May 11, 2010

2010 P.O.V. Season Preview

 P.O.V. logo courtesy American Documentary, Inc.

The schedule for the 23rd season of PBS' acclaimed P.O.V. documentary series was released more than a month ago, and technically the season started with the broadcast premiere of the Oscar-nominated Food, Inc. in late April. However, the regular schedule does not begin until late June, giving you plenty of time to mark your calendars and sign up for email reminders for the titles that you don't want to miss.

I have to say, of the years that I've been following the series this season features more titles than I am usually familiar with (including two Oscar nominees from 2009), and several which have been or are going to be in theaters. Indeed I've already seen three of these, I possess but have not yet viewed another two, and am familiar with even two more of the titles. What all this means for you is that nearly every week you can watch - for free - a critically acclaimed and likely award-winning documentary. Not a bad way to escape the summer blockbuster onslaught.

June 22 - William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe by Emily and Sarah Kunstler
"In this intimate biography, Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler seek to recover the real story of what made their late father one of the most beloved, and hated, lawyers in America." (Played in limited theatrical release earlier this year)

June 29 - The Beaches of Agnès by Agnès Varda
"In this delightful memoir, award-winning French filmmaker Agnès Varda (Vagabond, Cléo From 5 to 7) employs all the magic of cinema to juxtapose the real and the imagined, the past and the present, pain and joy." (Played in limited theatrical release earlier this year.)

July 6 - Promised Land by Yoruba Richen
The film follows two black communities as they struggle to reclaim land from white owners, some of whom who have lived there for generations. Amid rising tensions and wavering government policies, the land issue remains South Africa’s “ticking time bomb,” with far-reaching consequences for all sides."

July 13 - Good Fortune by Landon Van Soest
Good Fortune is a provocative exploration of how massive international efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa may be undermining the very communities they aim to benefit."

July 20 - El General by Natalia Almada
Past and present collide as award-winning filmmaker Natalia Almada (Al Otro Lado, POV 2006) brings to life audio recordings she inherited from her grandmother, daughter of Plutarco Elias Calles, a revolutionary general who became Mexico’s president in 1924." (Recently played here in Minneapolis at the Walker Art Center.)

July 27 - Presumed Guilty by Roberto Hernández and Geoffrey Smith
Imagine being picked up off the street, told you have committed a murder you know nothing about and then finding yourself sentenced to 20 years in jail. In December 2005 this happened to Toño Zúñiga in Mexico City..."

Aug. 3 - The Way We Get By by Aron Gaudet (Encore)
"On call 24 hours a day for the past five years, a group of senior citizens has made history by greeting over 900,000 American troops at a tiny airport in Bangor, Maine." (My review) 

Aug. 10 - First Person Plural by Deann Borshay Liem (Encore)
"In 1966, Deann Borshay Liem was adopted by an American family and sent from Korea to her new home in California. There the memory of her birth family was nearly obliterated, until recurring dreams led her to investigate her own past, and she discovered that her Korean mother was very much alive." 

Aug. 17 - Salt by Michael Angus and Murray Fredericks
"In his search for “somewhere I could point my camera into pure space,” award-winning photographer Murray Fredericks began making annual solo camping trips to remote Lake Eyre and its salt flats in South Australia. These trips have yielded remarkable photos of a boundless, desolate yet beautiful environment where sky, water and land merge."

Aug. 24 - The Edge of Dreaming by Amy Hardie
Scottish filmmaker Amy Hardie has built a career making science documentaries that reflect her rational temperament. When she dreamed one night that her horse was dying, only to wake the next morning and find the horse dead, she dismissed the incident as a coincidence. Then she dreamed she would die at age 48 — only one year away. When Hardie does get ill, just as the dream predicted, she visits neuroscience experts and eventually a shaman."

Aug. 31 - Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy by Stephanie Wang-Breal
What is it like to be torn from your Chinese foster family, put on a plane with strangers and wake up in a new country, family and culture? Stephanie Wang-Breal’s Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy is the story of Fang Sui Yong, an 8-year-old orphan, and the Sadowskys, the Long Island Jewish family that travels to China to adopt her."

Sept. 7 - Off and Running by Nicole Opper
Off and Running tells the story of Brooklyn teenager Avery, a track star with a bright future. She is the adopted African-American child of white Jewish lesbians. Her older brother is black and Puerto Rican and her younger brother is Korean. Though it may not look typical, Avery’s household is like most American homes — until Avery writes to her birth mother and the response throws her into crisis."

Sept. 14 - In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee by Deann Borshay Liem
Her passport said she was Cha Jung Hee. She knew she was not. So began a 40-year deception for a Korean adoptee who came to the United States in 1966. Told to keep her true identity secret from her new American family, the 8-year-old girl quickly forgot she had ever been anyone else."

Sept. 21 (or TBA) - The Oath by Laura Poitras
"Filmed in Yemen and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, The Oath interweaves the stories of Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard, and Salim Hamdan, a prisoner at Guantánamo facing war crimes charges." (My capsule review)

Fall Special (TBA) - The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers by Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith 
"In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a leading Vietnam War strategist, concludes that America’s role in the war is based on decades of lies. He leaks 7,000 pages of top-secret documents to The New York Times, a daring act of conscience that leads directly to Watergate, President Nixon’s resignation and the end of the Vietnam War." (2009 Oscar nominee, played in limited theatrical release earlier this year.) 

After viewing any of these films, don't forget to follow the conversation at the POV blog. Also, check out the blog for a new feature called "Whatever Happened to the Subjects of..." (the first profile was on Avijit from Born Into Brothels, who is now studying film at NYU).

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