Category Archives: Documentary

President Obama Meets With Students From the Documentary, “Waiting for Superman

Posted by: Audiegrl

Watch a behind-the-scenes video with President Obama and students from the film Waiting for Superman. Yesterday, the children, their families and others that worked on the movie met with President Obama in the Oval Office and watched him depart in helicopter Marine One from the South Lawn of the White House.

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Filed under Change, Children, Documentary, Education, Pres. Barack Obama, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized

Future Pop Stars Risk Their Lives To Sing for Freedom

Written by: Bluedog89

Award-winning film "Afghan Star - The Documentary." Promotional poster by Zeitgeist Films.

The award-winning “Afghan Star – The Documentary,” showcases the “American Idol”-like pop competition “Afghan Star” that is sweeping Afghanistan.

Since the TV show’s inception in 2005, its popularity has spread like wildfire, with “Afghan Star” contestants chosen despite gender and voted on democratically by the general public via cell phone.

The documentary follows several contest participants as they literally sing for their lives, particularly the women, who are judged harshly by the still-mostly conservative public that was once dominated by the Taliban.

The film is available on DVD and will be featured on HBO this month.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Documentary, HBO, Middle East, Movies, Music, Pop, Pop Culture, Religion, Sexism, Television, TV Shows, Women's Issues, World

82nd Annual Academy Awards ~ Oscars® ~ Best Documentary Feature

Posted by: Audiegrl



Burma VJ
Burma VJ(Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Directors: Anders Østergaard and Lise Lense-Møller
A Magic Hour Films Production

Click here for complete coverage of Burma VJ, that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…

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The Cove
The Cove(Roadside Attractions)
Directors: Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens
An Oceanic Preservation Society Production

Click here for complete coverage of The Cove, that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…

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Food, Inc.
Food Inc.(Magnolia Pictures)
Directors: Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein
A Robert Kenner Films Production

Click here for complete coverage of Food, Inc., that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…

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The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon PapersA Kovno Communications Production
Directors: Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith

Click here for complete coverage of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…

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Which Way Home
Which Way HomeA Mr. Mudd Production
Director: Rebecca Cammisa

Click here for complete coverage of Which Way Home, that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…

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82nd Annual Academy Awards ~ Oscars® ~ Best Documentary Short

Posted by: Audiegrl



China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan, Province
China’s Unnatural Disaster The Tears of Sichuan, ProvinceA Downtown Community Television Center Production
Directors: Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

Click here for complete coverage of China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan, Province, that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…

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The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
The Last Campaign of Governor Booth GardnerA Just Media Production
Directors: Daniel Junge and Henry Ansbache

Click here for complete coverage of The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner, that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…


The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
The Last Truck Closing of a GM PlantA Community Media Production
Directors: Steven Bognar and Julia Reicher

Click here for complete coverage of The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…

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Music by Prudence
Music by PrudenceAn iThemba Production
Directors: Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett

Click here for complete coverage of Music by Prudence, that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…

This is the story about the most unlikely voice of hope, singer songwriter Prudence Mabhena. Her country is bankrupt, her body is broken. Neighbors and family consider her cursed. But in music, Prudence and her seven young disabled Zimbabweans may have found a way out.


Rabbit à la Berlin
Rabbit à la Berlin(Deckert Distribution)
An MS Films Production
Directors: Bartek Konopka and Anna Wydra

Click here for complete coverage of Rabbit à la Berlin, that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…
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Filed under 82nd Academy Awards, Best Doc Short, Culture, Documentary, Hollywood, Movies, Pop Culture, US, Video/YouTube, World

Academy Award® Nomination: District 9

Posted by: Audiegrl, Geot, Bluedog89, The LCster and Buellboy

District 9
Over twenty years ago, aliens made first contact with Earth. Humans waited for the hostile attack, or the giant advances in technology. Neither came. Instead, the aliens were refugees from their home world. The creatures were set up in a makeshift home in South Africa’s District 9 as the world’s nations argued over what to do with them.

