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Returning veterans, newly paroled prisoners, Afghan girls and hospice patients navigate a world of new challenges in thought-provoking documentaries; Season opens with ‘The Return’ and features Oscar® nominee ‘The Look of Silence’

Not all eyes are on politicians seeking higher office. POV’s new season presents unforgettable stories of diverse people — ranging from war heroes to highly stigmatized criminals — looking to reintegrate into society, often against great odds. Other films feature heroic attempts to secure justice and education and to find fulfillment in the final stages of life.

The 29th season of POV begins Monday, May 23, 2016 at 10 p.m. (check local listings) on PBS and continues with broadcast premieres airing on Mondays through Oct. 31, 2016, with primetime specials airing in 2017. POV is American television’s longest-running independent documentary series and the recipient of a 2013 MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

The season kicks off with The Return, which chronicles the challenges faced by California prisoners suddenly freed after the state’s notorious “Three Strikes” law was amended in 2012. Facing their own battles are the sex offenders in Pervert Park, an unsettling film that raises questions with no easy answers.

Veterans, too, confront unique struggles, including PTSD and “moral injury.” Those issues haunt the combat-weary subjects in Of Men and War, who immerse themselves in intensive therapy in search of healing, and propel the two soldiers profiled in Almost Sunrise to embark on a cross-country journey to find peace.

Ordinary people strike out at entrenched power, often at the risk of their own lives, in the Oscar®-nominated The Look of Silence, which tells the story of an optometrist confronting the men who murdered his brother in the 1965 Indonesian genocide; and in Hooligan Sparrow, in which a Chinese activist armed with social media pulls back the curtain to reveal a government that systematically criminalizes opposition. In Kingdom of Shadows, citizens and law enforcement pursue justice for victims of the violent drug war along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Other journeys couple personal enlightenment with societal advancement. In All the Difference, two young African-American men from Chicago’s South Side defy the odds to graduate college, while in What Tomorrow Brings, a courageous Afghan woman breaks the taboo against educating girls despite the looming threat from a resurgent Taliban.

Two films present unique studies of people facing aging and illness with uncommon grace and joy. Brave and soaring spirits are found in Seven Songs for a Long Life, in which hospice patients face down despair with song. In Iris, a parting gift from the late legendary filmmaker Albert Maysles, 93-year-old style maven Iris Apfel reminds us that passion for life can remain untouched by age.

“In a year when issues concerning American veterans, mass incarceration, our southern border and U.S.-China relations are taking center stage, POV offers fascinating human stories that go far beyond the headlines,” said POV Executive Director/Executive Producer Justine Nagan. “We’re thrilled to welcome back such respected filmmakers as Kelly Duane de la Vega, Katie Galloway, Amy Hardie, Tod Lending, Bernardo Ruiz and Joshua Oppenheimer, along with newcomers like Sharon Shattuck and Erik Shirai. And we are especially touched to honor the memory of the beloved Albert Maysles with his film Iris.”

Executive Producer Chris White added, “These talented storytellers, masters of their craft, introduce us to ordinary people forced to navigate extraordinary circumstances. Whether confronting brutal repression, their own personal failings or grave illness, these individuals face their challenges squarely and allow us to witness how their lives are transformed in the process.”

POV 2016 Schedule (All programs air Mondays at 10 p.m. unless otherwise indicated; check local listings):

May 23: The Return by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway

In 2012, California amended its “Three Strikes” law — one of the harshest criminal sentencing policies in the country. The passage of Prop. 36 marked the first time in U.S. history that citizens voted to shorten sentences of those currently incarcerated. Within days, the reintegration of thousands of “lifers” was underway. The Return examines this unprecedented reform through the eyes of those on the front lines — prisoners suddenly freed, families turned upside down, reentry providers helping navigate complex transitions and attorneys and judges wrestling with an untested law. At a moment of reckoning on mass incarceration, what can California’s experiment teach the nation? A co-production of American Documentary | POV and ITVS. A co-presentation with the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC). Official Selection of the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.

May 30: Of Men and War by Laurent Bécue-Renard

The warriors in Of Men and War have come home, but their minds remain on the battlefield. Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, consumed by anger and traumatic memories long after their return, often resort to drugs or suicide to end their suffering. But at The Pathway Home in California, a first-of-its-kind PTSD treatment center, soldiers resolve to stop the damage. Their therapist helps them forge meaning from their trauma. Over five years, the film follows the men and their families on their grueling paths to recovery as they attempt to make peace with their pasts, their loved ones and themselves.

