Documentaries with a point of view

Arts & Culture

American Tongues
by Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 5, 1988
Rich in humor and regional color, this sometimes hilarious film uses the prism of language to reveal our attitudes about the way other people speak. From Boston Brahmins to Black Louisiana teenagers, from Texas cowboys to New York professionals, American Tongues elicits funny, perceptive, sometimes shocking, and always telling comments on American English in all its diversity.
Louie Bluie
by Terry Zwigoff
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 23, 1988
A lively portrait of 76-year-old Harold "Louie Bluie" Armstrong, musician, artist, raconteur and rogue.
Wise Guys!
by David Hartwell
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 23, 1989
In Wise Guys!, a stamp dealer from Los Angeles, a former school teacher form Miami, a born again Christian from Las Vegas and a whiz kid law student square off in the Jeopardy! $100,000 Tournament of Champions.
The Family Album
by Alan Berliner
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 30, 1989
Watching The Family Album is like coming across a long-lost box of family photos: it's enchanting, humorous and sometimes even eerie. Director Alan Berliner spent years blending home movies and tape recordings collected from 60 different American families to assemble a composite lifetime which moves from childhood to adulthood, from innocence to experience.
Jack Levine
by David Sutherland
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 13, 1989
David Sutherland's bold and unconventional film portrait reveals one of America's leading Social Realist painters doing what he does best: skewering corrupt politicians, raging over social injustices, and satirizing the petty foibles of humankind.
No Applause, Just Throw Money
by Karen Goodman
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 20, 1989
On the streets and subways of New York, 101 itinerant performers whirl firesticks, mimic passers-by, imitate Stevie Wonder, tap dance and perform classical music. Karen Goodman's No Applause, Just Throw Money is a delightful mixture of music and magic moments, celebrating some joyful encounters in New York City streets.
Whatever Happened to Zworl Quern?
by Deborah Matlovsky
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 20, 1989
"Zworl Quern" was a stage name for Janet Wolfe, whose brief but bizarre acting career including being sawed in half by Orson Wells. Friends and family tell stories about this irrepressible woman who has fearlessly traveled the world in search of love, art and adventure.
Cowboy Poets
by Kim Shelton
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 17, 1989
For more than a hundred years cowboys have written with feeling about the life and land they love. Kim Shelton's Cowboy Poets is a fascinating portrait of several contemporary poet lariats who keep that tradition alive — even on the Johnny Carson show.
Doug And Mike, Mike And Doug
by Cindy Kleine
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 17, 1989
In Doug And Mike, Mike And Doug, Cindy Kleine probes the inner and outer lives of identical twins Doug and Mike Starn, whose collaborative painting and photographic work is rapidly gaining acclaim in the art world.
Larry Wright
by Ari Marcopoulos and Maja Zrnic
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 10, 1990
With a subway platform as his stage and a plastic can as his instrument, 14-year-old Larry Wright is a self-taught drummer with astonishing talent. Larry Wright is a rousing tribute to the Harlem youth and the rich culture of the urban streets.
Golub
by Jerry Blumenthal and Gordon Quinn
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 14, 1990
Golub is more than a portrait of the socially committed painter Leon Golub, whose massive canvases are intended to provoke viewers. It is about media and contemporary society, social responsibility and creativity, art and information.
Going Up
by Gary Pollard
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 21, 1990
In Going Up, the creation of a skyscraper is transformed by director Gary Pollard into a breathtaking visual experience as time-lapse photography, hard hat banter and construction worker choreography are set to a score by 15 new music composers in an urban ballet forty stories above New York harbor.
¡Teatro!
by Ed Burke and Ruth Shapiro
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 4, 1990
Founded by a Jesuit priest from St. Louis, a grassroots theatre company takes its shows on the unpaved roads of Honduras to enlighten and inspire villagers in the impoverished countryside.
Plena Is Work, Plena Is Song
by Pedro Rivera and Susan Zeig
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 25, 1991
"Plena" is in Puerto Rico what the blues are in the U.S.: a musical expression abounding with romance, daily news and personal sagas. As the Puerto Rican community grows on the mainland, the infectious rhythms of Puerto Rico's most original contribution to Caribbean urban music are celebrated with gusto.
