German documentarian Niko von Glasow has a knack for the blunt. First he asks his interviewees whether they want to kill themselves; then he asks them to pose nude. Like Glasow himself, these 11 individuals have been afflicted by Thalidomide, the 1950s pregnancy drug that caused thousands of infants to be born with stunted limbs
Given such subject matter, Glasow could have made an addendum to Sicko. Instead, he crafts a refreshing documentary about his quest to create a nude calendar of "Thalidomites," as they dub themselves. The subjects include a suicidal radio host, an ebullient dance teacher, and a sexually abusive astrophysicist. Each speaks freely about his or her struggle, opening a dialogue on today's obsession with the body.
Thanks to the austere style — no narrator to explain things, no violins to cue sympathy — Glasow achieves something rare in documentaries today: the joy of listening to people talk.