Now, patience over the alien situation has run out. Control over the aliens has been contracted out to Multi-National United (MNU), a private company uninterested in the aliens’ welfare. MNU will receive tremendous profits if they can make the aliens’ powerful weaponry work. So far, they have failed; activation of the weaponry requires alien DNA.

The tension between the aliens and the humans comes to a head when MNU begins evicting the non-humans from District 9, with MNU field agents responsible for moving them to a new camp. One of the MNU field operatives, Wikus van der Merwe, contracts an alien virus that begins changing his DNA. Wikus quickly becomes the most hunted man in the world, as well as the most valuable – he is the key to unlocking the secrets of alien technology. Ostracized and friendless, there is only one place left for him to hide: District 9.

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The cast includes: Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope, and Vanessa Haywood

44D’s Reviews

TheLCster
I loved this futuristic look at a society’s reaction to new comers who may need aid. This movie can be seen in two ways in my opinion: a sci-fi movie about aliens or a sci-fi satire about our own society’s reaction to those different from “us.” Take your pick!

Audiegrl
“I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It starts a little slow, but after the first 35 minutes, you’ll be rooting for the aliens. 🙂 The thing that really impressed me, was the filmmaker’s ability to combine documentary style and cinematic style, in a way that looks seamless. Other directors have tried to do it before, but this one really made it work and look real.

There is also a subtle political statement through-out the film, although the director and writers don’t admit that on the DVD extras. But to have it set in post-apartheid Johannesburg, can’t be just a coincidence.”

Did You Know?

All the shacks in District 9 were actual shacks that exists in a section of Johannesburg which were to be evacuated and the residents moved to better government housing, paralleling the events in the film. Also paralleling, the residents had not actually been moved out before filming began. The only shack that was created solely for filming was Christopher Johnson’s shack.

The film was inspired by director Neill Blomkamp’s childhood in South Africa during apartheid.

Star Sharlto Copley had not acted before and had no intention of pursuing an acting career. He stumbled into the leading role as Neill Blomkamp placed him on-camera during the short film.

Sharlto Copley ad-libbed all his lines during the “documentary” sequences.

Many real tribal languages of Southern Africa employ clicking sounds (much like the ones the filmmakers included in the alien language) in their vocabularies, including Zulu (the most widely spoken indigenous language of South Africa) and Xhosa, another frequently spoken South African language (even the name “Xhosa” has a click in it).

The language used by the aliens (clicking sounds) was created by rubbing a pumpkin.

Four Nominations

Best Motion Picture
Best in Adapted Screenplay
Best Visual Effects
Best in Film Editing

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VH1 Docs Premieres: ‘Soul Train: The Hippest Trip In America’

Posted by: BuellBoy

Soul TrainFew television series were as innovative and influential to pop culture as “Soul Train.” Set first in Chicago, “Soul Train” launched on WCIU-TV with local radio and television personality, Don Cornelius on August 17, 1970. After moving the dance show to Los Angeles, “Soul Train” skyrocketed nationally and firmly secured its place in television by becoming the longest running, first-run syndicated series in history. To commemorate the show’s 40th anniversary, VH1 Rock Docs and Soul Train present “Soul Train: The Hippest Trip In America,” a monumental 90-minute documentary celebrating the show’s impact on pop culture, music, dance and fashion. The film will also feature a rare interview with Don Cornelius in which he reveals exclusive details regarding the launch and early days of the legendary series.

Host, Don Cornelius

Host, Don Cornelius

From 1970-2006, “Soul Train” offered a window into African American music and culture, and its charismatic host, Don Cornelius, was the man responsible for a new era in African American expression. A trained journalist, Don created a media empire that provided an outlet for record labels and advertisers to reach a new generation of music fans. He was and still is one of the first African Americans to own his own show. As the epitome of cool, many of his expressions entered the popular American lexicon: “A groove that will make you move real smooth,” and “Wishing you Love, Peace, and Soul!”