Marc and Ann
by Les Blank and Maureen Gosling and Chris Simon
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 25, 1991
Legendary filmmaker Les Blank's toe-tapping film treats us to a portrait of a musical Louisiana couple committed to celebrating and preserving Cajun culture.
Berkeley In the Sixties
by Mark Kitchell
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 23, 1991
From the Free Speech Movement to the anti-war protests to the last stand over People's Park, Berkeley California became synonymous with a generation's quest for social, political, and cultural transformation.
Where The Heart Roams
by George Csicsery
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 30, 1991
Romance novels comprise nearly half the paperback books sold in America. Chiffon-shrouded, jewel-laden, flower-bedecked Barbara Cartland has written hundreds of them. And filmmaker George Csicsery has given his heart to this fascinating subculture where all the women are beautiful, all the men are mysterious and all the endings are happy.
The Big Bang
by James Toback
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 6, 1991
Whether the subject is sex, death, madness or God, The Big Bang never lets up in its weird and wonderful search for the meaning of it all.
Color Adjustment
by Marlon Riggs
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 15, 1992
From Amos 'n' Andy to Nat King Cole, from Roots to The Cosby Show, blacks have played many roles on primetime television. Brilliantly weaving clips from classic TV shows with commentary from TV producers, black actors and scholars, Marlon Riggs blends humor, insight, and thoughtful analysis to explore the evolution of black/white relations as reflected by America's favorite addiction.
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.
Motel
by Christian Blackwood
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 28, 1990
Encore Broadcast: Jul. 20, 1993
Behind the faded signs of three motels in the American Southwest lay entire worlds of passion, loyalty, adventure and fate. Veteran filmmaker Christian Blackwood winds his way into the soul of remarkable people in uniquely American subculture.
Money Man
by Philip Haas
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 3, 1993
J.S.G. Boggs makes money the artistic way. He draws it. Then, to complete the process, he spends it. Is it art or is it counterfeit? Inquiring minds — at the Secret Service — want to know.
Hearts of Darkness
by Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 26, 1994
Francis Ford Coppola nearly lost his fortune — and his sanity — making Apocalypse Now. Martin Sheen nearly lost his life. A celebrated behind-the-scenes look at Coppola's struggle to finish his epic film — from cajoling an irascible Marlon Brando to negotiating shots amid hurricanes and a Filipino rebel war.
Dealers Among Dealers
by Gaylen Ross
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 25, 1995
Filmmaker Gaylen Ross takes us inside the virtually impenetrable world of diamond and precious stone trading.
Carmen Miranda
by Helena Solberg
PBS Premiere Date: Oct. 6, 1995
A bowl of soup and the freedom to sing is all Carmen Miranda wanted in life. Helena Solberg's song-filled movie reveals how Hollywood transformed a talented entertainer into a Latin Lollapalooza.
A Litany For Survival
by Ada Gay Griffin and Michelle Parkerson
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 18, 1996
Poet, lover, mother, warrior — Audre Lorde wrote passionately of love and anger, civil rights and sexuality, family politics and the glories of nature.
Just For The Ride
by Amanda Micheli
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 23, 1996
The world of cowgirls and the rough and tumble of women's rodeo in the 1990s.
Maya Lin
by Freida Lee Mock
PBS Premiere Date: Nov. 27, 1996
The Vietnam War Memorial was one of the most controversial monuments of its time. Thrust in to the eye of the storm was architect-sculptor Maya Lin, whose design for the memorial was chosen when she was a 21-year-old college student. Withstanding bitter attacks, she held her ground with clarity and grace.
Who is Henry Jaglom?
by Alex Rubin and Jeremy Workman
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 8, 1997
Obsessively confusing and abusing the lines between life and art, writer-director Henry Jaglom challenges the boundaries of filmmaking and viewer endurance.
The Band
by David Zeiger
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 16, 1998
When filmmaker David Zeiger decides to film his son Danny's high school band for a year, he gets a crash course in love, life and marching in formation. This poignant portrait celebrates the hormones, havoc and hope of the teen years and ultimately allows Zeiger to deepen his connection with one son, while paying tribute to the loss of another.
Barbie Nation
by Susan Stern
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 14, 1998
"Everybody has a Barbie story...but the stories are really about us," says reporter turned filmmaker Susan Stern as she rips the roof off Barbie's "Dreamhouse" and explores the history and fantasy behind this unlikely cultural icon.
