New Documentary About Threats to Libraries

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We think of the library as a quasi-sacred institution - a shrine to the works of great thinkers, philosophers, writers and historians. As such, it offers comforting proof that knowledge and wisdom transcend politics and ideology. Or do they? In his latest documentary, Save and Burn, Montreal filmmaker Julian Samuel offers a sobering reflection on the baser forces that have threatened libraries over the years.

An impressive group of experts - including Robin Adams, a librarian at Dublin's Trinity College; Taher Khalifa, director of Egypt's Bibliotheca Alexandrina; and Tom Twiss, a librarian at the University of Pittsburgh - face the camera.

Together, they offer historical background and make the case that the beloved institution has been, and continues to be, jeopardized by commercialization, technology and the prejudices of global conflict and racism. The destruction of Palestinian libraries by Israeli soldiers and last year's arson attack on the United Talmud Torahs school library in St.
Laurent are but examples.

The premise, which builds on Samuel's 2002 film The Library in Crisis, is novel and provocative - although the focus gets lost at points with political commentary on such hot-button topics as Israeli policy in the Middle East and the American invasion of Iraq. While political issues are obviously crucial to the concept of "bibliocide" denounced by the film, we sometimes feel far from the initial premise.

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