Stranded. In 1972 a Uruguayan plane went down in the snowy Andes and, after fruitless searches, was considered lost. But some passengers survived . In this absorbing documentary, made recently, some of those survivors, now white-haired, return to the scene with their children, and reconstruct the grim, thrilling story. (From the upcoming 11/5/08 issue.)

Ballast. If there were such a thing as a quiet gem, this would be it. A compact drama about three black people in the Mississippi Delta, a taciturn storekeeper, his late brother’s former innamorata, her young son. Lance Hammer, the director, helped his three non-professionals to make an intense, taking film. (10/22/08)

I Served the King of England. The lyrical light tone of this Czech film is a kind of bitter counterpoint to its story of political accommodations. The hero is a young waiter who moves smoothly through always swankier restaurants, in the World War Two days, until reality intrudes. (9/10/08)

Man on Wire. One of a kind. This documentary about a tightrope walker--he walked a wire between the towers of the World Trade Center in 1974--grows beautifully from mere excitement about a daring act to an account of almost metaphysical aspiration. And it’s funny, too. (8/27/08)

--SK

By Stanley Kauffmann