In My Corner
by Ricki Stern
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 22, 1999
Two teenagers seek refuge and respect in a boxing gym in the South Bronx.
Corpus
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.
KPFA On the Air
by Veronica Selver and Sharon Wood
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 19, 2000
This riveting film takes us through KPFA's passionate 50-year history, including its founding by pacifists and poets, through its defiance of Cold War conformity, to the present day challenges that confront this on-going experiment in democratic media.
True-Hearted Vixens
by Mylène Moreno
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 17, 2001
These women want to play professional football. Make that full contact, NFL-style, smash-mouth football.
Boomtown
by Bryan Gunnar Cole
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 2, 2002
In Washington State, there are 26 Indian tribes — all of them trading in fireworks. Boomtown follows the Suquamish tribe during fireworks season mdash; a chaotic five-week sales period — while exploring life, liberty and the politics of Indian sovereignty in America.
The Flute Player
by Jocelyn Glatzer
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 22, 2003
When the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia in 1975, Arn Chorn-Pond was nine years old. He was separated from his family and thrust into the darkness of Cambodia's ghastly Killing Fields for four years. Now, after living in the U.S. for 20 years, Arn returns to Cambodia to save its once outlawed traditional music from extinction.
Sweet Old Song
by Leah Mahan
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 30, 2002
Encore Broadcast: Aug. 12, 2003
Ninety-one year old Howard 'Louie Bluie' Armstrong has two great loves: his music and artist Barbara Ward. Their stories are captured in Mahan's engaging film.
What I Want My Words To Do To You
by Madeleine Gavin and Judith Katz and Gary Sunshine
PBS Premiere Date: Dec. 16, 2003
What I Want My Words To Do To You focuses on a writing group led by playwright and activist Eve Ensler at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. Ensler's classes have given birth to a powerful writing community in which women from strikingly different strata of society, all of whom are serving long sentences, help each other tell their stories.
American Aloha
by Lisette Marie Flanary and Evann Siebens
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 5, 2003
Encore Broadcast: Aug. 10, 2004
Few American icons are as well known for their popular kitsch as the hula dance. From old Hollywood movies to entertainment for tourists, the hip-swaying girls in grass skirts and colorful lei have long masked an ancient cultural tradition.
Speedo
by Jesse Moss
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 24, 2004
Trapped in a failing marriage, demolition-derby driver Ed "Speedo" Jager channels life's frustrations onto the track, hoping to parlay his talents into a "real" racing career.
In The Realms of the Unreal
by Jessica Yu
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 2, 2005
Reclusive janitor by day, visionary artist by night, outsider artist Henry Darger moved through life virtually unnoticed. But after his death, a treasure trove was discovered in his one-room Chicago apartment: a staggering 15,000-page novel and hundreds of illustrations that continue to inspire artists around the world.
Wattstax
by Mel Stuart
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 7, 2004
Encore Broadcast: Aug. 9, 2005
POV brings back the cult favorite Wattstax, the 1973 documentary directed by Mel Stuart. In August 1972, seven years after the Watts riots, the legendary Stax recording label staged a benefit concert in Los Angeles for 90,000 people. As time went by, it became known as the Black Woodstock.
A Thousand Words
by Melba Williams
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 16, 2005
A Vietnam veteran who has suffered a stroke tries to recapture his war experience for his children through photography and moving images.
Tintin and I
by Anders Østergaard
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 11, 2006
Why does the comic strip The Adventures of Tintin, about an intrepid boy reporter, continue to fascinate us decades after its publication? "Tintin and I" highlights the potent social and political underpinnings that give Tintin's world such depth, and delves into the mind of Hergé Tintin's work-obsessed Belgian creator, to reveal the creation and development of Tintin.
The Tailenders
by Adele Horne
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 25, 2006
Global Recordings Network (GRN), founded in Los Angeles in 1939, has produced audio versions of Bible stories in over 5,500 languages. GRN aims to record in every language on earth. They distribute the recordings, along with ultra-low-tech hand-wind players, in isolated regions and among displaced migrant workers. GRN calls their target audience "the tailenders" because they are the last to be reached by worldwide evangelism.