June 6: Encore Presentation – Out in the Night by blair dorosh-walther

In a case that made headlines, African-American lesbians fought back against a threatening man and were charged with assault and attempted murder. Out in the Night delves below surface sensationalism to examine race, gender and sexuality in our justice system. A co-production of ITVS. A co-presentation with the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC).

June 13: Encore Presentation – The Genius of Marian by Banker White

The Genius of Marian is a visually rich, emotionally complex story about one family’s struggle to come to terms with Alzheimer’s disease. After Pam White is diagnosed at age 61 with early-onset Alzheimer’s, life begins to change, slowly but irrevocably, for Pam and everyone around her. Her husband grapples with his role as it evolves from primary partner to primary caregiver. Pam’s adult children find ways to show their love and support while mourning the gradual loss of their mother. Her eldest son, Banker, records their conversations, allowing Pam to share memories of childhood and of her mother, the renowned painter Marian Williams Steele, who had Alzheimer’s herself and died in 2001. Official Selection of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.

POV is preempted on June 20 and returns the following week.

June 27: The Look of Silence by Joshua Oppenheimer

Joshua Oppenheimer’s Oscar®-nominated The Look of Silence is the incredible story of a man confronting his brother’s killers and demanding they accept responsibility for their crimes. Adi, an optometrist who survived the 1965 Indonesian genocide, takes this unimaginable step in a society where murderers remain in power. To break the spell of submission and terror, he forces them, and us, to reckon with his country’s dark history. A companion piece to Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, also an Oscar nominee, The Look of Silence has been hailed as a “masterpiece” by The New York Times for bearing witness to the collapse of 50 years of silence. Winner, Grand Jury Prize, Critics Prize and Human Rights Award, 2014 Venice Film Festival.

POV is preempted on July 4 and returns the following week.

July 11: Pervert Park by Frida Barkfors and Lasse Barkfors

How can we solve a societal problem if it’s too horrifying to discuss? Pervert Park is a film about the people nobody wants as their neighbors. Founded by the mother of a convicted sex offender, Florida Justice Transitions is a trailer park that is home to 120 sex offenders struggling to reintegrate into society. Their crimes range from misdemeanors to unthinkable acts, and they are each fighting different battles and demons. This groundbreaking film challenges us to understand how these men and women got here, and to consider how the destructive cycle of sexual abuse — and the silence surrounding it — can be broken.

POV is preempted on July 18 for the Republican National Convention and on July 25 for the Democratic National Convention.

Aug. 1: Iris by Albert Maysles

Iris pairs the late documentarian Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens, Gimme Shelter), then 87, with Iris Apfel, the quick-witted, flamboyantly dressed 93-year-old style maven who has had an outsized presence on the New York fashion scene for decades. More than a fashion film, the documentary is a story about creativity and how a soaring free spirit continues to inspire. Iris portrays a singular woman whose enthusiasm for fashion, art and people are her sustenance. She reminds us that dressing — and indeed, life — is nothing but a grand experiment. “If you’re lucky enough to do something you love, everything else follows.”

Friday, Aug. 5: Encore Presentation – My Way to Olympia by Niko von Glasow

Who better to cover the Paralympics than a disabled filmmaker who hates sports and deems the games “stupid”? When Niko von Glasow meets the Rwandan sitting volleyball team and an American archer without arms, his notions get blown away.

Friday, Aug. 12: Encore Presentation – Ping Pong by Hugh Hartford and Anson Hartford

Call this old age, extreme edition: Eight players with 703 years between them compete in the Over 80 World Table Tennis Championships in China’s Inner Mongolia. Ping Pong is a story of hope, regret, friendship, love — and sheer human tenacity in the face of mortality.

Aug. 22: Encore Presentation – Art and Craft by Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman, co-directed by Mark Becker

The jig is up for art forger Mark Landis, who has donated his expert copies to museums for 30 years. But stopping isn’t simple. This cat-and-mouse caper uncovers the universal in one man’s search for connection and respect. Named a Top 5 Documentary by the National Board of Review. Produced in association with American Documentary | POV.

Aug. 29: Encore Presentation – Web Junkie by Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia

In China, Internet addiction has been declared a national health crisis. With extraordinary access, Web Junkie delves into the treatment regimen for teenagers in a three-month military-style rehab program.

