‘Les Miserables,’ Seasons of ‘Finding Your Roots’ and ‘Unforgotten’ Among Disc and Digital Releases From PBS in May

The six-part miniseries Les Miserables, season five of “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” and season three of “Masterpiece Mystery!: Unforgotten” are among the titles coming to digital, DVD and Blu-ray from PBS Distribution in May.

Based on Victor Hugo’s masterpiece novel, the drama Les Miserables streets May 21 on Blu-ray, DVD and digital. It stars Dominic West (The Affair, “The Wire”) as Jean Valjean, the most famous fugitive in literature. It also stars David Oyelowo (Selma, Queen of Katwe) as his relentless pursuer Javert; Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply; Love, Rosie) as the tragic seamstress Fantine; Ellie Bamber (Nocturnal Animals) as Cosette; Academy Award-winner Olivia Colman (The Favourite) and Adeel Akhtar (Unforgotten) as Cosette’s cruel overseers; and Josh O’Connor (The Durrells in Corfu) as the student and reluctant revolutionary Marius.

Season five of “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” streets May 14 on DVD and digital. The season traces the families of Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei; Emmy and Golden Globe Award winners Laura Linney and S. Epatha Merkerson; actors Michael K. Williams, Chloë Sevigny and Kal Penn; author George R.R. Martin; journalists Christiane Amanpour, Ann Curry, Joe Madison and Lisa Ling; bestselling author and Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg; TV hosts Seth Meyers and Michael Strahan; artists Marina Abramović and Kehinde Wiley; politicians Marco Rubio, Tulsi Gabbard and Paul Ryan; Academy Award-winning filmmakers Alejandro G, Iñárritu and Michael Moore; and comedians Tig Notaro and Sarah Silverman.

Due May 7 on DVD and digital is season three of “Masterpiece Mystery!: Unforgotten.” When human remains are found by a motorway near London, the crime-solving duo Cassie and Sunny are called to the scene. Dogged work leads the team to Hayley Reid, a 16-year-old girl who went missing on the eve of the millennium. The police’s failure to find out what happened to Hayley wrecked her family’s life. Cassie’s compassion makes her determined to correct the mistakes made by the original investigating team — whatever the cost is to herself.

Coming May 21 on DVD and digital is the two-part docu-drama Nicholas and Alexandra: The Letters. Since their brutal murders 100 years ago, the world has been fascinated by Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, the Empress Alexandra. Through the couple’s politically damning, sexually intimate and personally revealing letters, the docu-drama explores Nicholas and Alexandra’s complex love story and the couple’s role in the lead up to the Russian Revolution of 1917, which led to their execution. From their total isolation to their political ineptitude and reliance on Rasputin, the letters chronicle their disastrous leadership in graphic detail.

Nova: Rise of the Rockets streets May 7 on DVD and digital. The show covers the explosion of private companies sparking the development of new technologies and lowering costs to bring space closer than ever. It also explores how NASA is returning to crewed spaceflight, building a rocket more powerful than Saturn V to take us far beyond earth.

Coming May 14 on DVD and digital is Nova: The Next Pompeii. The series joins investigators as they hunt for clues hidden beneath the surface of Italy’s lesser-known volcano, Campi Flegrei, and assess the risk of a new and potentially devastating eruption. The program also follows historians and geologists as they discover the latest evidence of Pompeii’s fiery destruction, unpacking the chain of events that led to the ancient world’s most notorious disaster.

Due May 28 on DVD and digital is Frontline: The Trial of Ratko Mladic. In the aftermath of the brutal wars that decimated Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic was accused of genocide and other war crimes — including the massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica in July 1995 — considered the worst crime perpetrated on European soil since World War II. After 16 years on the run, Mladic was apprehended and brought to The Hague to stand trial before the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal. The two-hour special goes inside the historic five-year trial, with unprecedented, behind-the-scenes access to the prosecution and defense teams, as well as to witnesses from both sides who came to present evidence.

Secrets of the Dead: The Nero Files debuts May 14 on DVD and digital. The show uncovers the story of the Roman emperor Nero, considered one of history’s greatest criminals — a cruel, insane and brutal ruler. He stands accused of killing his step-brother, his wife and his mother, as well as burning Rome to the ground for his own artistic inspiration. Recent research, modern interpretations of historical sources and new discoveries cast a different light on the accusations levelled at the Roman emperor. The Nero Files investigates Nero’s reign with the help of criminal psychologist Thomas Müller, using “cold case” methodology, asking the question: Did history get it wrong?

