IN THE DARK OF THE VALLEY – Review by Lois Alter Mark

Stop whatever you’re doing and go watch this powerful documentary right now. (It’s streaming on NBC and Peacock.) Focusing on “one of the most significant nuclear accidents in United States history,” In the Dark of the Valley is a vital call for action to hold corporations accountable for the harm they cause in their insatiable pursuit of profits. Melissa Bumstead, a Southern California mom, begs the powers to be to “do the right thing” and clean up the Santa Susana Field Lab, whose toxic waste may have been responsible for the leukemia her nine year old daughter, Grace, has already survived twice. It turns out Grace is not the only child in the neighborhood to have gotten a rare form of cancer and there are far too many cases to believe it’s merely a coincidence. Melissa Bumstead, a Southern California mom, begs the powers to be to “do the right thing” and clean up the Santa Susana Field Lab, whose toxic waste may have been responsible for the leukemia her nine year old daughter, Grace, has already survived twice. It turns out Grace is not the only child in the neighborhood to have gotten a rare form of cancer and there are far too many cases to believe it’s merely a coincidence.

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THE SPACE RACE – Review by Liz Braun

The history of Black astronauts in America is absolutely fascinating. And mostly unknown. The Space Race is an eye-opening National Geographic documentary from directors Lisa Cortes and Diego Hurtado de Mendoza that focusses on an unsung group of heroes — the Black pilots, scientists and engineers who were part of the U.S. space program. The filmmakers situate their story in the wider landscape of recent U.S. history; the space pioneers they interview for the film are, you know, actual rocket scientists, so this is a riveting watch. Even now, institutionalized racism in the U.S. is being strengthened by laws that will prevent the teaching of Critical Race Theory. As Charles Bolden says in The Space Race, “Black history is American history. We forget it at our peril.”

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Tallgrass Film Festival Filmmaker Sarah Moshman on UNBOUND – Jennifer Merin interviews

Sarah Moshman won AWFJ’s EDA Award @ Tallgrass Film Festival for Best Female-Directed Short for Unbound, a character-driven drama inspired by a true story. Unbound is set in the 1980’s and follows the NASA Mission Specialist who paved the way as the first mother in space. Weeks before giving birth to her first child, Dr. Anna Fisher is chosen for a mission to space. Although the decision to go is easy, Anna is faced with the difficult intersection of motherhood and ambition on the way to her dream. AWFJ spoke with Sarah Moshman about her film, her creative process and her plans for the future.

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RETURN TO SPACE – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Say what you will about Elon Musk (and Twitter on any given day has a lot), but NASA loves the mega-billionaire and founder of SpaceX—and the documentary Return to Space makes it easy to understand why, though it isn’t just a bunch of accolades for Musk. Rather, it captures the suspense and wonder of sending humans into space, giving much of the focus to the astronauts whom SpaceX helped launch again in 2020 after nearly a decade on the ground. By taking viewers on their journey, Return to Earth offers a deeply personal look at why some feel drawn to the stars, how protective they feel toward the Earth, and how, as one person says, people rallying around a project can make magic happen.

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THE WONDERFUL: STORIES FROM THE SPACE STATION

Most of us go through our days without thinking about the fact that there are human beings living in low Earth orbit on the International Space Station, about 250 miles above our planet. The Wonderful: Stories from the Space Station should change that. The film’s atmosphere is a reflection of the station’s position in the atmosphere – dramatic, ethereal, beautiful, stunning. Language barely does justice to this documentary. The Wonderful lives up to its name.

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