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TO JULY 21

As David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan traverse the id, many of the best Canadian filmmakers uphold the country’s noble tradition of documentary. That genre is no longer restricted to objective reality, however. Two of the most striking entries in this year’s edition of the National Gallery’s annual survey of Canadian docs are intensely personal tales of individual obsessions. Devastated by the demise of his grandfather, Frank Cole decided to put mortality in its place by taking a seemingly suicidal solo jaunt across the Sahara from Mauritania to Sudan. Life Without Death (at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 8) is a poetic meditation, but it’s also an adventure story. Alan Zweig’s Vinyl (at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 21) focuses on a less physically challenging obsession—record collecting—but is no less psychologically revealing; one guy decided to play his entire collection from A to Z, an undertaking that took several years longer than Cole’s crossing of Africa. More conventional tales include Journey to Little Rock (at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 15), the biography of Minnijean Brown, one of the nine African-American high school students who integrated Little Rock’s Central High, and who later followed her draft-resisting husband to a farm in northern Ontario. Thin Ice (also at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 21) goes the other direction, reconstructing humorist and artist Bruce McCall’s desperate attempt to escape Canadian conformity for the excitement of New York. Other subjects include a pilgrimage of Toronto jazz musicians to Cuba (Spirits of Havana, pictured, at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 7) and, in Ravel’s Brain (at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14), the aphasia that gripped the composer in his final years. The festival runs to Saturday, July 21, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. For reservations call (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)