Coming May 7 on DVD and digital is Henry IX: The Lost King. The program takes viewers on a journey to investigate the mysterious disappearance from history of a forgotten Scottish prince — Henry Fredrick Stuart. Not many of us know his name but Henry started the British Museum and the Royal Collection and was the first royal prince to back a permanent settlement on American soil in the early 17th century. In this documentary, host Paul Murton brings this forgotten figure from the shadows of history. It’s a detective story that reveals the tragedy of Henry’s lost potential.

The Best of the World’s Greatest, due May 7 on DVD and digital, is a six-part series going on a journey around the planet, revealing the world’s greatest ancient cities, natural wonders, extreme animal encounters, lost cities, journeys and adventures, monuments, and coral islands. Viewers get a chance to explore cities such as Venice, Rio, and Cairo; the islands of Galapagos; Hawaii; and the Maldives. Viewers also explore Stonehenge, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal, Mt. Everest, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Grand Canyon. In addition, viewers get up close and personal with killer whales, grizzlies, and silver-backed gorillas, among other animals in the wild.

Korea: The Never-ending War, coming May 14 on DVD and digital, is written and produced by John Maggio and narrated by Korean-American actor John Cho. The documentary sheds new light on the global upheaval that led to the Korean War in 1950, a moment when the Cold War turned hot, and how today that war’s brutal legacy has forced the world into a deadly nuclear showdown. With testimony from the soldiers on the frontlines, civilians caught in the crossfire, political leaders from then and now, journalists, and historians, the film is a comprehensive re-examination of a war that took the lives of tens of thousands of Americans and millions of Koreans.

Music Doc ‘Bachman: Special Edition’ Rolling to Blu-ray and DVD May 10 From MVD

The music documentary Bachman: Special Edition will come out on Blu-ray and DVD May 10 from MVD Entertainment Group and FilmRise.

As a member of The Guess Who, Randy Bachman was part of the first ever No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 by a Canadian band with “American Woman/No Sugar Tonight,” and then topped the Hot 100 again in 1974 with another band, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, with “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.” Among the other hits Bachman has written or co-written are “These Eyes,” “No Time,” “New Mother Nature,” “Takin’ Care of Business,” “Let It Ride” and “Roll on Down The Highway.”

The documentary chronicles the life of the 74-year-old rocker, who is still regularly making music and performing. The film follows Bachman as he looks to the past for inspiration from rarely seen footage, pictures and documents that have been stored at the National Archives in Ottawa. It also incorporates present-day interviews with family, management and fellow musicians, touching on everything from Bachman’s childhood to his various rock bands — The Guess Who, Brave Belt, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Bachman-Turner — and solo work.

“He was like my biggest influence when I was a kid,” says Neil Young in the film. “Watching him play guitar, he had an amazing sense about the way he played. And the feeling that you got when you listened to him. It was more than just chops.”

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The documentary made its world premiere in Toronto at Hot Docs 2018 before a festival run, and eventual airing in Canada on CBC’s Documentary Channel.

Bonus materials include “Neil Young on Winnipeg,” “Randy’s Crazy Horse,” “Building a Reprise ‘Here Comes the Sun,’” “On Chords,” “Songwriting ‘When No One Knows’” and the theatrical trailer.

Documentary ‘This Is North Preston’ Due on Digital April 23 From Virgil

The documentary This Is North Preston will come out on digital HD April 23 from Virgil Films.

It documents a black community in Canada, which started as a safe haven for escaped slaves, but has more recently been painted as one of the biggest hubs of pimping and human trafficking in the nation. This Is North Preston explores how the town of 4,000 has dealt with generations of pimp culture, violence, economic struggle and constant systemic racism through the eyes of the pimps, trafficking victims, politicians, police and community members looking to change the narrative.

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The film also explores the decades of systemic racism that the town has experienced and continues to experience. While many think racism isn’t a major issue in Canada, it’s still ingrained in everyday life on the east coast from regular citizens to government officials.

Documentary ‘Reinventing Rosalee’ Coming to Digital, VOD and DVD May 7 From Random Media

The documentary Reinventing Rosalee, about a centenarian who lives life to the fullest, will come out on digital, VOD and DVD May 7 from Random Media in time for Mother’s Day.