Terrence Howard

Terrence Howard

“Soul Train: The Hippest Trip In America” is narrated by Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard and features an original score by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots. The documentary includes memorable performances and moments from the show, as well as behind-the-scene stories from the people who lived the “Soul Train” movement, including the cast, crew, and dancers. In addition, popular musicians (Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, Smokey Robinson, Snoop Dogg, Aretha Franklin), Sly Stone’s first exclusive documentary interview in years, comics (Cedric “The Entertainer,” Nick Cannon), music industry executives (L.A. Reid, Clive Davis, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff) and actors of yesterday and today will comment on growing up with the show and will share their stories of how “Soul Train” affected their own lives.

“Soul Train: The Hippest Trip In America” is the newest documentary in the Emmy Award-winning VH1 Rock Doc franchise. Coinciding with the start of Black History Month, the documentary airs Saturday, February 6 (9:30 p.m. ET) on VH1.

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10 Semi-Finalists Named in Academy/MTVU “Oscar® Correspondent Contest

Posted by: Audiegrl

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and mtvU, MTV’s 24-hour college network, announced ten teams of college journalists as semifinalists in the 2010 Oscar Correspondent Contest, each vying for a coveted position on the red carpet at the 82nd Academy Awards in Hollywood. Video entries from the semifinalist teams are posted online at www.oscars.mtvU.com, where students and other viewers can vote for their favorite college journalists until February 10 at 2 p.m. PT.

The semifinalists are (listed in alphabetical order by university):

Chapman University, Orange, CA – Rachel Berry (anchor) and Christian Hartnett (videographer)
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Emerson College, Boston, MA – Terry Stackhouse (anchor) and Zach Cusson (videographer)
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Emerson College – Dean Dimitruk (anchor) and Tyler Weinberger (videographer)
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Florida A&M University, Tallahassee – Brandon McCaskill (anchor) and Kiarra Hart (videographer)
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Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro – Nicki DeCroce (anchor) and Tony Holt (videographer)
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Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ – Kelly Dixon (anchor) and Gina Grosso (videographer)
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Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY – Eeshé White (anchor) and Patrick House (videographer)
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Texas State University-San Marcos – Amanda Dugan (anchor) and Colby Howell (videographer)
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University of South Dakota, Vermillion – Angie Lacompte (anchor) and Travis Berg (videographer)
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University of Texas at Austin – Loren Grush (anchor) and Xorje Olivares (videographer)
Watch and Vote

On February 12, the three teams with the most online votes, and as agreed upon by the Academy and mtvU, will advance to the final round of competition. From February 16 to March 2, fans can continue to cast their votes for the teams of finalists as they compete for grand prize. All three teams will be flown to Los Angeles to cover Academy Awards pre-events, including the Animated Feature Symposium, Foreign Language Film Award media op, the Makeup Artist and Hairstylist Symposium and the Governors Ball preview.


The grand prize-winning team will be revealed on Saturday, March 6, at an Academy press conference. The anchor and videographer will be awarded a spot on the red carpet for the 82nd Academy Awards arrivals, as well as credentials for access to backstage press rooms. The winning team’s coverage will be aired on MTV News and mtvU. The two finalist teams will receive bleacher seats along the red carpet and admission to an Oscar viewing party.

The ten semifinalist teams were selected by the Academy and mtvU from videos submitted for the competition. The entries were judged based on criteria including originality, creativity, and how compelling the video was overall. The competition was open to teams of two college students, one anchor and one videographer, residing in the United States.

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For a complete list of rules and regulations for the Oscar Correspondent Contest, visit www.oscars.mtvu.com

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The History of Christmas

People all over the world celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th. But why is the Nativity marked by gift giving, and was He really born on that day? And just where did the Christmas tree come from? Take an enchanting tour through the history of this beloved holiday and trace the origins of its enduring traditions. Journey back to the earliest celebrations when the infant religion embraced pagan solstice festivals like the Roman Saturnalia and turned them into a commemoration of Jesus’ birth. Learn how Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to the English-speaking world in 1841, and discover how British settlers in the New World transformed the patron saint of children into jolly old St. Nick.