Sept. 5: The Birth of Saké by Erik Shirai

In Japan, saké has been popular for nearly 2,000 years. But this traditional rice wine is more than a mere libation; the country’s finest varieties are considered works of art. The Birth of Saké takes us on a cinematic journey inside the Yoshida Brewery, a 144-year-old family-owned establishment whose workers range in age from 20 to 70. Here, a brotherhood of artisans and their brewmaster spend six months in nearly monastic isolation as they follow a precise, painstaking procedure to bring their “unruly child” into being. Witness the mythical, mystical process of creating a world-renowned masterpiece. A co-presentation with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). Winner, Special Jury Mention for Best Documentary Director, 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.

Sept. 12: All the Difference by Tod Lending

The largely invisible and often crushing struggles of young African-American men come vividly — and heroically — to life in All the Difference, which traces the paths of two teens from the South Side of Chicago who dream of graduating from college. Statistics predict that Robert and Krishaun will drop out of high school, but they have other plans. Oscar®-nominated producer/director Tod Lending’s intimate film, executive produced by author Wes Moore, follows the young men through five years of hard work, sacrifice, setbacks and uncertainty. As they discover, support from family, teachers and mentors makes all the difference in defying the odds. A co-production of American Documentary | POV; Part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Sept. 19: Kingdom of Shadows by Bernardo Ruiz

In Kingdom of Shadows, Emmy®-nominated filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz takes an unflinching look at the hard choices and destructive consequences of the U.S.-Mexico drug war. Weaving together the stories of a U.S. drug enforcement agent on the border, an activist nun in violence-scarred Monterrey, Mexico, and a former Texas smuggler, the film reveals the human side of an often-misunderstood conflict. The distinct but interlocking experiences of these three individuals expose the dark corners of a human-rights crisis that has yet to be fully revealed. This documentary, which The New York Times called “unforgettable,” is sure to spark debate. A co-presentation with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB).

Airing with Kingdom of Shadows is Theo Rigby and Kate McLean’s short film Marathon, about Julio Sauce, an undocumented immigrant who competes in the New York City Marathon. The film is part of Immigrant Nation, an interactive storytelling project designed to collect immigrant narratives and share them with the world.

POV is preempted on Sept. 26 and Oct. 3.

Oct. 10: From This Day Forward by Sharon Shattuck

From This Day Forward is a moving portrayal of an American family coping with one of life’s most intimate transformations. When director Sharon Shattuck’s father came out as transgender and began living as Trisha, Sharon was in the awkward throes of middle school. Her father’s transition to female was difficult for her straight-identified mother, Marcia, to accept, but her parents stayed together. As the Shattucks reunite to plan Sharon’s wedding, she seeks a deeper understanding of how her parents’ marriage, and their family, survived intact.

From This Day Forward is shown with Eric Rockey’s short film Pink Boy, an intimate portrait of a gender-nonconforming boy growing up in conservative rural Florida.

Oct. 17: Hooligan Sparrow by Nanfu Wang

The danger is palpable as intrepid young filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows maverick activist Ye Haiyan (aka Hooligan Sparrow) and her band of colleagues to southern China to seek justice in the case of six elementary school girls allegedly sexually abused by their principal. Marked as enemies of the state, the activists are under constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment and imprisonment. Sparrow continues to champion girls’ and women’s rights and arms herself with the power of social media. Filmmaker Wang becomes a target, too, and must deal with destroyed cameras and intimidation. A co-presentation with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). Official Selection of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Oct. 24: Thank You for Playing by David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall

When Ryan Green, a video game programmer, learns that his young son Joel has cancer, he and his wife begin documenting their emotional journey with a poetic video game. Thank You for Playing follows Ryan and his family over two years creating “That Dragon, Cancer,” which evolves from a cathartic exercise into a critically acclaimed work of art that sets the gaming industry abuzz. Lauded as “unimaginably intimate” by The New Yorker, the film is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the unique ways that art and technology can help us share profound experiences. A co-production of American Documentary | POV and ITVS. Official Selection of the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.

Oct. 31: What Tomorrow Brings by Beth Murphy

What Tomorrow Brings goes inside the very first girls’ school in a small Afghan village. Never before have fathers here allowed their daughters to be educated; now Taliban threats heighten their misgivings. From the school’s beginnings in 2009 to its first graduating class in 2015, the film traces the interconnected stories of students, teachers, village elders, parents and school founder Razia Jan. While the girls learn to read and write, their education goes far beyond the classroom as they discover the differences between the lives they were born into and the lives they dream of leading. A co-production of ITVS.

