FRONTLINE Announces Un(re)solved, an Unprecedented Multi-Platform Investigation of Civil Rights Era Cold Case Murders
World Premiering at the Tribeca Festival, Un(re)solved Will Ultimately Include a Web Interactive, Podcast Mini-Series, Touring Augmented-Reality Installation, Broadcast Documentary, Educational Curriculum, and Events
FRONTLINE, the acclaimed PBS investigative series based at public media producer GBH, today announced Un(re)solved, a major initiative telling a story of lives cut short and examining a federal effort to investigate more than 150 cold case murders that date back to the civil rights era.
Drawing on more than two years of reporting, thousands of documents, and dozens of first-hand interviews with family members, current and former FBI agents and Justice Department officials, and journalists, the multi-platform Un(re)solved project investigates the federal government’s effort to grapple with America’s legacy of racist killings, mainly against African Americans, through the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act — and will make available for the first time a comprehensive interactive database of information about all 151 people on the Till list.
Publishing in phases beginning in June of 2021, Un(re)solved tells the stories of those on the Till Act list — voting rights advocates, veterans, Louisville’s first female prosecutor, business owners, mothers, fathers and children — who they left behind, and the families still seeking justice today.
At the start of the federal effort, “There was definitely a lot of hope. You know, we’re thinking the feds get involved, Department of Justice involved. They have the resources to make something happen,” says Deborah Watts, a cousin of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black boy whose brutal murder by white men has gone unpunished for 65 years and for whom the Till Act is named.
But in the more than 10 years since the Till Act was passed, the FBI and Justice Department have made no new arrests and brought no new federal prosecutions.
“Civil rights continues to be the unfinished business of America,” Tom Perez, former assistant attorney general for civil rights, told FRONTLINE. “And that’s why I think these efforts, while they don’t yield the tangible results that we all would love to see, I think the journey is indispensably important.”
Executive produced by award-winning filmmakers Dawn Porter (John Lewis: Good Trouble, Gideon’s Army) and Raney Aronson-Rath (Executive Producer, FRONTLINE), Un(re)solved will include a web interactive experience; podcast mini-series; augmented-reality installation that can tour schools, libraries and museums; broadcast documentary; companion educational curriculum; and events.
Every aspect of the project — including the web interactive and AR installation, which will prompt users to say the names of the people on the list in order to explore their stories — is geared toward centering the stories and voices of those for whom justice has long been denied.
“FRONTLINE is the gold standard in investigative reporting and it’s truly an honor to work with the stellar team they have assembled,” says Porter. “The creative process involved in bringing this project to life has been awe inspiring. Each member of the team is focused on the people killed in this terrible manner. By focusing on their lives as well as their traumatic deaths, our hope is to remind our audience that the people on that list are so much more than a collection of names.”
“We are proud to use the multiplatform, investigative journalism in Un(re)solved as a way to shine a light on these individuals and their families and their quests for justice, and to contribute to the national conversation surrounding the reckoning on racism in America,” says Raney Aronson-Rath. “At FRONTLINE, our goal was to make Un(re)solved as accessible as possible, with the hopes of offering an immersive experience that both emphasizes the gravity of these murders and honors the victims’ lives.”
“We are honored to tell these stories with our partners at Ado Ato Pictures, StoryCorps, Black Public Media, Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project and Retro Report, and are grateful for editorial guidance on this project from some of today’s most prolific thought leaders, experts and historians studying racism in America,” Aronson-Rath adds. “We’re thankful for the generous support of WNET’s Chasing the Dream initiative, as well as to GBH, PBS and CPB for championing this work.”
To lead the creative vision for the web interactive and AR installation, which will have their world premieres at the Tribeca Festival on June 9th, FRONTLINE partnered with Ado Ato Pictures, a premier mixed reality studio founded by artist, filmmaker, and technologist Tamara Shogaolu. During its debut at Tribeca, the interactive will be included in the festival’s Best Creative Non-Fiction competition. After the world premiere, a national tour of the AR installation will begin with initial exhibitions at the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, the DuSable Museum of African American History, and the Rosa Parks Museum. Public engagement and community programming will take place in collaboration with a range of institutions including the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Brown University’s Center for Slavery and Justice, and HBCUs such as Tougaloo College, Southern University’s Louis A. Berry Institute for Civil Rights and Justice, and more.
