Don Schwartz Spotlight on Documentaries

Welcome to the Blog of actor/journalist/personal historian Don Schwartz.

Don has been published in a variety of publications since 1977. His book, Telling Their Own Stories: Conversations with Documentary Filmmakers, is available from Amazon in softback or Kindle edition.

Don holds multiple degrees, including a Ph.D. in psychology and counseling from the California Institute of Integral Studies.

Don is a regular guest on our web radio show, The Art of Film Funding, produced by From the Heart Productions, reviewing documentary films with founder Carole Dean—

Don also contributes film reviews and filmmaker profiles to CineSource Magazine online—

His weekly film review appears in The Marin Post

Don’s actor resumé, voice samples, and reel may be found at:

You can access Don’s Personal Historian services at:

You can find, and Like Don’s official Facebook page at

Yarn: Adorning the World

January 22nd, 2017

With interstitial narration written and performed by Barbara Kingsolver, Yarn profiles several yarn artists from several countries. We hear from and see the work of yarn graffiti artists, installation artists, and circus performers. In addition to a great variety of art work, we hear quite a variety of personalities speaking of t ...Read More

Pet Fooled: They Deserve Better

January 16th, 2017

A confluence of factors have induced me to cover this revealing documentary about the pet food industry. The deepest factor is having found myself an unofficial member of the animal rights movement—including the legal initiative to secure personhood rights for non-human animals. Added to that are my friends with pets who speak frequently—and with passion—about the food they provide to their animal companions. Finally, in the midst of my second half-century of life I find myself bonding with my friends’ dogs. My in ...Read More

(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies

January 13th, 2017

“The bigger the brain, the larger the capacity to lie.” Murali Doraiswamy, Psychiatrist Duke Institute for Brain Science The title says it all in this documentary film about lying. Our host is Dan Ariely who is—and let me take a breath here—James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. Our hero is also founder of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. His career is devoted to the study of human lying. The goal is to learn ways to improve human society. Ariely is the perfec ...Read More

Killswitch: Another Front on the Struggle for Democracy

January 10th, 2017

When I saw the title ‘Killswitch’ on Netflix, and noted that it’s about the internet, I immediately assumed the film is just another documentary about that subject, ‘I’ve seen enough of these,’ I thought. I was wrong. What sparked me to view the film was remembering the just-occurred, non-violent coup d'état that put Trump in power, and gave the Republican Party control of all three branches of our so-called democracy. Governmental corruption has been given a large dose of methamphetamine, and ...Read More

Minimalism: Imagine a Life with Less

January 2nd, 2017

“You can never get enough of what you don’t really want.” Rick Hanson, Ph.D., Neuropsychologist Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus—also known as The Minimalists—are partners on a quest: To promote the values of consuming less, owning less. Minimalism is one of the many tactics they are utilizing ...Read More

Jaco: A Biography of Music Legend Jaco Pastorius

January 1st, 2017

Known primarily in jazz circles, Jaco Pastorius revolutionized the playing of the electric bass guitar. He died in 1987 as a result of self-destructive activities. Jaco denied himself and the world an unfathomable amount of beautiful musics of many ilk. Early in his life he had a premonition that he would die at the age of 34. He was off by two years. This two-hour bio-doc became an instant must-see when I discovered it on ...Read More

Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue

December 26th, 2016

It’s tough. Probably the reason people don’t see ‘em. Documentaries about unhappy subjects—and most of them are about such. When it comes to the world-changers I admire and respect, and whose passing was untimely, it’s even harder to break through the resistance to seeing their stories, reliving their public lives, pinning for another story their lives could have written—one in which they live and make even greater contributions to our world..., and my soul. Janis Joplin’s life story follows the sadly w ...Read More

The Overnighters: When Fracking Came to Town

December 22nd, 2016

Jesse Moss’s documentary, The Overnighters, has two foci: What happens to the small town of Williston, North Dakota when there is a fracking boon; and a character study of Jay Reinke, Pastor of Williston’s Concordia Lutheran Church. From an environmental perspective an ...Read More

Vince Giordano: There’s a Future in the Past

December 19th, 2016

A couple guys are loading a large white van with a large amount of large cases full of large musical instruments. One of the two men has a large crop of black wavy hair. Cut to a large dinner/dance club in a big city. A band is playing. Eleven players all in black tuxedos, performing a very fast tempo old-fashioned song. Sounds like the 1920s or 30s. Sounds like the music from most of Woody Allen’s movies. Sounds like some music I heard on Garrison Keillor’s ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ radio show. Sounds like Dix ...Read More

Hooligan Sparrow: Confronting China’s Power Structure

December 16th, 2016

Shot guerilla-style, Hooligan Sparrow follows Chinese political activist Ye Haiyan as she confronts the institutionalization of rape in China—specifically loopholes that allow government workers to have consensual or nonconsensual sex with female minors with little to no consequence for the perpetrators. Haiyan’s nom de plume is ‘Hooligan Sparrow.’ Haiyan is fighting two fronts: prostitution and rape. ...Read More