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POV Season 22: New Stories of People Remaking Themselves In the Face of Social Obstacles, Unexpected Tragedy

   

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Islam meets hip-hop on America's streets. Crime victims who refuse to hate. A celebrated doctor working in backward conditions. Public school principals undaunted by the poverty of their districts. Women who would be bullfighters. A determined jurist who roams the world fighting for prosecution of crimes against humanity. Patti Smith's own intimate "dream of life," as only she can tell it. These stories of human ingenuity in the face of social turmoil and personal tragedy are some of the highlights of the 22nd season of public television's POV series.

POV kicks off Tuesday, June 23, 2009, at 10 p.m. (check local listings) on PBS with New Muslim Cool, a surprising story of the new American diversity, and continues on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. through Sept. 22. In the fall and winter, POV returns with two riveting specials: The Way We Get By, a story of older people reinventing their lives through tribute to U.S. troops, which airs in November for Veterans Day, and Patti Smith: Dream of Life in January 2010. (Dates and times to be announced.)

Since its debut in 1988, POV has earned renown — and a Special News & Documentary Emmy — for showing films that explore the important issues and emotions of the day in dramatic, "point-of-view" forms. POV is American television's longest-running independent documentary series and has featured the work of documentary superstars and emerging artists alike — over 275 independent, nonfiction films, which collectively have won every coveted industry award, including 19 Emmy Awards, 11 Peabody Awards, eight Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Broadcast Journalism Awards, four Independent Spirit Awards, three Academy Awards®, 36 Cine Golden Eagles and the Prix Italia.

"In these difficult times, we have a renewed sense of mission in bringing to American audiences real-life stories that reveal not only our problems, but the creative responses of so many ordinary and extraordinary people who simply refuse to give up," says POV Executive Director Simon Kilmurry.

Jennifer Maytorena Taylor's New Muslim Cool on June 23 discovers Islam with a dramatic American twist. Puerto Rican-American rapper Hamza Perez pulled himself out of drug dealing and street life 12 years ago and became a Muslim. Now he's moved to Pittsburgh's tough North Side to start a new religious community, rebuild his shattered family and take his message of faith to other young people through hard-hitting hip-hop music. But when the FBI raids his mosque, Hamza must confront the realities of the post-9/11 world, and himself. New Muslim Cool takes viewers on Hamza's ride through streets, slums and jail cells, following his spiritual journey to some surprising places in an America that never stops changing. Produced in association with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) and the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). Watch trailer »

POV continues on June 30 with Olivier Meyrou's powerful Beyond Hatred. In September 2002, three skinheads were roaming a park in Rheims, France, looking to "do an Arab," when they settled for a gay man instead. Twenty-nine-year-old Francois Chenu fought back fiercely, but he was beaten unconscious and thrown into a river, where he drowned. The acclaimed French verité film Beyond Hatred tells the story of the crime's aftermath and above all, of the Chenu family's brave and heartrending struggle to seek justice while trying to make sense of such pointless violence and unbearable loss. With remarkable dignity, the family fights to transcend hatred and the inevitable desire for revenge.

Life. Support. Music., on July 7, tells a story of youth and talent stricken in mid-flight. In 2004, Jason Crigler's life was taking off. He was one of New York's hottest young guitarists, his new CD was due for release and his wife, Monica, was pregnant with their first child. Then, at a gig in Manhattan, Jason suffered a near-fatal brain hemorrhage. His doctors doubted he would ever emerge from his near-vegetative state. The astonishing journey that followed, documented by friend and filmmaker Eric Daniel Metzgar (The Chances of the World Changing, POV 2007), is a stirring family saga and a portrait of creative struggle in the face of overwhelming tragedy.

