Music and Meaning

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When filmmaker Lisa Leeman set out to tell the incredible story of a retired circus elephant, she asked composer Miriam Cutler to create a score that would convey a lot of subtleties. But in documentaries, music isn’t just an aesthetic choice - it can also have serious editorial and ethical implications. How does a soundtrack change a true story?

Films featured in this episode include One Lucky Elephant (Amazon), Out of Faith, Blackfish (Amazon, iTunes, Netflix), Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (Amazon, iTunes), The Hunting Ground (Amazon, iTunes, Netflix), The Thin Blue Line (Amazon, iTunes, Netflix) and Ethel (YouTube).

Documentaries featured in today’s intro:
Crumb (1995): Terry Zwigoff’s intimate portrait of his friend, controversial underground comic artist Robert Crumb. (Amazon, iTunes
A Healthy Baby Girl (1997): Judith Helfand’s heartfelt doc about the in utero chemical exposure - from a widely used drug that was given to her mother while pregnant - which resulted in Helfand’s life-threatening cancer and the need for a radical hysterectomy at age 25. (PBS, iTunes)
Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996): The first of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s trilogy of docs about three teens accused of brutally killing three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. (Amazon, iTunes)




Matt Holzman