We’re going to explore the origin of Christmas and how it came to be the way we know it today.

An Ancient Holiday

Norse God Oden

The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.

In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.

The Yule Log

The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter. For many, it was the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking.

In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Oden, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside.
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Saturnalia

Ancient Romans Celebrating Saturnalia

In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun.

Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year.

In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.

Lord of Misrule

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. On Christmas, believers attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today’s Mardi Gras. Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the “lord of misrule” and eager celebrants played the part of his subjects. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink. If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined “debt” to society by entertaining less fortunate citizens.
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An Outlaw Christmas

In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, canceled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.

The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.

After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.
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Christmas Reinvented

It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia. But what about the 1800s peaked American interest in the holiday?

The early 19th century was a period of class conflict and turmoil. During this time, unemployment was high and gang rioting by the disenchanted classes often occurred during the Christmas season. In 1828, the New York city council instituted the city’s first police force in response to a Christmas riot. This catalyzed certain members of the upper classes to begin to change the way Christmas was celebrated in America.

In 1819, best-selling author Washington Irving wrote The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, gent., a series of stories about the celebration of Christmas in an English manor house. The sketches feature a squire who invited the peasants into his home for the holiday. In contrast to the problems faced in American society, the two groups mingled effortlessly. In Irving’s mind, Christmas should be a peaceful, warm-hearted holiday bringing groups together across lines of wealth or social status. Irving’s fictitious celebrants enjoyed “ancient customs,” including the crowning of a Lord of Misrule. Irving’s book, however, was not based on any holiday celebration he had attended – in fact, many historians say that Irving’s account actually “invented” tradition by implying that it described the true customs of the season.
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A Christmas Carol

Also around this time, English author Charles Dickens created the classic holiday tale, A Christmas Carol. The story’s message-the importance of charity and good will towards all humankind-struck a powerful chord in the United States and England and showed members of Victorian society the benefits of celebrating the holiday.

1881 illustration by Thomas Nast who, with Clement Clarke Moore, helped to create the modern image of Santa Claus.

The family was also becoming less disciplined and more sensitive to the emotional needs of children during the early 1800s. Christmas provided families with a day when they could lavish attention-and gifts-on their children without appearing to “spoil” them.

As Americans began to embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday, old customs were unearthed. People looked toward recent immigrants and Catholic and Episcopalian churches to see how the day should be celebrated. In the next 100 years, Americans built a Christmas tradition all their own that included pieces of many other customs, including decorating trees, sending holiday cards, and gift-giving.

Although most families quickly bought into the idea that they were celebrating Christmas how it had been done for centuries, Americans had really re-invented a holiday to fill the cultural needs of a growing nation.

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44-D’s True Crime: Discovery Channel’s Jack the Ripper in America

TrueCrime-490X136

Reviewed by Audiegrl

The greatest serial killer in history has never been named. But what if we are looking in the wrong place?


In 1888, a deranged killer stalked his prey on the streets of east London at night. After 121 years since the murder and mutilation of at least five prostitutes, the case remains unsolved and the true identity of Jack the Ripper has never been known. The world’s greatest criminal investigators have focused on searching for answers in London. However, in the 1890s a series of horrific murders took place across the United States in New York, San Francisco, Galveston and Atlanta, that mirrored the attacks in attacks in the UK. In this one hour special, Discovery Channel’s viewers will witness the new evidence, science and analytical techniques being used to reveal the true identity of Jack the Ripper.

NYPD Cold Case Detective Ed Norris

The Discovery Channel’s documentary, Jack the Ripper in America focuses on Detective Ed Norris, former head of the NYPD Cold Case Unit, who investigates and uncovers new evidence not seen since the time of the murders. In trying to solve the 118 year old murder of New York prostitute Carrie Brown, he begins to note the similarities between her murder and the famous Whitechapel murders in London. Brown’s murderer had a three-stage MO (strangled, penetrating wound, pulled apart) Because of the unusual and gruesome nature of the crime, the press of the day, immediately began asking the question, “Is Jack the Ripper in New York“. Norris sees the same unusual ‘signature‘ in both the London and New York killers. They both kill prostitutes by strangling, cutting the throat, and eviscerating the body. For Norris this indicates that he might be looking at the same killer.