Over 120 countries have united to form the International Criminal Court (ICC) — the first permanent court created to prosecute perpetrators, no matter how powerful, of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. Pamela Yates' The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court on July 14 follows dynamic ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo and his team for three years across four continents as he issues arrest warrants for Lord's Resistance Army leaders in Uganda, puts Congolese warlords on trial, shakes up the Colombian justice system, and charges Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir with genocide in Darfur. Like a deft thriller, The Reckoning keeps you on the edge of your seat. Will the Prosecutor succeed? Will the world ensure that justice prevails? An Official Selection of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Filmed over 23 years, The Betrayal (July 21) is the Academy Award®-nominated directorial debut of renowned cinematographer Ellen Kuras in a unique collaboration with the film's subject and co-director, Thavisouk ("Thavi") Phrasavath. After the U.S. government waged a secret war in Laos during the Vietnam War, Thavi's father and thousands of other Laotians who had fought alongside American forces were abandoned and left to face imprisonment or execution. Hoping to find safety, Thavi's family made a harrowing escape to America, where they discovered a different kind of war. Weaving ancient prophecy with personal testimony and stunning imagery, The Betrayal is a story of survival and the resilient bonds of family. A Diverse Voices Project co-production with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB); funded in part by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). An Official Selection of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Watch trailer »

Variety described Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go, premiering on July 28, as a film "mixing ferocity with tenderness, delicacy with tenacity" — exactly like the unusual school it explores. One of Britain's leading documentary filmmakers takes a verite look at Oxford's Mulberry Bush School for emotionally disturbed children. Mulberry's heroically forbearing staff greets extreme, sometimes violent behavior with only consolation and gentle restraint. Kim Longinotto's unblinking camera captures an arduous process and a nearly unhinged environment, but it also records the daily dramas of troubled kids trying to survive and the moments of hope they achieve with Mulberry's clear-eyed staff.

During PBS' summer pledge period, POV airs encore presentations of two popular programs. In the classic 1969 documentary Johnny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music, airing on Aug. 4, the Man in Black is captured at a peak moment, the first of many in a looming roller-coaster career. Fresh on the heels of his At Folsom Prison album, Cash reveals the dark intensity and raw talent that made him a country music star and cultural icon. Director Robert Elfstrom got closer than any other filmmaker to the artist, who is seen performing with his then-new bride June Carter Cash, in a rare duet with Bob Dylan and behind the scenes with friends, family and aspiring young musicians. Watch trailer »

On Aug. 11, POV presents an encore of Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar's Emmy Award-winning Made in L.A., which follows the remarkable journey of three Latina immigrants working in Los Angeles garment factories and their struggle for self-empowerment as they wage a three-year battle to bring a major clothing retailer to the negotiating table. Compelling, humorous and deeply human, Made in L.A. is a story about immigration, the power of unity and the courage it takes to find one's voice. A co-production of ITVS. A Diverse Voices Project co-production with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). A co-presentation with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB). Watch trailer »

On Aug. 18, POV presents a one-hour collection of acclaimed documentary shorts by established and emerging filmmakers:

  • Utopia, Part 3: the World's Largest Shopping Mall by Sam Green and Carrie Lozano. If you thought Minnesota's Mall of America was the world's biggest shopping center, think again. It's South China Mall, a Vegas-like spectacle built in 2005 that now sits almost entirely empty. In the current economic climate, could this be the shape of things to come?
  • Nutkin's Last Stand by Nicholas Berger. Something is rotten in England. A plague of North American grey squirrels threatens the beloved native red squirrel. The English are up in arms and a band of patriots — including lords, priests, artists and farmers — has come together to fight back against the grey menace.
  • 34x25x36. Jesse Epstein's latest installment in a trilogy about body image shows the inner workings of the Patina V Mannequin Factory outside Los Angeles and the musings of the people who decide what the perfect female body should look like.
  • City of Cranes by Eva Weber. Take a journey high up in the sky and look at the world through the eyes and words of crane operators. A must-see for anybody who has ever wondered what it's like to work hundreds of feet above the ground, surrounded only by a small metal cage.

POV returns with regularly scheduled feature-length films on Aug. 25 with Georgi Lazarevski's This Way Up. This is a story about a wall — the separations it's meant to enforce, and the unintended ones it gives birth to. The security wall being constructed by Israel on the West Bank has divided Palestinian families and communities. It has also isolated the Catholic-run Our Lady of Sorrows nursing home outside of Jerusalem, leaving its feisty residents to face old age in the throes of one of the world's most bitter conflicts. With beautiful imagery, moments of laughter and use of a quietly eccentric older guide, This Way Up examines the social, economic and religious barriers that arise from physical ones.

