The Central Park Effect

“The Central Park Effect” reveals the extraordinary array of wild birds who grace Manhattan’s celebrated patch of green and the equally colorful, full-of-attitude New Yorkers who schedule their lives around the rhythms of migration. Acclaimed author Jonathan Franzen, an idiosyncratic trombone technician, a charming fashion-averse teenager, and a bird-tour leader who’s recorded every sighting she’s made since the 1940s are among the film’s cast of characters. Featuring spectacular wildlife footage capturing the changing seasons, this lyrical documentary transports the viewer to a dazzling world that goes all but unnoticed by the 38 million people who visit the park each year.

Emptying The Skies

If you want to impress your dining companions in Cyprus, it’s not caviar that you order, but ambelopoulia: a tiny songbird. But as this gripping doc reveals, the cost to bring such delicacies to the table is enormous. Bestselling novelist Jonathan Franzen takes a break from the world of fiction to guide us through an all too horrifying reality: tens of millions of protected migratory songbirds are illegally killed every year. Franzen, a longtime bird lover, accompanies young staffers of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter on their expeditions. With police enforcement in Southern Europe practically non-existent, they risk their lives to rescue trapped birds, and confront hostile poachers. It’s a topic that proves a cultural flashpoint — the Cypriot landowners cannot understand why a bunch of Italians can tell them what to do on their land.

Philip Roth: Unmasked

Philip Roth, arguably America’s greatest living novelist, turns 80 on March 19. In 1959, his collection of short stories, Goodbye, Columbus, put him on the map, and 10 years later his hilarious, ribald best-seller, Portnoy’s Complaint, gave rise to the first of many Roth-related controversies in which Judaism, sex, the role of women, and the parent-child relationship would take center stage. In candid interviews, the Pulitzer Prize-winner discusses his distinctly unliterary upbringing in Newark, NJ, his admiration for Saul Bellow and Bernard Malamud, and how Zuckerman may or may not be his alter-ego. Nathan Englander, Mia Farrow, Jonathan Franzen, and Martin Garbus are among those who talk about the man and his writing. Franzen in particular praises Roth for “how brave he must have been to have methodically offended everybody and to have exposed parts of himself no one had ever exposed before.”