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2022 Winter-Spring Season

Documentaries explore the breadth of the American Experience through diverse perspectives and intriguing stories.

(Boston, MA) — American Experience returns on Monday, February 7, 2022, with four new documentaries that explore American history through fresh and diverse perspectives, with subjects ranging from a 1900 San Francisco bubonic plague outbreak to the fascinating history of jeans, from the Los Angeles water wars to a look at pioneering African American diplomats.

“This unique moment in our nation’s history presents an opportunity to think about the stories we tell and the filmmakers we work with to tell them,” said executive producer Cameo George. “American Experience is expanding our pool of storytellers and three of our Winter-Spring titles are directed by filmmakers who are new to the series. We’re excited to present this upcoming slate and to continue to innovate and expand our focus in seasons to come.”

The 2022 Winter-Spring season opens on Monday, February 7, with Riveted: The History of Jeans, a fun and surprising look at the quintessential American garment produced by Michael Bicks and Anna Lee Strachan. Tuesday, February 15, marks the premiere of The American Diplomat by Leola Calzolai-Stewart, making her directorial debut. The film spotlights three pioneering Black diplomats assigned to advocate for American ideals abroad while contending with racism at home.

Premiering in April is Flood in the Desert, a timely look at California’s endless struggle to provide water to its sprawling cities from filmmaker Rob Rapley, followed by Plague at the Golden Gate on May 24, which marks the solo directorial debut of acclaimed film editor Li-Shin Yu. The film takes us back to turn-of-the 20th-century San Francisco, when a deadly outbreak of bubonic plague in the city’s Chinatown and the hunt to identify its source led to an all-too-familiar spate of violent anti-Asian sentiment.

American Experience will continue its series of monthly online events, Past Forward, in 2022. These events feature discussions with historians, authors and journalists and explore a different film each month through the lens of the present.

Below is more information on the 2022 Winter-Spring schedule. Additional fall titles will be announced at a later date.  American Experience films will stream simultaneously with broadcast and are available on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS Video app, available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. All titles will also be available with closed captioning in English and Spanish.

Riveted: The History of Jeans – Monday, February 7, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
Directed by Michael Bicks and Anna Lee Strachan, Riveted: The History of Jeans reveals the fascinating and surprising story of this iconic American garment. At any given moment, half the people on the planet are wearing them. They have become a staple of clothing the world over, worn by everyone from presidents and supermodels to farmers and artists. More than just an item of apparel, America’s tangled past is woven into the indigo blue fabric. From their roots in slavery to the Wild West, youth culture, the civil rights movement, rock and roll, hippies, high fashion and hip-hop, jeans are the canvas on which the history of American ideology and politics are writ large. 

The American Diplomat – Tuesday, February 15, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
At the height of the Cold War, the U.S. State Department — known as “pale, male and Yale”— remained one of the last agencies to desegregate completely. The American Diplomat tells the story of the fight for inclusion in American diplomacy through the lives of three African American ambassadors: Edward R. Dudley, Terence Todman and Carl Rowan. Tasked with representing the best of American ideals abroad while facing discrimination at home, each would push past racial barriers to high-ranking appointments and create a lasting impact on the content and character of the Foreign Service. Directed by Leola Calzolai-Stewart, The American Diplomat paints a complex portrait of three individuals who built lives of opportunity and influence while advocating for a nation that did not always advocate for them. 

Flood in the Desert – Tuesday, May 3, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
Directed by Rob Rapley, Flood in the Desert tells the dramatic story of the March 1928 collapse of the St. Francis Dam and its aftermath, the second deadliest disaster in California history. The resulting flood killed over 400 people, destroyed millions of dollars of property, and washed away the reputation of one of the most celebrated men in Southern California, William Mulholland. A self-taught engineer, Mulholland had ensured Los Angeles’ remarkable growth by building a cement aqueduct that piped water from the Owens Valley across the Mojave Desert and into the arid city, 233 miles away. But the bursting of his St. Francis Dam, the city’s largest single reservoir, was a colossal engineering and human failure. 

Plague at the Golden Gate – Tuesday, May 24, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Over 100 years before the deadly COVID-19 pandemic set off a nationwide wave of fear and anti-Asian sentiment, an outbreak of bubonic plague in San Francisco’s Chinatown unleashed a similar crisis. The death of a Chinese immigrant in 1900 would have likely gone unnoticed if a sharp-eyed medical officer hadn’t discovered a swollen black lymph node on his body — evidence of one of the world’s most feared diseases, bubonic plague. When others started dying, health officials and business leaders were torn about how to stave off an epidemic without causing panic and derailing the city’s booming economy. A fascinating medical mystery and timely examination of the tense relationship between the medical community, city powerbrokers and San Francisco’s Chinese-American community, Plague at the Golden Gate tells the gripping story of the desperate race against time to save San Francisco and the nation from the deadly plague. Based on David K. Randall’s Black Death at the Golden Gate, the film is directed by Li-Shin Yu (The Chinese Exclusion Act) and features interviews with a fascinating range of medical experts, authors and Asian-American historians.

About American Experience Executive Producer, Cameo George 
Cameo George is an Emmy Award-winning producer, writer and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in documentary, broadcast television, and digital content production. George has produced, developed and commissioned innovative programming at CNN, NBC News, ABC News and more. She was the senior producer of CNN’s groundbreaking series Black in America and Latino in America and the executive producer of the eight-hour PBS documentary series 16 for '16: The Contenders, which was also broadcast on the BBC. George joined American Experience from ABC News, where she was Head of Development for Longform projects, responsible for creating a pipeline of docuseries and feature documentary films across Walt Disney Television platforms including ABC News, Hulu, National Geographic, and Disney+.

About American Experience 
For more than 30 years, American Experience has been television’s most-watched history series, bringing to life the incredible characters and epic stories that have shaped America’s past and present. American Experience documentaries have been honored with every major broadcast award, including 30 Emmy Awards, five duPont-Columbia Awards and 19 George Foster Peabody Awards. PBS’s signature history series also creates original digital content that innovates new forms of storytelling to connect our collective past with the present. Cameo George is the series executive producer. American Experience is produced for PBS by GBH Boston. Visit and follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram  and YouTube to learn more. 

Major funding for American Experience provided by Liberty Mutual Insurance and by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Additional funding provided by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, the Documentary Investment Group, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers. 

Press Contacts:
CaraMar Publicity
Mary Lugo 770-851-8190
Cara White 843-881-1480
Abbe Harris 908-244-5516

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