Carrie Brown aka Old Shakespeare

Carrie Brown aka Old Shakespeare

The key in all cold cases is finding the clues missed by the original investigators. Although, Brown was murdered on April 23, 1891, Norris decides to let a new set of eyes look at the evidence. Enter Dr. Jonathan Hayes, the Manhattan Senior Medical Examiner. Dr. Hayes combs through the autopsy report of Carry Brown. He reaches some interesting conclusions, including a special marking on the body, which I won’t reveal here, you’ll have to watch the show. On August 7th, 1891, another unidentified prostitute is murdered with the same MO as Brown, and pulled from the East river. Visiting the New York Municipal Archives, Norris finds that the old newspapers of that time, reveal another shocking detail. The killer actually wrote to the NYPD, before the murder of Carry Brown. His letter is recreated below:

Capt. Ryan,

You think that “Jack the Ripper” is in England, but he is not, I am right here and I expect to kill somebody by Thursday next, and so get ready for me with your pistols, but I have a knife that has done more than your pistols. Next thing you will hear of some woman dead.

Yours truly,

Jack the Ripper

Richard Jones

Detective Norris wants to get into Jack’s head, and walk in his foot steps. He feels that he was an organized killer that took advantage of the conditions of the time: no ambient street lighting, a black curtain of smoke over the city caused by burning low quality coal, and counting on his victims to naturally take him to the dark, secluded places used in the prostitution trade. Norris takes viewers through a summary of the Ripper murders by using re-enactments and walking through the crime scenes. Next, Norris consults London historian Richard Jones, owner of Ripper Walking Tours and author of Uncovering Jack the Ripper’s London. Jones has spent more than two decades investigating the Whitechapel murders. He asks Jones if any of the serious Ripper suspects had ever traveled to the United States after the death of Mary Kelly. Jones provided him with three names: Severin Klosowski, Francis Tumblety, and James Kelly.

Known as the From Hell or Lusk Letter

Norris then consults with Sheila Kurtz, a Forensic Hand Writing Analyst, Master Graphologist and President of Graphology Consulting Group. Kurtz had successfully worked on the Son of Sam case among many others. After reviewing samples of the Ripper’s hand writing, Kurtz identified the writer as a very disturbed individual, who she said, “I wouldn’t want to be in his company“. For additional details on her analysis please visit her blog. The graphic to the left shows the letter was purportedly written in 1888 by Jack the Ripper.

Dr Thomas Bond

Dr. Thomas Bond

Norris then paid a visit to Britain’s National Archives. The archives hold thousands of original documents in the Ripper case. There, Norris discovers a document not previously used in the investigation. A profile of the killer. Sir Robert Anderson, the head of the police Criminal Investigation Departments, asked Dr Thomas Bond, Britain’s top police surgeon in 1888 to examine material connected with the Whitechapel murder investigation. Bond wrote a 19th-century version of a modern day unsub profile, based on personally examining the body of Mary Kelly and reading the autopsy reports on the first four victims. In the report, he describes in detail the type of person they should be investigating. Dr. Bond was sure that all five women had been killed by the same hand, because the throats of all victims had been cut in a similar way and the victims were presumably lying down when murdered. (for additional details on Dr. Bond’s profile, click here to read the report) Norris ultimately uses this 121 year old profile to narrow the three suspects down to one name. James Kelly. In the world of police parlance, Norris says that “Kelly looks good“.

Jack the Ripper victims: Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catharine Eddowes, Mary Kelly

In 1883, James Kelly only one month married, argues with his wife and accuses her of being unfaithful. In a psychotic rage, he uses the methods of strangulation and throat slashing to kill her. Kelly is caught, convicted and sentenced to die by hanging. Then his employer comes forward and explains that he believes Kelly is mentally disturbed. Kelly was then examined by a alienist and committed to the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Kelly’s psychiatric report has been sealed for over 125 years, until Norris examines it.

