WXXI AM News

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Another Star Wars film, another protest, another round of allegations from white supremacists that the film is anti-white. What's the evidence? Why, the film's heroes include an empowered white woman, alongside men of color. And the film's villains are primarily white men. On top of that, some viewers detect political overtones.

Well, here's one point that's not debatable: Hollywood has disproportionately featured white men for years. Star Wars happens to prize diversity and female leads. What does it say about us that there is a boycott movement, or that the boycott movement is largely a failure? Our guests, all of them Stars Wars super fans, discuss all of that and more:

  • Tiffany Starpoli, broadcast producer and director, and Star Wars fan since 1980
  • Eric Stevens, pop culture writer, Star Wars fan, and host of a Comic Con panel called “Stop Taking My Hand: The Role of Women in Nerd Media”
  • Willis Brooks, PR rep at Entercom, aspiring actor, and Star Wars fan

Governor Mario Cuomo: Poetry and Prose is a new documentary that covers the life and career of the former New York governor. It comes from journalist Matt Ryan, who said he was surprised that no one had put together such a film before. Ryan was able to convince Mario Cuomo's son Andrew to sit down for an interview for the film, which goes deep into the archives.

We talk about the stories that Ryan chose to include in his film. Our guests:

Ken Burns, the award-winning filmmaker, joins us to discuss a range of subjects. We talk about his latest work, and we preview his visit to the University of Rochester later this week.

Burns has been talking a lot about race in America in recent days, and we dig into that. And we ask him why he decided to break with his traditional nonpartisan stance to come out strongly against Donald Trump. Our guests:

  • Ken Burns, award-winning filmmaker
  • Paul Burgett, University of Rochester vice president and senior adviser to the president

What are some of the best (and worst) films about politics? And do they have the power to change viewers' political views?

We discuss a number of films with our guests:

  • Jack Garner, longtime film critic
  • Lester D. Friedman, professor and former chair of the Media and Society Program at Hobart and William Smith College

Our guest is Dr. Alexander Strasser, one of 19 survivors from the Kinder Transport. Strasser's story is part of the new documentary from Ken Burns called Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War. It focuses on a little-known story of an American minister and his wife who rescued refugees and dissidents in Europe before and after the start of World War II.

The 90-minute film tells the story of Waitstill and Martha Sharp, a Unitarian minister and his wife from Wellesley, Massachusetts, who left their children behind in the care of their parish, and boldly committed to numerous life-threatening missions in Europe. Over two dangerous years, they helped to save hundreds of imperiled political dissidents and Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi occupation across Europe.

SSR Photography

Researchers have discovered an interesting link between the economy and kids. On this edition of Need to Know we talk with an economist who explains how a particular investment by Rochester businesses could have a widespread positive impact on children.

Also on the show...Bronson and Barnhart. The major take-aways after the debate between the local Democratic Assembly candidates running in the Primary for the 138th District.

And a local filmmaker shows how paint and an artist’s vision can be a powerful combination. We’ll learn about a locally-born project that’s changing neighborhoods, empowering teens, and making Rochester a bit brighter.

A new documentary called Confronting the Wall follows street artists from Rochester and around the world as they explore how art can send uplifting messages to struggling neighborhoods.

  • David Marshall, producer and director for Blue Sky Project Films’ Confronting the Wall
  • Christine Christopher, producer and writer for Blue Sky Project Films’ Confronting the Wall
  • Shawn Dunwoody, artist entrepreneur and director of The Fruit Belt Project
  • Ephraim Gebre, artist who is a senior at World of Inquiry School

Comedian Mike Birbiglia tweeted his frustration that his new movie, which is about improv comedy, is rated R thanks to a scene in which adults smoke marijuana, while films that feature machine-gun murder scenes are PG-13. And that has us wondering: are we failing in how we determine what is detrimental for kids to see on screen? How do we determine priorities? Our guests come with a range of perspectives, both parenting and professional. In studio:

  • Melissa Sturge-Apple, parent and psychology professor at the University of Rochester
  • Deb Rosen, managing director of strategic partnerships at Hillside Family of Agencies
  • Tom Proietti, resident scholar in media at St. John Fisher College
  • Adam Lubitow, film critic for City Newspaper
  • Makana Chock, interim director of media studies and associate professor of communications at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

Is the new Ghostbusters movie any good? That's one question. Then there's the question of why it's become so polarizing. And one of the cast members recently said that she's tired of hearing the term "female comedian," because we never use the term "male comedian." Why are women treated differently on screen? We discuss all of that and more. Our guests:

  • Beth Winslow, actor and comedian
  • Eric Stevens, pop culture writer and LEGO designer
  • Char Broome, comedian who performs under the name Char B

Why are politicians so self-destructive? That's what you might find yourself wondering after you head to The Little to watch Weiner, which some critics have called the best political documentary ever made. It's hard to watch at times; the former Congressman takes his own career apart, while nearly destroying his family.

We talk to the filmmakers, as well as a panel that will discuss why the pursuit of power is so corrosive. Our guests:

  • Dr. Kathleen Donovan, assistant professor in the Political Science Department, Legal Studies Program, and Statistics Program at St. John Fisher College
  • Joe Rittler, former chief of staff for the Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature
  • Dr. Hinda Mandell, assistant professor in the School of Communications at RIT

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