The first film to win an Oscar for best documentary was the 1941 Canadian-made World War II film, “Churchill’s Island.”
The latest is the haunting “Born Into Brothels” (ThinkFilm, $30), Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman’s exploration of eight children who live in the red-light district of Calcutta, where their mothers work as prostitutes. Briski purchases cameras and teaches the youngsters how to take pictures, giving them a sense of purpose. The most touching aspect of the extras is the children: There are scenes of Briski returning to Calcutta three years later to visit them, as well as often funny and sometimes tearful commentary as they watch the movie together.
“Brothels” is just one of many documentaries debuting on DVD.
Nominated this year for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival, “Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story” (Anchor Bay, $20) is a riveting look at the rise and fall of the 1960s welterweight boxing champion. On March 24, 1962, Griffith and his rival Benny “Kid” Paret entered the ring at Madison Square Garden for the world title match -- a match that was telecast live. At the weigh-in, Paret taunted the allegedly gay Griffith with a slur. The night of the match, Griffith pounded Paret so severely in the ring that he died. His death changed Griffith’s life.
The documentary includes vintage fight footage and interviews with Griffith, his brother, writers Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill, and Paret’s widow and son, among others. Extras include deleted interviews and commentary from filmmakers Dan Klores and Ron Berger.
Martin Scorsese’s new documentary, “Bob Dylan -- No Direction Home” (Paramount, $30), is hitting the home video market a week before it premieres on “American Masters.” This inspired look at the legendary troubadour concentrates on his early life and career. Extras include several 1960s TV performances.
Also new this week:
“Desperate Housewives: The Complete First Season” (Buena Vista, $60): The set of discs for last year’s water cooler series has loads of extras that include extended versions of six episodes, commentary with creator Marc Cherry and director Larry Shaw; the housewives discussing their favorite scenes; several featurettes, deleted scenes and bloopers. A clever short features Oprah Winfrey as the new neighbor on Wisteria Lane.
“Naked” (Criterion, $40): Both director Mike Leigh and star David Thewlis took home top honors at the 1993 Cannes film festival for this uncompromising drama about a wanderer named Johnny. The two-disc set includes interviews with Leigh, conducted by author Will Self, and with writer-director Neil LaBute; the early Leigh short film “The Short and Curlies.”
“Masculine Feminine” (Criterion, $30): Though this Jean-Luc Godard production turned off some critics when it was released in 1966, it is now considered one of his greatest. Jean-Pierre Leaud and singer Chantal Goya star in the disjointed depiction of the “children of Marx and Coca-Cola” -- a group of restless youths living, loving and protesting in Paris. Extras include interviews conducted this year with Goya, cinematographer Willy Kurant and Godard collaborator Jean-Pierre Gorin and an excerpt from a Swedish TV interview with Godard.
“Major Dundee -- the Extended Version” (Sony, $20). After scoring a critical success with the low-budget 1962 western “Ride the High Country,” maverick director Sam Peckinpah was assigned to direct this big studio 1965 Civil War epic starring Charlton Heston and Richard Harris. But Peckinpah had the film taken away from him and re-edited. This extended version is not Peckinpah’s cut (it is the producer’s version), but it does include several more scenes that flesh out character development and action. And this version also includes a new, more evocative score. The end result -- “Dundee” is flawed but fascinating. The DVD includes an incomplete deleted scene, an extended scene, an excerpt from a Peckinpah documentary on “Dundee,” vintage featurettes, silent outtakes and juicy commentary from Peckinpah historians.
Due in October: “The Interpreter,” “Kingdom of Heaven,” “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” “Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession,” “Batman Begins,” “Land of the Dead,” “Just Tell Them Who You Are,” “Mad Hot Ballroom,” “Melinda and Melinda” and “Rize.”