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PBS Distribution Announces Theatrical Release of Stanley Nelson’s “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”
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Image: Members of the Black Panthers line up at a rally at DeFremery Park in Oakland, Calif. (credit: courtesy of Stephen Shames and Firelight Media)


– Film Premiered to Critical Acclaim at Sundance Film Festival; Theatrical Release Planned for This Fall –

Arlington, VA; February 2, 2015 – Following the recent Sundance Film Festival premiere of Stanley Nelson’s highly anticipated new documentary “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” PBS Distribution has announced it will distribute the film in select theaters in the fall of 2015. The film is also slated for a special broadcast as part of PBS’ independent film series INDEPENDENT LENS in winter of 2016.

Directed and produced by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” explores the history of the Black Panthers, founded in 1966 in Oakland, California. The group and its leadership remain powerful and enduring figures in our popular imagination. This film interweaves voices from varied perspectives who lived this story — police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters, detractors, those who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. Because the participants from all sides were so young in the ’60s and ’70s, they are still around to share firsthand accounts.

“I am gratified that PBS has the courage and foresight to bring this film to audiences across the country, and we are thrilled to call them our partners,” said Mr. Nelson. “The Black Panthers made an indelible imprint on American culture and politics. The story of their rise and fall is essential history for understanding the times we live in, and the complicated political dynamics that are still at play.”

“We are delighted to support the work of one of today’s most important independent filmmakers, Stanley Nelson, with whom we have enjoyed a long and productive relationship,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS. “This film represents the kind of provocative, thoughtful independent filmmaking that has long been at the heart of PBS’ mission, and we are happy to work with PBS Distribution to steward ‘Black Panthers’ through theatrical, broadcast on PBS stations, and on to VOD and home entertainment.”

Amy Letourneau, Vice President, Acquisitions, PBS Distribution, added, “Stanley Nelson’s films reveal iconic moments in American history from the perspective of those who where there, from ‘Freedom Riders’ to ‘Jonestown’ to ‘Wounded Knee.’ Nearly 50 years after the founding of the Black Panther Party, we think this powerful film is extremely timely, and therefore will resonate with a wide audience.”

This announcement follows the successful theatrical release of the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE production “Last Days in Vietnam,” directed and produced by Rory Kennedy. The film was recently nominated for an Academy Award® for Documentary Feature and will air on AMERICAN EXPERIENCE on Tuesday, April 28, from 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide.

About Stanley Nelson
Stanley Nelson is a multiple Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, MacArthur “genius” Fellow and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama in August 2014.

Nelson is the director of 12 documentary features, including “Freedom Summer,” “Freedom Riders,” “Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple” and “The Murder of Emmett Till.” He is also co-founder of Firelight Media, which, with the support of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, provides technical support to diverse emerging documentary producers. Having premiered eight films at the Sundance Film Festival and with multiple industry awards to his credit, Nelson is acknowledged as one of the premiere filmmakers working today. He is currently in production on “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” which will air on PBS. He holds a BFA from City College of New York and an honorary doctorate from Haverford College.

About Independent Lens
INDEPENDENT LENS is an Emmy® Award-winning weekly series airing on PBS Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET. The acclaimed series features documentaries united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement and unflinching visions of independent filmmakers. Presented by Independent Television Service, the series is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding from PBS and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. For more, visit

About PBS
PBS, with its over 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. Each month, PBS reaches nearly 109 million people through television and over 28 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. PBS’ premier children’s TV programming and its website,, are parents’ and teachers’ most trusted partners in inspiring and nurturing curiosity and love of learning in children. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org websites on the Internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at or by following PBS PressRoom on Twitter.

About PBS Distribution
PBS Distribution is the leading media distributor for the public television community, both domestically and internationally, extending the reach of programs beyond broadcast while generating revenue for the public television system and production partners.

PBS Distribution offers its customers a diverse range of programming, including Ken Burns’s films, documentaries from award-winning series such as NOVA, FRONTLINE, AMERICAN MASTERS, NATURE and AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, and dramas from MASTERPIECE, as well as films from independent producers and popular children’s programs. As a multi-channel distributor, PBS Distribution offers consumers high-quality content in multiple formats including DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and digital streaming. PBS Distribution is also a leading source for factual content for international broadcast, cable and satellite services.

– PBS –

Jennifer Rankin Byrne, PBS, Tel: 703-739-5487;
Jill Goldstein, PBS Distribution, Tel: 646-449-9614;
Tracy Nguyen-Chung, After Bruce PR, Tel: 503-701-2115;

For images and additional up-to-date information on this and other PBS programs, visit PBS PressRoom at