- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Washington museums are tending more and more toward exhibiting their permanent collections, and the National Museum of African Art is no exception. For its unusual Body of Evidence, museum curators chose works culled from the museum’s contemporary arts trove to show how even hints of the body can call up emotion in viewers. For example, Ghana’s Godfried Donkor depicts the 19th-century American slave boxer Tom Molineaux as if boxing, yet places him in a slave ship packed with black bodies. El Anatsui, another Ghanaian, transforms 24 pieces of figuratively carved bark representing ancestral spirits into a lineup that depicts “The Ancestors Converged Again.” 950 Independence Avenue SW. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily through February 2007. Free. 202/357-4600.

— Joanna Shaw-Eagle

Several documentary genres have flourished in recent years: wildlife studies, polemics, historical chronicles, sports sagas, human-interest profiles. A genre that has straddled the sporting and human-interest categories is exemplified by Patrick Creadon’s Wordplay, which discovers an abundance of competitive and sociable virtue among people drawn to crossword puzzles. Two predecessors, “Spellbound” and “Word Wars,” which dealt with the National Spelling Bee and Scrabble players, respectively, kind of paved the way for “Wordplay,” which concludes an unofficial “trilogy” about the word-wise folks in our midst. The movie was envisioned as a profile of Will Shortz, the puzzle editor at the New York Times since 1993. At his suggestion, the filmmakers also covered the annual competition he has supervised since 1978, the American Crossworld Puzzle Tournament, held at the Marriott Hotel in Stamford, Conn. Having profiled all the 2005 finalists, Mr. Creadon is admirably positioned to derive full advantage from the astonishing final round. Brian Oakes designed the graphics that effectively isolate selected clues and answers in split-screen inserts.

— Gary Arnold

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