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Appalachian Trail

National Geographic made this documentary about the Appalachian Trail. This hiking trail is over 2,000 miles long, running from Georgia to Maine (cutting through 14 states). There are many day hikers that do portions of the trail, but also thru-hikers that can take up to 6 months to complete the entire trail. 1 in 4 succeed with over 2,000 hikers trying each year to complete the trail.

It is known as the "people's trail" because it was created by Americans and is completely cared for by an army of volunteers. It is truly an American experience, and the journey changes lives. This is the ultimate challenge for hikers who have an adventurous side. Watch Appalachian Trail (2009) on Hoopla today.


Drive-In Movie Memories

.Relive a simpler time by watching Drive-In Movie Memories (2001). This informative and fascinating film covers the history of drive-in movies from the start in the 1920s through the boomtime, decline, and comeback, along with personal memories.

The boom started at the end of World War II when families could pile into their car, watch a movie, and enjoy refreshments without hiring a babysitter or spending a lot of money. In the 1960s, the introduction of television reduced business, and17-to-23-year-olds became prime customers (and cars became passion pits). Drive-ins started fading in the 1970s for a number of reasons.

The comebacks are largely limited to small towns. Chicagoland has one drive-in theater, in McHenry. I remember going to the 66 Drive-In in Countryside with my family wearing pajamas to watch The Three Lives of Thomasina (1963, rated PG) and then as an adult to Cascade Drive-In in West Chicago.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, drive-in theaters have reported an unexpected surge in attendance because of social distancing. Also, temporary theaters have been set up in parking lots. The Cascade Drive-In hopes to reopen.

Watch Drive-In Movie Memories immediately on Hoopla or check out the DVD.




The Civil War

The Ken Burns production, The Civil War, is without a doubt the strongest of all his PBS documentaries (at least for me)--and he has had numerous outstanding efforts.The photography of the utter poverty and horrible treatment of slaves combined with battlefields filled with soldiers' bodies was unbelievable.The historian interviews were as insightful as any I ever listened to in any documentary ever. I could easily get carried away writing about the subject matter here, but great documentaries will do that, and Ken Burns and PBS are the best at it. I can only hope we as a human race can watch this and come away a different people.

Watch The Civil War (1990, rated TV-MA) on Hoopla today or check out the dvds.



The Last Tsarinas: Splendor & Misery

I highly recommend watching the documentary, The Last Tsarinas: Splendor & Misery (2018). It traces the journey for the great, great, great-granddaughter, Maria von Preussen of Alexandra and Nicholas I. She is directly related to Kaiser Wilhelm II and Princess Charlotte. Maria follows in the footsteps of Princess Charlotte in 1817, who leaves Prussia to be wed to the Grand Duke in St. Petersburg, Russia. Princess Charlotte has her name changed to Alexandra and becomes the Tsarina with Nicholas I. They have a very happy and long marriage. This story explains why many Tsarinas were of German ancestry and the many changes that take place in Russia to end the Russian monarchy.

Watch The Last Tsarinas: Splendor & Misery on Hoopla today.



Teslafy Me

Watch this 90-minute documentary about the story of Nikola Tesla and his achievements from the early 1900s. He was overshadowed by many famous inventors in his day and was never given the recognition he deserved—to this day. He was considered the inventor that kick started the Industrial Revolution.

In Teslafy Me (2019), I learned his patents and ideas are still being used today and remain unchanged. He believed in renewable energy and that energy should be provided to the world for free. His technologies were ahead of their time. He believed in free wireless power transmission and had ideas for cell phones and internet. He was definitely a genius and we are only finding out about him today.

Watch Teslafy Me on Hoopla today. If you are interested in this subject, read or listen to books about and by Nikola Tesla on Hoopla.


Hamilton: One Shot to Broadway

What an amazing journey to see how genius Lin-Manuel Miranda created the Broadway hit Hamilton. He was inspired to write an updated, contemporary, hip-hop musical that reignited New York City's Times Square. After writing the story and music, Miranda starred as the title character (and won a lot of Tony Awards).

After reading a biography on an obscure founding father, Miranda was inspired to write this musical. Side note: Alexander Hamilton (2008)by Ron Chernow is available in Overdrive as an ebook, abridged audio (11 hours), and unabridged audio (35 hours).

Miranda brought Hamilton to life by showing his humanity and flaws. He shined light on a historical character that is self-made and rises to unexpected heights. Another groundbreaking effort was Miranda's movement to diversify roles in his musical to further diversity in musical theater.

I highly recommend this documentary to see the inspiration behind the creator of the hit musical Hamilton.Watch Hamilton: One Shot to Broadway (2017, rated TV-PG) on Hoopla today. Then, listen to the Hamilton soundtrack on Hoopla too!

And exciting news: the Broadway production will be available on Disney+ starting July 3. Reserve one of our Family Rokus today for your chance to watch the production.