A survivor of the holocaust and labor camps, Rosalee Glass didn’t want to go on after she lost her third child and her husband of 60 years. But she decided one day to live the rest of her life to the fullest, taking piano lessons in her 80s, becoming a successful actress in the 90s and, for her 100th birthday, releasing a book 100 Years of Wisdom and starting an online life advice service.

She celebrated her 102nd birthday on Jan. 28, 2019, with recognition by the mayor of Los Angeles and city council.

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Directed by her daughter Lillian Glass, Reinventing Rosalee is having a theatrical run in New York and Los Angeles in April prior to its home entertainment release.

Documentary ‘The Uncondemned’ Coming to Digital and DVD April 9 From Virgil

The documentary The Uncondemned is coming to EST, VOD and DVD April 9 from Virgil Films.

It follows an underdog group of young lawyers and activists who defied the odds to do what had never been done: prosecute rape as an international war crime.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was understaffed, underfunded and overwhelmed as they attempted to prosecute their first case of genocide in 1997. Then, three heroic Rwandan women overcame their fears and feelings of shame to come forward and speak for all those who could not.

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The film captures the remarkable story — involving secret memos, witness assassinations and other setbacks and barriers — that changed the course of international judicial history.

‘We Are Columbine’ Director Revisits Dark Day With Her Classmates in Virgil Films Doc

Decades after the cameras and the spotlight are gone, those touched by school shootings can continue to suffer as they try to process a day that changed their lives.

That’s the subject of Virgil Films’ documentary We Are Columbine, due on EST, VOD and DVD April 9 and directed by Laura Farber.

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Farber has a unique perspective on the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado; she was a freshman at the school when two students shot and killed 13 people (12 students and one teacher) nearly 20 years ago on April 20, 1999.

“I wanted something to be told by the people that experienced it,” Farber said. “And I felt like I could bridge that gap between outsiders and the people that were there. It’s a lot more difficult than anticipated because a lot of us don’t like talking about Columbine — still to this day.”

It took some convincing, but Farber was able to gather a collection of freshmen at the time of the shooting as well as teachers and administrators to revisit the event.

The director herself wasn’t immune to the effects of recalling such a terrible time when she went back to film at her high school.

“Everything was the same, so much so that the first day of filming —I didn’t know I needed more therapy until I went to film — that first day of filming, thank god, I had one of the producers with me,” Farber recalled. “She had to do that first walkthrough of the school with Gus [former student Gustavo D’Arthenay] because I was emotionally ill, physically ill the entire day because I think just coming back that first time was a lot — not anticipated for sure.”

The first interview subject she was able to convince to participate in the project was her friend Amy Staley.

“I’m doing this only because it’s you, only because of our friendship,” Staley says in the film. “I don’t like talking about it like this. I don’t think anybody likes us talking about it. I don’t like people exploiting our experiences, and I know that you won’t.”

During Staley’s interview, Farber learned just how close she had come to something awful. Bomb equipment had been under the lunch table at which they had sat on that fateful day, Staley recalled in the film.

“I was with Amy on that day, and I didn’t know that until we sat down together and talked about it,” Farber said. “I totally forgot.”

Columbine principal Frank DeAngelis had become wary of students asking to film at the high school, creating another potential obstacle.

“I had to get Frank’s permission, because he’s the principal, and once I told him what I wanted to do, which was not sensationalized, he trusted me to come in and film,” Farber said. “But at the time, there was an issue with a student from an Ohio high school that came to the school, did a tour, asked a bunch of questions, and he said he was doing research for a presentation, and then went and threatened his own school. So after that Frank was like, ‘Hey, I’m not letting anybody in unless they are students from Columbine.’ And that was kind of perfect timing for me.”

“You’re one of my kids; I trust ya,” DeAngelis says in the documentary.

The kids she knew from Columbine were loath to discuss the shooting, though teacher Kiki Leyba (also interviewed in the film) had them write down their thoughts 20 years ago.

In addition to D’Arthenay (a musician who provides some of the soundtrack for the film) and Staley, Farber interviewed two others who were freshmen at Columbine during the shooting.

“I think for our class, for those four years, we got to all be together,” Farber noted. “We were the youngest, and we were there the longest. It was a big part of our recovery being able to go back every day and be with each other.”

