Over many months the POV team has watched more than 1,000 finished films and works-in-progress. We’ve had wonderful recommendations from friends and colleagues and we’ve been immersed in countless fascinating stories from the U.S. and the world. We’ve had to make many difficult decisions. But finally, we get to announce POV’s 24th season, and we think this year’s selection shows that documentary film is our most innovative, exciting and urgent art form.
Make sure you don’t miss a single film — sign up for our newsletter, set your DVR, join us on Facebook and be sure to tell you friends and family that POV on-air and online is where they are guaranteed to find engaging, entertaining and enlightening films. This year POV will premiere 19 films ranging from feature length to a one-minute short plus three encore presentations. Sixteen films represent a POV debut for the filmmakers, and it is particularly exciting to bring new voices to PBS.
The season starts with a delightful and nerve-wracking homage to culinary excellence in Kings of Pastry (inset, above) by the legendary team of D A Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus. Robin Hessman’s My Perestroika (inset, left) takes an intimate look at the last generation to come of age in the Soviet Union through a combination of candid observation and the filmmaker’s expert mining of rich and surprising archives.
Work and the sacrifices people make to support their families get different takes in three films. Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s Sweetgrass is a breathtaking and cinematically stunning look at the grueling and dangerous work of shepherds in the American West. In The Learning by Ramona Diaz four Filipino women make enormous sacrifices to support their families by coming to the U.S. to teach in Baltimore’s inner-city schools. One the other side of the world, the Zhang family in China makes an equally hard sacrifice by leaving their children behind in their village to work in a factory hundreds of miles away in Lixin Fan’s remarkable film Last Train Home.
Conflict, trauma and healing are themes in several films. Enemies of the People (inset, right) by Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath is a shocking investigation into the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia that finally holds perpetrators to account. Mugabe and the White African by Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson is a testament to individual courage in the face of violence and intimidation. Armadillo by Janus Metz is a dramatic and often terrifying account of the experience a Danish platoon on the frontlines in Afghanistan. Biblioburro by Carlos Réndon Zipagauta illustrates how education can gently heal the traumatic wounds of war.
Afghanistan is revisited in Heather Courtney’s stunning film Where Soldiers Come From. For four years Courtney followed childhood friends from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as they join the National Guard, deploy to Afghanistan and return with the visible and often invisible wounds of war. More than a war film, Where Soldiers Come From is a look at the options available to young people in rural, small town America.
Activism, civil liberties and post 9/11 security are touched upon in two films. Better this World by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway is a thrilling tale of political dissent, radicalization and government surveillance. Marshall Curry’s If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (inset, left) explores the murky intersection of environmental activism and domestic terrorism through the story of Daniel McGowan, a former member of the ELF.</P
The award-winning film Steam of Life by Joonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen is rich, moving meditation on men’s emotional reticence and the central place that saunas hold in Finnish society.
There are many remarkable short documentaries being made but not many get the chance to reach a national audience on television, so we are thrilled to program a night of what we think are some of the best shorts around. Big Birding Day by David Wilson takes us into the world of three friends involved in competitive bird watching. Six Weeks by Marcin Janos Krawczyk is a poignant story of a single mother as she decides whether or not to give up her baby for adoption.
Four animated documentary shorts will be featured. In Flawed by Andrea Dorfman, the filmmaker examines body image as she energetically illustrates her story of a long-distance relationship with a plastic surgeon. Tiffany by Beverly Morris is a super-short one minute animation about the struggle over a beloved object in a divorce — a Tiffany lamp. Mike and Tim Rauch bring NPR’s StoryCorps back to POV with two delightful and inspiring shorts. In Miss Devine cousins James Ransom and Cherie Johnson recall their inimitable Sunday school teacher, Miss Lizzie Devine, and in No More Questions grandmother Kay Wang tells her son and granddaughter about growing up in China and her late-life adventures as a detective for Bloomingdale’s department store.
In early 2012, we’ll have a special presentation of Marshall Curry’s immensely entertaining film Racing Dreams as we follow three young people chasing their dreams on the World Karting racing circuit.
We will also revisit three previously aired films including two Oscar nominees with encore broadcasts. In June we’ll mark the 40th anniversary of the release of the Pentagon Papers with a pre-season encore of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (inset, right). Later in the summer we’ll present Laura Poitras’ The Oath, a powerful and disturbing portrait of Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard; and Robert Kenner’s Oscar-nominated exposé of the food industry Food, Inc.
Many of these films will also be streaming online, so be sure to visit the POV website’s Watch Video section often to see what’s being offered each week.
And, of course we want to hear your point of view. Watch and tell us what you think. And, thanks for your support.