Germaine Cubero and Celeste Carrasco's Ella Es el Matador (She Is the Matador) follows on Sept. 1. For Spaniards — and for the world — nothing has expressed their country's traditionally rigid gender roles more powerfully than the image of the male matador. So sacred was the bullfighter's masculinity to Spanish identity that a 1908 law barred women from the sport. Ella Es el Matador reveals the surprising history of the women who made such a law necessary and offers fascinating profiles of two female matadors currently in the arena: the acclaimed Mari Paz Vega and neophyte Eva Florencia. These women are gender pioneers by necessity. But what emerges as their truest motivation is their sheer passion — for bullfighting and the pursuit of a dream. A co-presentation with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB).

On Sept. 8, POV presents The English Surgeon by Geoffrey Smith. What is it like to have power over life and death, and yet to struggle with your own humanity? This is the story of acclaimed British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, who has traveled to Ukraine for 15 years to treat patients who have been left to die; of his friend and medical colleague in Kyiv who carries on the fight despite official hostility and archaic surgical conditions; and of a young patient who hopes that Henry can save his life. Tense, heartbreaking and humorous, The English Surgeon is a remarkable depiction of one doctor's commitment to relieving suffering and of the emotional turmoil he undergoes in bringing hope to a desperate people. A BBC/ITVS International Production in association with American Documentary/POV

The Principal Story, on Sept. 15, tells two stories, painting a dramatic portrait of the challenges facing America's public schools — and of the great difference a dedicated principal can make. Tresa Dunbar is a second-year principal at Chicago's Nash Elementary, where 98% of students come from low-income families; in Springfield, Illinois, Kerry Purcell has led Harvard Park Elementary, with similar demographics, for six years. Tod Lending (Omar & Pete, POV 2005) and David Mrazek followed both women over the course of a school year, discovering each one's unique style, yet similar passions. The Principal Story takes the viewer along for an emotional ride that reveals what effective leadership in tough public schools looks like in the 21st century.

Yoni Brook and Musa Syeed's Bronx Princess, on Sept. 22, tells a tale for the Obama era. Rocky Otoo is the Bronx-bred teenage daughter of Ghanaian parents, and she's no pushover. She is a sassy high-achiever bound for college. With freedom in sight, Rocky rebels against her Ghanaian mother's rules. When their relationship reaches a breaking point, Rocky flees to her father, a chief in Ghana. What follows is a tumultuous coming-of-age story set in a homeland both familiar and strange. Rocky's precocious — and very American — ideas of a successful, independent life conflict with her father's traditional African values. Reconciling her dual legacies becomes an unexpected chapter in this unforgettable young woman's education. A co-production of ITVS.

POV's fall and winter specials examine two very different corners of American life. In November (date to be announced), in honor of Veterans Day, POV presents Aron Gaudet's The Way We Get By. On call 24 hours a day for the past five years, a group of senior citizens has made history by greeting nearly 800,000 American troops at a tiny airport in Bangor, Maine. The Way We Get By is an intimate look at three of these greeters as they confront the universal losses that come with aging and rediscover their reason for living. Bill Knight, Jerry Mundy and Joan Gaudet find the strength to overcome their personal battles and transform their lives through service. This inspirational and surprising story shatters stereotypes of today's senior citizens as the greeters redefine the meaning of community. A co-production of Dungby Productions and ITVS in association with WGBH and Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

In January 2010 (date to be announced), POV concludes its 22nd season with Patti Smith: Dream of Life. Shot over 11 years by renowned fashion photographer Steven Sebring, this is an intimate portrait of the legendary rocker, poet and artist. Following Smith's personal reflections over a decade, the film explores her many art forms and the friends and poets who have inspired her — William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Robert Mapplethorpe and Michael Stipe. She emerges as a crucial, contemporary link between the Beats, punks and today's music. Shot in lush, dark tones, featuring rare performance clips and narrated by the artist herself, Patti Smith: Dream of Life is an impressionistic journal of a multi-faceted artist that underscores her unique place in American culture. Winner of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival Excellence in Cinematography Award: Documentary. A production of Clean Socks and THIRTEEN. Produced by Steven Sebring, Margaret Smilow and Scott Vogel.

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