Hardwood
by Hubert Davis
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 16, 2005
Encore Broadcast: Sep. 5, 2006
The Academy Award-nominated Hardwood is a deeply personal filmic journey by director Hubert Davis, the son of former Harlem Globetrotter Mel Davis. Mel, now a coach for young basketball players in Vancouver, fell in love at first sight with Hubert's mother, a white woman, at a time when racism seemed to make their union impossible.
Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars
by Banker White and Zach Niles
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 27, 2007
Traumatized by physical injuries and brutal losses in Sierra Leone's civil war, a group of refugees fight back with the only means they have — music.
The Hobart Shakespeareans
by Mel Stuart
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 6, 2005
Encore Broadcast: Aug. 15, 2006
Encore Broadcast: Aug. 7, 2007
The Hobart Shakespeareans discovers how one teacher's uncommon commitment and resourcefulness have opened up worlds of opportunity for his "disadvantaged" students — and perhaps have demonstrated a way forward for America's beleaguered public education system.
Wrestling With Angels
by Freida Lee Mock
PBS Premiere Date: Dec. 12, 2007
Tony Kushner, whose epochal Angels in Americawon a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award, begins a revival run in New York this week, is one of the country's leading playwrights — and one of its fiercest moral critics.
Ars Magna
by Cory Kelley
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 1, 2008
"Ars Magna," which means "great art" in Latin, is an anagram of the word "anagrams." This Emmy-nominated short enters the obsessive and fascinating world of anagrams.
The Last Conquistador
by John J. Valadez and Cristina Ibarra
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 15, 2008
Renowned sculptor John Houser has a dream: to build the world's tallest bronze equestrian statue for the city of El Paso, Texas.
Belarusian Waltz
by Andrzej Fidyk
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 12, 2008
The story of Alexander Pushkin, whose audacious, comical exploits against totalitarianism find him facing the hostility of the police and the consternation of his family.
Lomax the Songhunter
by Rogier Kappers
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 22, 2006
Encore Broadcast: Sep. 2, 2008
Alan Lomax was "the song hunter," devoting his life to recording the world's folk tunes before they would permanently disappear with the rise of the modern music industry.
Johnny Cash
by Robert Elfstrom
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 5, 2008
Encore Broadcast: Aug. 4, 2009
Fresh on the heels of his Folsom Prison album, Cash revealed the dark intensity and raw talent that made him a country music star and cultural icon.
POV Shorts (2009)
by Various
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 18, 2009
POV presents a one-hour collection of acclaimed documentary shorts by established and emerging filmmakers.
Ella Es el Matador (She Is the Matador)
by Gemma Cubero and Celeste Carrasco
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 1, 2009
Streaming Now (Until Apr. 10, 2016)
Two women matadors in Spain have a passion for bullfighting and are determined to pursue their dreams. What is it like for women to enter into this male-dominated arena?
Jennifer
by Stewart Copeland
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 22, 2009
Filmmaker Stewart Copeland explores his relationship with his late mother and the distance spaces between memory and history.
Behind the Lens
by POV
Digital Premiere Date: Jun. 28, 2010
Over the years, POV has featured on-camera interviews with filmmakers about their artistic choices, the challenges and inspirations for their work, and the technical advances that have changed the filmmaking process. As a result, we've amassed an extensive archive of interviews with some of the most influential documentary filmmakers.
A Different Color Blue
by Melanie Vi Levy
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 29, 2010
Charles Curtis Blackwell, a semi-blind artist, lost most of his eyesight in an accident during his youth, but this adversity has only heightened his artistic gifts.
The Beaches of Agnès
by Agnès Varda
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 29, 2010
In this delightful memoir, the award-winning French filmmaker employs all the magic of cinema to juxtapose the real and the imagined, the past and the present, pain and joy.
The Archive
by Sean Dunne
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 17, 2010
This is the story of a man and his records. Paul Mawhinney has amassed what has become the world's largest record collection.
SALT
by Michael Angus and Murray Fredericks
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 17, 2010
Made in collaboration with documentary filmmaker Michael Angus, SALT is the film extension of Murray Fredericks’ photography at the desolate yet beautiful Lake Eyre.
Biblioburro
by Carlos Rendón Zipagauta
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 19, 2011
Colombian grade-school teacher Luis Soriano brings books, via two hard-working donkeys, to the children of Magdalena Province's poor and violence-ridden interior.
