Documentaries with a point of view

Criminal Justice

Who Killed Vincent Chin?
by Christine Choy and Renee Tajima
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 16, 1989
On a hot summer night in Detroit, Ronald Ebens, an autoworker, killed a young Chinese-American engineer with a baseball bat. Although he confessed, he never spent a day in jail. This gripping Academy Award-nominated film relentlessly probes the implications of the murder in the streets of Detroit, for the families of those involved, and for the American justice system.
Through the Wire
by Nina Rosenblum
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 26, 1990
In 1986, three women convicted of politically-motivated nonviolent offenses were transferred to a secret, subterranean prison where they were kept in constantly-lit near isolation, watched 24 hours a day and strip-searched routinely for nearly two years. The women were not imprisoned in Turkey or Iran or Chile, but in Lexington, Ky.
Police Chiefs
by Alan Raymond and Susan Raymond
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 1, 1990
How can we curb crime? Three big city police chiefs reveal sharply differing philosophies of law enforcement. From Daryl Gates, who introduced SWAT to Los Angeles, to Anthony Bouza, who ruffled feathers in Minneapolis, to Lee Brown, who recently left Houston for New York, these top cop's ideas about the causes and cures of crime are as varied as their personalities.
Promise Not to Tell
by Rhea Gavry
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 27, 1992
A respected member of a middle-class community is accused by his children of sexual abuse. He denies the charges. Whom do we believe? Rhea Gavry uses a gut-wrenching case set in a comfortable suburb of Salt Lake City as a context for a timely reexamination of our attitudes toward the accused and the accuser when sex is part of the equation.
Dream Deceivers
by David Van Taylor
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 3, 1992
In 1995, a teenager claimed the heavy metal music of Judas Priest prompted him to attempt suicide. The drama of the ensuing trial provides the framework for David Van Taylor's disturbing look at teenagers today.
The End of the Nightstick
by Peter Kuttner and Cyndi Moran and Eric Scholl
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 5, 1994
This startling expose unravels a history of abuse of suspects by the Chicago police.
Licensed to Kill
by Arthur Dong
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 23, 1998
Arthur Dong goes inside prison to probe the minds and souls of men whose attitudes towards homosexuality have led them to murder.
The Legacy
by MIchael J. Moore
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 1, 1999
Shocking murders, massive manhunts and win-at-all-cost political campaigns propel this extraordinary story behind the enactment of the nation's toughest mandatory sentencing law.
by Lourdes Portillo
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 13, 1999
Tejana singer Selena was on the brink of blockbuster crossover fame when her murder at age 23 catapulted her into mainstream celebrity. Filmmaker Lourdes Portillo gazes beyond the tabloids and points a sensitive lens on the cultural sensation that emerged around Selena's life and death.
Two Towns of Jasper
by Whitney Dow and Marco Williams
PBS Premiere Date: Jan. 22, 2003
In 1998 James Byrd, Jr., a black man, was chained to a truck and dragged to death by three white men. Two film crews, one black and one white, document the aftermath of the murder.
Discovering Dominga
by Patricia Flynn and Mary Jo McConahay
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 8, 2003
Living in Iowa, Denese Becker was haunted by memories of her Mayan childhood. A quest for her lost identity in Guatemala turns into a searing journey of political awakening that reveals a genocidal crime and the still-unmet cry for justice from the survivors.
by Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 22, 2004
The shocking hate-based attempted murders of two Mexican day laborers catapult a small Long Island town into national headlines, unmasking a new front line in the border wars: suburbia.
Every Mother's Son
by Tami Gold and Kelly Anderson
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 17, 2004
In the late 1990s, three victims of police brutality made headlines around the country: Amadou Diallo, the young West African man whose killing sparked intense public protest; Anthony Baez, killed in an illegal choke-hold; and Gary (Gidone) Busch, a Hasidic Jew shot and killed outside his Brooklyn home. Every Mother's Son tells of the victims' three mothers who came together to demand justice and accountability.
Omar & Pete
by Tod Lending
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 13, 2005
Omar and Pete are determined to change their lives. Both have been in and out of prison for more than 30 years — never out longer than six months. This intimate and penetrating film follows these two longtime African-American friends after what they hope will be their final release.
Prison Town, USA
by Katie Galloway and Po Kutchins
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 24, 2007
In the 1990s, at the height of the prison-building boom, a prison opened in rural America every 15 days. Prison Town, USA tells the story of Susanville, California, one small town that tries to resuscitate its economy by building a prison — with unanticipated consequences.