The War

If you are a history buff, you will enjoy this Ken Burns production.  The War (TV-14) is a seven-part documentary miniseries about World War II.  This excellent PBS series originally aired in 2007.  It was nominated for 12 awards, with eight wins, including three Primetime Emmy awards in 2008.  The story is told through the unique perspective of four towns in the United States, and how the war forever impacts the lives of the people living there.  You will follow the journey of the people who served in the military, and the people at home awaiting their return.

Watch The War on Hoopla today.


Honeyland

Hatidze lives with her mother outside of Skopje, Macedonia, the only residents for miles.  She makes her living selling her honey in the city and practicing sustainable beekeeping according to old traditions.  Hatidze's life is forever changed when a Turkish family nearby decides to take up beekeeping, without any regard of her teachings.  With beautiful scenery, Honeyland (2019) is a documentary about how a simpler way of life still exists in today's society, even in the face of modern pressures.

Honeyland has been nominated for both Best Documentary Feature and Best International Feature Film of the Year for this year's Oscars.

In Turkish with English subtitles.

Maiden

This documentary tells the story of the first all-female crew to participate in the grueling Whitbread round-the-world yacht race in 1989.  Englishwoman Tracy Edwards skippers Maiden over nine months and 33,000 miles.  With tons of footage from the time, current recollections from most of the team's members, and interviews with the male-dominated media and other yachtsmen, Maiden (2018, PG) is an exciting view into the women's incredible journey.

A Farmer’s Road (2015)

This documentary follows a couple who own and operate Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in Champaign, Illinois.  The couple were both academics in the field of soil science and decided to put all their knowledge to the test.  They bought a plot of land surrounded by cash crop farmers' land and transformed it by way of practicing a more sustainable type of farming.

Throughout the film, they share with us their setbacks and successes as they plant an orchard, kitchen garden, and start raising goats. The main product of their farm and creamery is the variety of goat cheeses they produce, which have found a loyal following at the local farmer's market and at various Chicago restaurants.  They have also started a tradition of summer farm to table dinners showcasing local produce.

It was educational and heartwarming to watch A Farmer's Road about a local business where they are promoting sustainable agriculture and small scale diversified farming.

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Pick of the Litter (2018)

In Pick of the Litter, follow a litter of five adorable Labrador puppies from birth through two years old on their incredible journey to become guide dogs for the blind.  The whole family will delight in seeing the lively puppies, each with their unique personalities, go through their rigorous training.  "Only the best will make the cut."

Experience the joy and sadness of the dedicated first time and experienced puppy raisers and trainers.  Meet the blind individuals who hope to be matched with a guide dog companion.

If you enjoy Pick of the Litter, you might also be interested in the Japanese film, Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog.  Here is additional information on the organization, Guide Dogs for the Blind, featured in the film.

LEGO House: Home of the Brick (2018) TV-G

Do you have kids in your family who love LEGOs?  Are you, yourself an AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGOs)?  This Netflix documentary follows the creative development and build process of LEGO House in Denmark, also tying in some of the LEGO company's history.  LEGO House was designed to offer visitors a LEGO experience like no other.  After watching, you'll definitely want to add Billund, Denmark to your travel bucket list!

This documentary is available on Netflix via the library's Roku devices.

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The Toys That Made Us. Seasons 1-2 (2017-2018) TV-14

Children of the 80s and 90s, this show is especially for you!  Full of nostalgia, fun facts, and original commercials, this 8-part (so far) documentary series details iconic toy brands including Star Wars, Barbie, Transformers, and more.  Even though each episode features one brand, my favorite part was seeing the connections between brands throughout the series.  Relive your childhood through The Toys That Made Us, available on Netflix via the library's Roku devices.

Craft in America (2007-2017)

craftamericaThe PBS series Craft in America presents artists currently working in the U.S.: furniture makers, blacksmiths, weavers, jewelry makers, glass blowers, and more. Often times, artists have learned their craft from parents and grandparents, and it’s inspiring to see that these traditions can be kept alive from generation to generation—the way other skills such as cooking or gardening can be passed down. If you want an inside look at how a craft object is created—from the materials used, and the design process, to the workshop where it all comes together—you’ll want to check out Craft in America!

Spotlight: Lady Gaga

lady_gaga_-_joanne_official_album_coverOnce you’ve listened to Lady Gaga’s album Joanne, you won’t be able to stop. You’ll listen to it during your morning shower, in the car on your way to and from work, and before it’s time to sleep at night. Joanne may be a clear departure from the usual Gaga style of her previous albums, but it’s no less powerful. Songs such as the titular “Joanne” and “Come to Mama” will keep you coming back again and again.

The stylistic change also especially makes far more sense and has far more meaning after watching the Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two. Experience a year in the life of not Lady Gaga, but Stefani Germonatta. It follows the year in which she was releasing Joanne up until her performance at the 2017 Super Bowl halftime show. You will live, love, laugh, and cry with her up until the very end. Don't have a Netflix subscription? Watch for free using our roku.