Not So Square
by Courtney Hermann and Jameson Posey and Lindsie Reitz
Digital Premiere Date: Aug. 5, 2011
Think you know about the people who square dance? Think again. Not So Square follows as community of dancers who realize that square dance is a fading art form.
Big Birding Day
by David Wilson
PBS Premiere Date: Aug. 23, 2011
David Wilson offers a glimpse into the world of competitive birdwatching, as three friends attempt to see as many species as possible in 24 hours.
The Learning
by Ramona Diaz
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 20, 2011
Four Filipino women leave their families and schools to teach in the U.S. The women bring idealistic visions of the teacher's craft and of American life.
Patti Smith
by Steven Sebring
PBS Premiere Date: Dec. 30, 2009
Encore Broadcast: Mar. 9, 2012
Shot over 11 years by renowned fashion photographer Steven Sebring, this is an intimate portrait of the legendary rocker, poet and artist Patti Smith.
Guilty Pleasures
by Julie Moggan
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 12, 2012
Five heroes, four continents, one dream of true love. Because real life begins where romance novels end.
Kings of Pastry
by Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 21, 2011
Encore Broadcast: Sep. 13, 2012
Pastry chefs whip up the most gravity-defying concoctions and edge-of-your-seat drama as they deliver their desserts for the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition.
CatCam
by Seth Keal
Digital Premiere Date: Feb. 4, 2013
Mr. Lee is an adopted stray cat that routinely disappears from his South Carolina home. Where does he go? An engineer straps a camera to the cat and inadvertently creates a media sensation.
Grounded By Reality
by Elizabeth Strickler and Phoebe Brown
Digital Premiere Date: Apr. 30, 2013
Streaming Now (Until Apr. 30, 2017)
A glimpse into an artist's everyday struggles and her fierce determination to be seen as a whole and vital person through her art making.
The Jazz Ticket
by Rob King and Noel True
Digital Premiere Date: Feb. 3, 2014
Streaming Now
A high school jazz teacher helps kids in LA's toughest neighborhoods go to college.
Mr. Smith's Peach Seeds
by Stewart Copeland
Digital Premiere Date: Mar. 5, 2014
Streaming Now (Until Mar. 3, 2017)
In 1968 Roger Smith ate a peach during a break from work and carved the pit into a pig.
Irma
by Charles Fairbanks
Digital Premiere Date: Apr. 7, 2014
Streaming Now (Until Apr. 7, 2017)
Irma is an intimate musical portrait of Irma Gonzalez, the former world champion of women's professional wrestling.
Dance for Me
by Katrine Philp
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 21, 2014
At 15, Russian ballroom dancer Egor leaves everyone and everything he knows for a chance to team up with 14-year-old Mie, one of Denmark's most promising young performers. Will his choice be worth the sacrifices he must make?
Tea Time
by Maite Alberdi
PBS Premiere Date: Jul. 27, 2015
A charming and poignant look at how a seemingly mundane routine of tea and pastries has helped five Chilean women commemorate life's joys and cope with infidelity, illness and death. A co-production of ITVS International. A co-presentation with Latino Public Broadcasting.Official Selection of the 2014 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.
When I Walk
by Jason DaSilva
PBS Premiere Date: Jun. 23, 2014
Encore Broadcast: Aug. 10, 2015
Jason DaSilva was 25 and a rising filmmaker when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and inspired to film this forthright — and surprisingly uplifting — look at his new life. He searches for a cure, yet a different miracle comes his way.Official Selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. A co-production of ITVS. A co-presentation with CAAM.
Cutie and the Boxer
by Zachary Heinzerling
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 18, 2015
An Oscar®-nominated reflection on love, sacrifice and the creative spirit, this candid New York tale explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed "boxing" painter Ushio Shinohara and artist Noriko Shinohara.Winner, Directing Award: U.S. Documentary, 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Art and Craft
by Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker
PBS Premiere Date: Sep. 25, 2015
A cat-and-mouse caper told with humor and compassion, Art and Craft uncovers the universal in one man's search for connection and respect. Official Selection of the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Named a Top 5 Documentary by the National Board of Review. Produced in association with American Documentary | POV.
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.