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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

The first foreign filmmaker I ever heard of was Federico Fellini. Back then, he was an international brand name, and aside from Hitchcock, probably the most famous director in the world.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Seven Worlds, One Planet, BBC America's new big-budget, big-scope documentary series, devotes one episode to each of Earth's continents — beginning with an episode devoted to Australia.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. After winning the Golden Globes for best motion picture, drama and best director, the new war movie "1917" opened wide this past weekend to a strong box office, and on Monday, it received 10 Oscar nominations. Set over two days during World War I, the movie follows two English soldiers trying to stop an impending attack and save the lives of their comrades. Film critic Justin Chang has this review.

Growing up in New York City's Little Italy, as a kid, filmmaker Martin Scorsese spent a great deal of time surrounded by images of saints and martyrs at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral.

"Those images certainly stayed with me," he says. As did the sermons, which often focused on "death approaching like a thief in the night. You never know when. You never know how."

It was over a year ago that I began to hear off-the-charts recommendations from trusted booksellers about a novel called American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins. The novel's circle of admirers has since swelled to include the likes of Stephen King, Sandra Cisneros, John Grisham and Julia Alvarez.

Such a disparate line-up of blurbs signals what an unusual creature American Dirt is: It's a literary novel, to be sure, with nuanced character development and arresting language; yet, its narrative hurtles forward with the intensity of a suspense tale.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The American South in the post-Reconstruction era was a land of broken promises and brutal oppression for African Americans, as white leaders stripped former slaves of many of the civil and voting rights they'd won after the Civil War. But in the 1890s, the port city of Wilmington, N.C., was an exception. It had a thriving black middle class, a large black electorate and a local government that included black aldermen, police officers and magistrates.

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