But it was different for everyone who experienced the shooting.

“Everyone has their own Columbine,” she said. “I’d love to find out what’s going on with the seniors that had to leave immediately after, and they were surrounded by no one and what that did to their recovery.”

Since the shooting at Columbine High School, which is recognizing a 20th anniversary this year — including a screening of Farber’s film in Colorado on the exact date of the anniversary, April 20 — many other school shootings have dominated the news and then receded.

Though Farber talked to Media Play News before the recent suicides of victims affected by shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018 and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., in 2012, she stressed the need for victims to express their feelings.

“We’re going to carry this with us for the rest of our lives, but we can decide what that’s going to look like,” Farber said.

‘Leaving Neverland,’ New Seasons of ‘Vice’ and ‘Crashing’ Among Titles From HBO in April

April is chock-full of releases on digital and DVD from HBO Home Entertainment, including the controversial Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland.

The two-part documentary Leaving Neverland, due on digital download April 29, explores the separate, but parallel experiences of two young boys, James “Jimmy” Safechuck, at age 10, and Wade Robson, at age 7, both of whom were befriended by Jackson. They and their families were invited into his world, entranced by the singer’s fairy-tale existence as his career reached its peak. Through gut-wrenching interviews with Safechuck, now 37, and Robson, now 41, as well as their mothers, wives and siblings, Leaving Neverland crafts a portrait of sustained abuse, exploring the complicated feelings that led both men to confront their experiences after both had a young son of their own.

Crashing Season 3 is coming to digital April 1. The show’s third season finds Pete reinvigorated — and no longer crashing on people’s couches — as he reenters the New York stand-up comedy world following his college tour. But even though he’s improved, that doesn’t mean he’s at the head of the pack. As Pete edges closer to success one stand-up set at a time, he continues to navigate his faith, dating and the ever-changing comedy scene.

The documentary Student Athlete, due on digital April 8, unveils the exploitative world of high-revenue college sports through the stories of four young men at different stages of their athletic careers, as well as a coach-turned-advocate and a whistle-blowing shoe rep who exposes the money trail. From high-school recruiting to post-graduation, the usefulness of athletes is tied to their ability to produce revenue.

Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas Season 2, coming to digital April 15, focuses on education in America, investigating teacher pay, student mental health, the school-to-prison pipeline and other pressing topics. Cenac visits West Virginia, Oregon, California, Minnesota and other areas around the country to learn how communities navigate issues facing public education. While education serves as the season’s primary focus, the show addresses other issues, including the unionization of fast-food workers and the potential dangers of facial recognition software, as well as comedic solutions to lighter topics, such as how to get more steps in at the office or how to teach kids practical skills, like filing taxes.

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Also due on digital April 15 is High Maintenance Season 3, which profiles everyday people whose stories of success, failure, love and loss intersect across New York, while delving deeper into personal life of The Guy, who is spending less time on his iconic bicycle and more time in “Steve RV,” a set of wheels gifted to him last season. Featuring an intricate web of returning characters and new faces, the new episodes find New Yorkers exploring their relationship with the city, touching on such themes as death, parenthood, sexuality, fantasy and aging.

Vice Season 6, another title coming on digital April 15, continues to explore under-covered global stories with exclusive reports from Iraq, Russia, the Central African Republic and China. Season six also focuses on the domestic issues dividing the nation, providing in-depth reporting on the major debates surrounding gun laws, immigration, economics, education, civil rights and America’s place in the world.

Coming on digital April 29 is Outside the Bubble: A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi. The show follows Pelosi as she ventures beyond the coast and sets out on a cross-country trip to engage in conversations with fellow Americans in an effort to gain an unfiltered understanding of other perspectives.

Also due on digital April 29 is Strike Back Season 6. When a Russian bomber crashes in the South China Sea, the covert special-ops soldiers of Section 20 — Thomas “Mac” McAllister (Warren Brown), Samuel Wyatt (Daniel MacPherson) and Gracie Novin (Alin Sumarwata) — are sent to investigate. There, they cross paths with Katrina Zarkova (Yasemin Allen), a rogue Russian operative with questionable loyalties. Under orders of the new commanding officer, Col. Alexander Coltrane (Jamie Bamber), Section 20 pursues stolen contents of the Russian jet across Southeast Asia. They work alongside the Malaysian police to shut down a Triad gang in Kuala Lumpur, uncover a corrupt plot by a wealthy Indian businesswoman running for Parliament and plunge into the jungles of the Golden Triangle in Myanmar, facing off against mercenary drug agents and terrifying warlords as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens to push the world to the brink of global conflict.