No Angels in the Outfield
by Larry Warner
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 24, 2007
This is a baseball team where you can say it's three strikes and you're in. The San Quentin Prison baseball team is the subject of this documentary, which goes inside the walls of the maximum-security prison to show the team, called the Giants, playing ball.
by Andy Blubaugh
PBS Premiere Date: Dec. 12, 2007
Scaredycat takes as a point of departure the beating of the filmmaker at the hands of a gang of young men who called themselves "The Portland Riders."
The Judge and the General
by Elizabeth Farnsworth and Patricio Lanfranco
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 19, 2008
Chile's former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, is brought to justice by one of his own in this cautionary tale about violating human rights in the name of "higher ideals."
Beyond Hatred
by Olivier Meyrou
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 30, 2009
The story of a family's struggle to seek justice for their murdered son while trying to transcend hatred and the desire for revenge.
William Kunstler
by Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 22, 2010
In this intimate biography, Kunstler's daughters seek to recover the real story of what made their late father one of the most beloved, and hated, lawyers in America.
Presumed Guilty
by Roberto Hernández and Layda Negrete and Geoffrey Smith
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 27, 2010
Encore Broadcast: Aug. 23, 2012
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.
The Oath
by Laura Poitras
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 21, 2010
Encore Broadcast: Aug. 16, 2011
Filmed in Yemen and Guantánamo, The Oath interweaves the stories of Abu Jandal, Bin Laden's former bodyguard and Salim Hamdan, a man facing war crimes charges.
Mugabe and the White African
by Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 26, 2011
In Zimbabwe, de facto dictator Robert Mugabe has unleashed a "land reform" program aimed at driving whites from the country through violence and intimidation.
Protest or Terrorism? Stories from Post-9/11 America
by Marshall Curry and Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 6, 2011
Two films featuring political activists who crossed the line into law-breaking and authorities who may have crossed their own lines to catch them.
Better This World
by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 6, 2011
Encore Broadcast: Aug. 30, 2012
The story of two men who were accused of intending to firebomb the 2008 Republican National Convention, is a dramatic tale of idealism, loyalty, crime and betrayal.
If a Tree Falls
by Marshall Curry
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 13, 2011
Encore Broadcast: Oct. 11, 2012
This provocative film lifts the veil on a radical environmental group that the FBI calls America's "number one domestic terrorism threat."
by Pamela Yates and Paco de Onís and Peter Kinoy
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 28, 2012
The extraordinary story of how a film, aiding a new generation of human rights activists, became a granito — a tiny grain of sand — that helped tip the scales of justice.
Give Up Tomorrow
by Michael Collins and Marty Syjuco
PBS Premiere Date: Oct. 4, 2012
A riveting exposé of corruption and injustice in the Philippines, chronicling a sensational murder case that ends a nation’s use of capital punishment — but fails to free an innocent man.
by Bernardo Ruiz
PBS Premiere Date: Jan. 7, 2013
A veteran reporter and his colleagues at an independent newsweekly defy powerful drug cartels and corrupt officials to continue publishing the news.
Herman's House
by Angad Singh Bhalla
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 8, 2013
Herman Wallace has spent more than 40 years in a 6' x 9' prison cell. He works with artist Jackie Sumell to imagine his "dream home," questioning justice and punishment in America.
Getting Back to Abnormal
by Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker and Peter Odabashian and Paul Stekler
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 14, 2014
Election time in New Orleans: Corruption. Racism. Dancing in the streets. And one in-your-face politician trying to get re-elected. Let the good times roll.
15 to Life
by Nadine Pequeneza
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 4, 2014
Does sentencing a teenager to life without parole serve society? Following a Florida man who received four life sentences at age 15, this eye-opening film reveals a justice system that routinely condemns young Americans to die in prison.
Out in the Night
by blair dorosh-walther
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 22, 2015
A moving account of four women sensationalized by the media as a "Gang of Killer Lesbians" reveals the role that race, gender identity and sexuality play in our criminal justice system. A co-production of ITVS. A co-presentation with the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC).
Ai Weiwei
by Andreas Johnsen
PBS Premiere Date: Oct. 2, 2015
How the government's attempts to silence Ai Weiwei have turned him into China's most powerful artist and an irrepressible voice for free speech and human rights around the globe. Official Selection of the 2013 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.