Broadmoor Old Gate

Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum

In 1863, Broadmoor was the first custom-built asylum to house criminal lunatics. In Broadmoor, Kelly is a outwardly a model prisoner, but at the same time he is secretly planning his escape. Working in the asylum’s carpentry shop, he cunningly uses a piece of medal he carved into a key to aid his escape. In January of 1888, Kelly escaped and just disappeared. At that time a series of stabbings and slashing attacks of women start in London. Three victims: Annie Millwood, (February 25, 1888, stabbed repeatedly, but survived), Ada Wilson, (March 28, 1888, slashed in the throat, but survived), and Martha Tabram, (August 7, 1888, stabbed 23 times, did not survive). Norris feels these are the early attempts of Jack the Ripper, who like many serial killers, escalates and only gets more brutal over time. After these three attacks, the first London Ripper murder occurs. Surprisingly, Kelly was once considered a suspect by London police, but after only minimal checking at his old residence, they simply gave up, and were never able to find him. With the huge amount of pressure they were under, the case against Kelly went cold…

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Astonishingly, in 1927…forty years later, a much older Kelly voluntarily returns to the insane asylum and began to chronicle his travels. A typed copy of Kelly’s confession letter survives in the National Archives, and Norris is the first detective to read it. In the letter, Kelly describes having “problems dealing with society“, and being “overtaken with feelings of envy, jealousy, and malice“. Kelly states, “the thing has been hard because of all kinds of ‘skank’” (a term he uses to refers to women of low moral character) and “I’ve been on the warpath since I left Broadmoor Asylum.” Also in his letter, he admits to traveling to London after his escape, and more interestingly he tells of traveling to the United States and arriving in New York conveniently before the Carrie Brown murder. He was by profession, a trained upholsterer, and would have known quiet a bit about knives and how to use them effectively for the purpose of murder. Kelly also mentioned traveling to many cities in the US before returning to England and admitted that he came to the US many times over a period of 40 years.

USS Zaandam

First Norris wanted to check to make sure that Kelly’s confession matched up with actual travel records of the day. In Britain’s National Maritime Museum, they kept track of every ship that came to the United States. Kelly said he traveled to America aboard an Anglo-German steamer named the Zaandam that sailed from Rotterdam to New York. At the museum, Norris not only confirmed the ship existed, but that it sailed from Rotterdam to New York on October 7, 1890—two years after the last Ripper murder in London (11/88) and months before the April 23, 1891 murder of Carrie Brown in New York. You might be thinking, “How does a ‘wanted man’ get into the United States without detection?” Professor Dan Citrum is an expert in 19th-century immigration and explains how easily it could have been done. Remember this was before Ellis Island was established, so getting in and out of the country was very easy. No drivers licenses, no passports, and no photo id whatsoever. Many people back then, came to this country to start over, and remake themselves and get lost in the huge crowds of New York city. In his confession, Kelly admits to changing his name once his ship arrives to ‘John Miller‘, one of the most common names both then and now. Kelly used his new name like a disguise to blend in and escape police scrutiny.

Knowing from experience that many serial killers travel extensively, to avoid detection, Detective Norris plots the cities Kelly claims to have visited against the murders written about in the newspapers. He begins to see similarities in Ripper-like murders committed in other cities: New York NY, Trenton, NJ, Galveston, TX, New Orleans, LA, Philadelphia, PA, Baltimore, MD, Jackson, CA, San Francisco, CA, Denver, CO. Each of these murders occurred during the time that Kelly, thorough his confession letter, said he was in that city. Even the city newspapers asked the same question “Is this the work of Jack the Ripper” and “Is this the fiend of Whitechapel?” and “Has Jack the Ripper Invaded Texas at Last“. Detective Norris identified twelve murders across five states in just four years…and remember, Kelly was gone for forty years…you can do the math. To read an amazing collection of news reports, please visit Casebook: Jack the Ripper.

