the ostrich, which seems to be wearing false eyelashes."
Admission: $5. Information: 410-727-FILM or www.the charles.com.