'The Burning Season'

What makes this 1994 HBO production such a memorable viewing experience is that it portrays the deep courage and humanity of our most worthy role models. In this fact-based film about Brazilian activist Chico Mendes, heroism isn't defined by the larger-than-life terms usually favored by television. Instead, director John Frankenheimer and the posthumously Emmy-awarded Raul Julia (right, with Edward James Olmos) present a decidedly ordinary man driven to extraordinary action through the sheer force of his moral conviction. His grass-roots unionizing movement had more to do with defending the land and the work rights of his people than in protecting the ozone layer; he was surprised to discover that he had become an international symbol of the environmental movement (HBO Wednesday at 11:30 p.m.).

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