Using a asylum photo of Kelly provided by the National Archives, he was able to see what Kelly looked like at age 67. Norris then contacted Steve Mancusi, a NYPD senior forensic artist who has helped solve the most difficult cases for the last 30 years. He wanted Mancusi to use forensic imaging technology normally used for age-progression in missing child cases, but with this case, he wanted him to reverse the effects of aging, to show what Kelly would have looked like in his 30’s. The striking illustration below on the right is based on their findings.

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Both illustrations of Jack the Ripper

The left composite, was drawn based on 118 year old eye-witness accounts of Jack the Ripper in London. They examined different witness statements and used modern day forensics to come up with a portrait of the killer, even indicating what type of hat he wore.

The drawing on the right, is the result of Mancusi shaving 40 years off of James Kelly’s photo at age 67. As you can see, once they added the type of hat mentioned by eye witnesses, the drawings are a very close match.

In the end, there is no doubt in Norris’ mind that he has found Jack the Ripper. We may never know. John Kelly died of natural causes in 1929 inside Broadmoor Asylum and took his secrets to his grave. In my opinion, Jack the Ripper in America was very well done and is a must-see for all forensic buffs and amateur Ripperologists. I’m interested in seeing further research, analysis and discussion of Norris’ theory. Regarding any factual errors in this post, I apologize in advance, and encourage everyone to let me know what needs to be corrected.

Time After Time

On a lighter note, anybody remember the movie “Time After Time” starring Malcolm McDowell, John Warner and Mary Steenburgen? McDowell played H.G. Wells, who uses his time machine to chase his friend, Warner (aka Jack the Ripper) through the streets of modern day (1979) San Francisco. After watching Norris’ documentary, maybe Hollywood’s silly (but entertaining) version of the Ripper story had a sliver of truth to it after all. 😉

The Secret of Prisoner 1167: Was This Man Jack the Ripper? by James Tully


Hat tip and special thanks to Roy Corduroy for his suggestion to add this book to this post. Casebook: Jack the Ripper gives this book a three-starred review:

A triumphant achievement on the part of Jim Tully, well-researched and written. James Kelly is his suspect, a lunatic upholsterer and wife-murderer who is actually in the Guinness book of world records for his escape from Broadmoor asylum. Tully weaves a fascinating story, regardless of your feelings on Kelly as a suspect. Recommended.

Related Articles and Sites

Casebook: Jack the Ripper

Maps of Whitechapel, 1888-1894

Ripperological Preservation Society

Jack the Ripper Tours

Serial Killer Database – Jack the Ripper

The Whitechapel Society

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Documentary: The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder – (Trailer)

Posted by Audiegrl

Former prosecutor and NYT best-selling author Vincent Bugliosi

Former prosecutor and NYT best-selling author Vincent Bugliosi

Famed Charles Manson prosecutor and three time #1 New York Times bestselling author Vincent Bugliosi stars in this most powerful, explosive, and thought-provoking documentary.

In The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, Bugliosi presents a tight, meticulously researched legal case that puts George W. Bush on trial in an American courtroom for the murder of nearly 4,000 American soldiers fighting the war in Iraq. Bugliosi sets forth the legal architecture and incontrovertible evidence that President Bush took this nation to war in Iraq under false pretenses—a war that has not only caused the deaths of American soldiers but also over 100,000 innocent Iraqi men, women, and children; cost the United States over one trillion dollars thus far with no end in sight; and alienated many American allies in the Western world.

As a prosecutor who is dedicated to seeking justice, Bugliosi, in his inimitable style, delivers a non-partisan argument, free from party lines and instead based upon hard facts and pure objectivity.

prosecution-bush-murder-thumbA searing indictment of the President and his administration, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder also outlines a legally credible pathway to holding our highest government officials accountable for their actions, thereby creating a framework for future occupants of the oval office.

Vincent Bugliosi calls for the United States of America to return to the great nation it once was and can be again. He believes the first step to achieving this goal is to bring those responsible for the war in Iraq to justice.

**Scheduled for release in February, 2010

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