HBO is also releasing two titles on DVD in April.

Coming April 2 is My Brilliant Friend. When the most important friend in her life seems to have disappeared without a trace, Elena Greco, a now-elderly woman immersed in a house full of books, turns on her computer and starts writing the story of their friendship. Set in a Naples, their story goes on to cover more than 60 years of their lives as she tries to describe the mystery of Lila, Elena’s brilliant friend and — in a way — both her best friend and her worst enemy.

Written and directed by Daniel Sawka, Icebox, available on DVD April 16, tells the story of Oscar, played by Anthony Gonzalez (Coco), a 12-year-old Honduran boy who is forced to flee his home and seek asylum in the United States. As Oscar attempts to reach his uncle, Manuel, in Arizona, he is apprehended by the Border Patrol and placed in “the icebox.” Faced with a seemingly impenetrable immigration system, Oscar struggles to navigate a path to freedom, with a journalist and his uncle, himself a recent immigrant, as his only lifelines.

Documentary ‘At the Drive-In’ Due on DVD April 9 From MVD

The documentary At the Drive-In will travel to DVD April 9 from MVD Entertainment Group.

From sleeping in the concession stand to working entirely for free, the quirky film fanatics at the struggling Mahoning Drive-in face uncertainty when Hollywood announces it will switch to digital projection for all new movies. Unable to purchase an expensive digital projector, the Mahoning gang pin their hopes of survival on showing only vintage 35mm film prints on their original 1940s projectors.

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“Technology moves so fast today, faster than ever before. As technology distracts us from one another and segments us further into smaller audiences, it was just magical to see a bunch of people gather together in rural Pennsylvania to watch film flicker through a projector from 1948,” said director Alexander Monelli. “That’s ultimately what this documentary is about.”

At The Drive-In won Best Local Feature at the 26th annual Philadelphia Film Festival. It has also screened at multiple Alamo Drafthouses and at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood as an official selection of Dances With Films.

Bonus features include deleted scenes; three feature-length commentary tracks (two with cast members and one with the director); a 30-minute Q&A from an Alamo Drafthouse screening; and the trailer.

“AT THE DRIVE-IN” teaser trailer from Alexander Monelli on Vimeo.

 

Oscar-Winning Documentary ‘Free Solo’ Streaming on Hulu

Hulu is now streaming Free Solo, the Academy Award-winning Best Documentary Feature highlighting soloist climber Alex Honnold.

The film, which began streaming on the service March 13, is from award-winning documentary filmmaker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and world-renowned photographer and mountaineer Jimmy Chin. It’s an unflinching portrait of Honnold as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream of climbing El Capitan, the 3,200-foot peak in Yosemite National Park, without a rope.

Free Solo is a true masterpiece that combines awe-inspiring camerawork with the kind of authentic storytelling that Hulu viewers love,” said Lisa Holme, VP of content acquisition at Hulu. “We couldn’t be more excited to partner with our friends at National Geographic Documentary Films to add this extraordinary film to the growing slate of award-winning documentaries available on Hulu.”

The documentary debuted at the Telluride Film Festival and has screened at more than 30 film festivals around the world, including TIFF, IDFA, Adelaide, Mill Valley Film Festival, DOC NYC and the Savannah Film Festival. It is the second highest-grossing documentary of 2018 in the United States and has been honored with a BAFTA for Best Documentary Feature, along with three Critics Choice awards, three Cinema Eye awards, an ACE award for Best Documentary, and PGA and DGA nominations, among several other recognitions.

Doc ‘The Oyster Farmers’ Coming to Digital and DVD March 19 From Virgil

The documentary The Oyster Farmers is coming to DVD, digital and VOD March 19 from Virgil Films.

The film tells the story of those who are working to restore oyster reefs and natural oyster populations to the Barnegat Bay. Oysters were once a staple food for communities in the Northeast of the United States, and the Barnegat Bay was home to one of the largest oyster seed beds in the 1800s. Overharvesting and disease wiped out the populations of oysters, which has had significant ecological impact in the last century.

The Oyster Farmers from Virgil Films on Vimeo.