What could be better for local film fans than a weekly series of acclaimed documentaries screening in air-conditioned comfort all through the summer?

Well, they could be free.

For the third year, the Portland Public Library is curating its Summer Documentary Series. Every Thursday, the library will show one of the documentaries in PBS’ outstanding POV film program.

It’s truly a gift for Portland movie fanatics: These films have shown at prestigious festivals around the world (and often at our own Space Gallery or the Movies at the Museum), and offer a season’s worth of enough cinematic variety to keep even the most obsessed Portland cineaste satisfied.

“It’s a fairly new endeavor,” said the library’s programming manager, Rachael Weyand. “We really see the festival as a perfect opportunity for the library to offer documentaries and start conversations about the important topics they cover.”

To that end, Weyand is, as ever, lining up local experts who will introduce each film and lead Q&As after the screenings. For Thursday’s film, “Herman’s House” (about a prisoner who’s spent most of his life in solitary confinement and the artist who works with him to design the dream house he’d live in if he were ever released), Weyand has lined up Portland journalist Lance Tapley, who has written extensively about the plight of the incarcerated for the Portland Phoenix.

“People can stay and have a half-hour conversation with each other and people who are familiar with the topics in each film,” Weyand said. “It’s an excellent way for people to get involved.”

From now until the end of the summer, the library is going to be the place for documentary fans on Thursdays.

Looking over the roster, it’s hard not to get excited, with such celebrated movies as the coming-of-age doc “Only the Young” (June 27); “High Tech, Low Life” (July 18), about the struggle of Chinese bloggers against government censorship; the controversial “Five Broken Cameras” (Aug. 15), documenting life in an embattled West Bank village; and perhaps most exciting, “56 Up,” the most recent in Michael Apted’s series of documentaries that have checked on the progress of its British subjects every seven years of their lives (Sept. 5).

Check out portlandlibrary.com for the complete, and impressive, lineup.

The Summer Documentary Series has, in its brief history, been trying to build an audience. Citing limited resources, Weyand hopes this year’s stellar schedule and three years of word-of-mouth raves will bring the movie-going public into the library every Thursday at 7: 30 p.m.

“We’re hoping the community will support it — we really hope (the series) becomes a valuable resource for Portland,” she said.

You heard, film fans, and I’ll second it — this series is a sweet summer present to us all.

Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.

 

Watch Only the Young – Trailer on PBS. See more from POV.