Documentary Series to Focus on Challenges Confronting America and the World Post 9/11
Washington, D.C. — Distinguished journalist and former co-anchor of The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour Robert MacNeil will host the upcoming PBS series “America at a Crossroads,” it was announced today by Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and CEO of WETA, the producing station of the series.
“America at a Crossroads” is a series of documentaries that explores the challenges confronting the world post-9/11, including the war on terrorism; the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan; the experience of American troops; the struggle for balance within the Muslim world; and perspectives on America’s role globally. The series is scheduled to launch on Sunday, April 15 and will run through Friday, April 20, 9 – 11 p.m. (ET).
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) developed the initial concept for “America at a Crossroads” in 2004 with an open call for film projects. More than 400 proposals were submitted from public television stations and independent documentary filmmakers around the world. In 2006, CPB named WETA the producing station charged with overseeing the 18 films in production. In December, WETA will announce which 11 films will comprise the initial 12-hour series, consisting of one two-hour film on Sunday night and two one-hour films each following night. Additional films will air as specials following the premiere.
“‘America at a Crossroads’ will be a major national television event,” said Rockefeller. “The series will focus us as a nation more clearly on the critical issues posed by September 11th, including terrorism, civil liberties, foreign affairs and the impact on our military. ‘Crossroads’ is not about providing answers to every question. It is about providing a platform for diverse filmmakers to share their works on these issues and to create a greater national discussion about the challenges facing our country. As the series host, Robert will provide context for each film and connect the common themes throughout the series. We cannot imagine a better, more thoughtful and articulate host.”
“Americans have often faced times that try men’s souls,” MacNeil said, “but some great challenges of the past seem clear-cut compared to the perplexing choices that face us today. Events since 9/11 are forcing us to consider in a whole new light how to use our military, diplomatic and economic power not only to protect ourselves, but to promote democracy and prosperity, while preserving our values and the world’s good opinion. By devoting this large block of prime time, public television will focus attention on the essential background to these issues — the roots of rising Islamic militancy, America’s reaction to 9/11 and the world’s response to our reaction, and the divisions at home about war, security and personal liberty. I am happy to be part of this project.”
The “America at a Crossroads” initiative includes an extensive public outreach program designed to create a national dialogue. The outreach program encompasses screenings and discussions in more than 20 cities with U.S. military personnel, leading policy experts and Islamic leaders; an in-depth online presence; and educational initiatives. CPB and PBS are also awarding 16 station grants to local PBS affiliates to produce original programming and events that deal with how these issues directly impact their communities.
WETA has assembled a five-person advisory board consisting of experts on U.S. foreign policy, the military and the Islamic world to assist in the development of the project. The board consists of Ambassador Prudence Bushnell, former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Kenya and to Guatemala and Dean of the Leadership and Management School of the Foreign Service Institute; Thomas Donnelly, senior fellow in international security, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Dr. Aminah Beverly McCloud, the director of World Islamic Studies at DePaul University; Omid Safi, co-chair for the Study of Islam at the American Academy of Religion and professor of Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and John Schidlovsky, director of the International Reporting Project at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies
Robert MacNeil was the executive editor and co-anchor of The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour for 20 years until his retirement in October 1995. With his colleague Jim Lehrer, MacNeil remains a partner in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, producer of “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” and specials including “The Story of English,” “Learning in America,” and “By the People.” Since his retirement from daily journalism, MacNeil has devoted most of his time to writing. He is the author of, among other books, the novels The Voyage (1995) and Breaking News (1998), a memoir Looking for My Country, Finding Myself in America (2003), and Do You Speak American? (2005), his companion book to the PBS series about contemporary American English.
The executive producers of “America at a Crossroads” are Jeff Bieber and Dalton Delan. Series producer is Leo Eaton, and Marjolaine Souquet is the associate producer. Funding for the series is provided by CPB.
Promotional materials for “America at a Crossroads” are available on PBS PressRoom ® (pbs.org/pressroom).
WETA is the third-largest producing station in the public television system and the flagship public broadcaster in the nation’s capital. WETA productions and co-productions include “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” “Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal,” “Avoiding Armageddon,” “American Valor,” “Reporting America at War” and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including “The War” coming to PBS in fall 2007. For more information on WETA and its programs, visit the Web site at www.weta.org.