In 2017, POV presents two special broadcasts (dates and times to be announced):

Seven Songs for a Long Life by Amy Hardie

Hospice care is rarely associated with singing and laughter, but at Strathcarron it’s different. At this remarkable Scottish hospice center, patients face pain, uncertainty and the possibility of life’s end with song and humor. Four years in the making, Seven Songs for a Long Life includes a hit parade of tunes belted out by patients and caregivers alike between reflections on life, love and mortality. Sinatra and R.E.M. have never been sung with more heart. The film illuminates a journey we will all take eventually, and shows how the songs we love best can help guide us. Official Selection of the 2016 SXSW Film Festival.

Almost Sunrise by Michael Collins and Marty Syjuco

Suicide among veterans has reached epidemic proportions and is often the result of what mental health professionals call “moral injury” — the transgression of deeply held beliefs during wartime. Former soldiers Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, haunted by their own combat experiences, take a 2,700-mile trek on foot across America seeking redemption, acceptance and a way to close the moral chasm opened by war. Almost Sunrise documents their journey and the healing lessons they learn along the way. A vital, life-changing film for veterans, their families and anyone who wants to understand the harsh challenges faced by returning soldiers. A co-production of American Documentary | POV and ITVS.

POV 2016 at a Glance

(All programs air Mondays at 10 p.m. unless otherwise indicated; check local listings)

May 23: The Return

May 30: Of Men and War

June 6: Out in the Night (Encore)

June 13: The Genius of Marian (Encore)

June 27: The Look of Silence

July 11: Pervert Park

Aug. 1: Iris

Friday, Aug. 12: My Way to Olympia (Encore)

Friday, Aug. 19: Ping Pong (Encore)

Aug. 22: Art and Craft (Encore)

Aug. 29: Web Junkie (Encore)

Sept. 5: The Birth of Saké

Sept. 12: All the Difference

Sept. 19: Kingdom of Shadows with short film Marathon

Oct. 10: From This Day Forward with short film Pink Boy

Oct. 17: Hooligan Sparrow

Oct. 24: Thank You for Playing

Oct. 31: What Tomorrow Brings

POV 2017

TBA: Seven Songs for a Long Life

TBA: Almost Sunrise

POV Series Credits:

Executive Producers: Justine Nagan, Chris White

Vice President, Content Strategy: Eliza Licht

Associate Producer: Nicole Tsien

Coordinating Producer: Nikki Heyman

Produced by American Documentary, Inc., POV is public television’s premier showcase for nonfiction films. Since 1988, POV has been the home for the world’s boldest contemporary filmmakers, celebrating intriguing personal stories that spark conversation and inspire action. Always an innovator, POV discovers fresh new voices and creates interactive experiences that shine a light on social issues and elevate the art of storytelling. With our documentary broadcasts, original online programming and dynamic community engagement campaigns, we are committed to supporting films that capture the imagination and present diverse perspectives.

POV films have won 34 Emmy® Awards, 18 George Foster Peabody Awards, 12 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards®, the first-ever George Polk Documentary Film Award and the Prix Italia. The POV series has been honored with a Special News & Documentary Emmy Award for Excellence in Television Documentary Filmmaking, three IDA Awards for Best Curated Series and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) Award for Corporate Commitment to Diversity. Learn more:

POV Community Engagement and Education (

POV’s Community Engagement and Education team works with educators, community organizations and PBS stations to present more than 650 free screenings every year. In addition, we distribute free discussion guides and standards-aligned lesson plans for each of our films. With our community partners, we inspire dialogue around the most important social issues of our time.

POV Digital (

Since 1994, POV Digital has driven new storytelling initiatives and interactive production for POV. The department created PBS’s first program website and its first web-based documentary (POV’s Borders) and has won major awards, including a Webby Award (and six nominations) and an Online News Association Award. POV Digital continues to explore the future of independent nonfiction media through its digital productions and the POV Hackathon lab, where media makers and technologists collaborate to reinvent storytelling forms. @povdocs on Twitter.

American Documentary, Inc. (

American Documentary, Inc. (AmDoc) is a multimedia company dedicated to creating, identifying and presenting contemporary stories that express opinions and perspectives rarely featured in mainstream media outlets. AmDoc is a catalyst for public culture, developing collaborative strategic engagement activities around socially relevant content on television, online and in community settings. These activities are designed to trigger action, from dialogue and feedback to educational opportunities and community participation.

Major funding for POV is provided by PBS, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding comes from Nancy Blachman and David desJardins, Bertha Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, The Fledgling Fund, Marguerite Casey Foundation, Ettinger Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, and public television viewers. POV is presented by a consortium of public television stations, including KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston and THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG.

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