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Watch This Instead

An oasis in the summer TV wasteland.

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Just because it’s managed to survive nineteen seasons of nitpicks and cannibal nibbles is no reason to take P.O.V. for granted. PBS’s nonfiction “point of view” documentary series has specialized in dispatches from alternative cultures even as the bigfoot corporations seek to globalize every arable inch of us, to brand our raw consumer hides. (Perhaps you recall Marlon Riggs’s Tongues Untied, Michael Moore’s Roger and Me, or Freida Lee Mock’s Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision?) True to form, this summer’s lineup doesn’t include a single Brangelina or a Britney.

Instead, in Tintin and I (July 11), we go behind the scenes into the head of the Belgian cartoonist Hergé, who produced 23 books in 47 years, supposedly for children. It turns out that this agreeable gray-haired Boy Scout was sublimating not only his sexual problems with his first wife, but also his guilt feelings about collaborating with the Nazi editors of the Brussels newspaper for which he drew throughout the occupation. We are likewise riveted by Ellen Perry’s The Fall of Fujimori (July 18), in which the ex-president and erstwhile dictator of Peru sits still, unregenerate, for an interview—which is then fact-checked by chats with the ex-wife who ran against him in 1995; the daughter he abandoned in the presidential palace when he bolted for Japan; and footage of his death squads in action.

Without filmmaker Adele Horne uttering an opinion, The Tailenders (July 25) somehow convinces us that the good white Protestant missionaries she follows to Mexico, India, and the Solomon Islands are (a) arrogant, (b) slow, (c) unwitting tools of a rampant capitalism that destroys the subsistence economies of native peoples, and (d) unable to carry a tune. And Natalia Almada’s Al Otro Lado (August 1) goes so deep into Mexican corrido music that we end up learning more about poverty, illegal immigration, drug smuggling, and their attendant subcultures than we are comfortable knowing. Which uncomfortable knowledge, of course, is P.O.V.’s raison d’être.


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