Ann Hornaday Recommends

Tom Dowd & the Language of Music (2003, 82 minutes) -- If you missed this absorbing music documentary when it was in theaters recently, you have a chance to catch it now. Mark Moormann's affectionate portrait of Tom Dowd -- house engineer of Atlantic Records and the man who helped Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Eric Clapton find their signature sounds -- is a must-see for music fans, who will thrill to Dowd's reminiscences and his on-screen remixing of the famous guitar duet from "Layla." And wait until you hear about his role in the Manhattan Project. (Not rated, contains brief mild profanity.)

Chernobyl Heart (2003, 39 minutes) -- This year's Oscar winner in the documentary short category, Maryann DeLeo's "Chernobyl Heart" explores the lasting effects of the 1986 nuclear accident on Russian citizens, especially the children who have been born with congenital heart defects. "Chernobyl Heart" makes its cable premiere on HBO Thursday at 8:45 p.m., after "Indian Point: Imagining the Unimaginable," Rory Kennedy's film about a nuclear power plant in Westchester County, N.Y., at 8.

Maria Full of Grace (2004, 101 minutes) -- This closely observed drama, about a young Colombian woman who becomes a drug courier in search of a better life for herself and her unborn child, is one of the best films of the summer, notable not only for its riveting drama but for the unforgettable performances of its largely amateur cast. Writer-director Joshua Marston's impressive debut might at first seem like a downer, and the movie admittedly sheds light on the largely unexamined costs of the American way of life. But lead actress Catalina Sandino Moreno infuses Maria with so much strength and spirit that viewers are left with more hope than guilt or despair. Don't miss it. (At area theaters. Rated R for drug content and profanity; in Spanish with subtitles.)

John Alex Toro and Catalina Sandino Moreno in "Maria."