Hosting the podcast, which will also world-premiere at Tribeca as a Narrative Nonfiction Official Selection in the Competition Program, is reporter James Edwards, who produced the acclaimed podcasts 16 Shots and South Side Stories. Filmmakers and journalists Yoruba Richen (The Killing of Breonna Taylor, The Sit In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show) and Brad Lichtenstein (When Claude Got Shot, As Goes Janesville) are directing a documentary that will air in late fall of 2021 and is being produced with 371 Productions in collaboration with Retro Report, a media outlet that uses investigative journalism and narrative storytelling to provide historical context for today’s fast-paced news. FRONTLINE will release more details about the documentary closer to its PBS broadcast debut.
Other collaborators include StoryCorps, whose mission is to record, preserve, and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs; Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, founded by Distinguished Professor of Law Margaret Burnham; and Black Public Media, which develops, produces, funds, and distributes media content about the African American and global Black experience.
A distinguished advisory council that includes Margaret Burnham, Jelani Cobb, Rhea Combs, Leslie Fields-Cruz, Jerry Mitchell, Stanley Nelson, Ron Nixon and Lisa Osborne has helped guide the development of the project.
Sign up on FRONTLINE’s website to receive email updates as new phases of Un(re)solved launch.
FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 95 Emmy Awards and 24 Peabody Awards. Visit pbs.org/frontline and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to learn more. FRONTLINE is produced at GBH in Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the Ford Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Park Foundation; and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation. Support for Un(re)solved is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; The WNET Group’s Chasing the Dream, a public media initiative that examines poverty, justice, and economic opportunity in America, with major funding by The JPB Foundation and additional funding from The Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney Fund; PBS; the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund; and The Barbra Streisand Foundation.
About Ado Ato
Ado Ato Pictures is an international award-winning Los Angeles and Amsterdam-based film studio, specializing in immersive media storytelling led by award-winning director, Tamara Shogaolu. Driven by the vision to produce unexpected content that breaks boundaries, Ado Ato Pictures develops and produces film, TV, interactive, experiential, and immersive media as seen in theatres, in-home entertainment, installations, and activations across the globe.
Ado Ato Pictures garnered international success with their three-part transmedia series, Queer in a Time of Forced Migration, through which the studio successfully released HALF A LIFE (2017), ANOTHER DREAM (2019), and THEY CALL ME ASYLUM SEEKER (2020). Ado Ato Pictures’ award-winning work has been commissioned by festivals such as the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) and Open City Documentary Film Festival. In addition, Ado Ato Pictures has showcased their work at Annecy, Sheffield DocFest, the Tribeca Film Festival,The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Amsterdam Museum, and other art spaces in the U.S. and internationally.
The team approaches content creation with a pioneering spirit, always pushing to compose the most diverse and engaging experiences for audiences who crave fresh, boundary-breaking, and meaningful storytelling. Ado Ato Pictures’ multimedia work aims to explore issues that are socially and globally relevant, especially those that are often denied attention by conventional entertainment platforms. The studio collaborates with international production partners to produce and distribute content such as Netflix, Sundance Institute, the Stimuleringsfonds/Dutch Creative Industries, the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF), the Arab American Museum, Harvard Law School, and Yale University.
Globally known for their innovation and practice, VOGUE, Forbes, The Guardian, and various outlets have cited Ado Ato Pictures as leaders in immersive media. Ado Ato Pictures is currently partnering with FRONTLINE, U.S television’s longest running investigative documentary series, broadcasted by PBS for the worldwide premiere of UN(RE)SOLVED at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2021, with a national tour to follow. UN(RE)SOLVED is a multi-platform project that investigates the federal government’s effort to grapple with America’s legacy of racist killings, mainly against African Americans. Ado Ato Pictures led the vision and production of the AR installation and creatively directed the web interactive. For more information, please visit: www.adoatopictures.com
Founded in 2003 by Dave Isay, StoryCorps has given over 600,000 people across the United States of all backgrounds and beliefs the chance to record interviews about their lives. The organization preserves the recordings in its archive at the Library of Congress, the largest single collection of human voices ever gathered, and shares select stories with the public through StoryCorps’ weekly podcast, NPR broadcasts, animated shorts, digital platforms, and best-selling books. These powerful human stories reflect the vast range of American experiences, wisdom, and values; engender empathy and connection; and remind us how much more we have in common than what divides us. Learn more at storycorps.org.
GBH is the leading multiplatform creator for public media in America. As the largest producer of content for PBS and partner to NPR and PRX, GBH delivers compelling experiences, stories and information to audiences wherever they are. GBH produces digital and broadcast programming that engages, illuminates and inspires, through drama and science, history, arts, culture and journalism. It is the creator of such signature programs as MASTERPIECE, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, FRONTLINE, NOVA, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, ARTHUR, PINKALICIOUS and MOLLY OF DENALI and a catalog of streaming series, podcasts and on-demand video. GBH’s television channels include GBH 2, GBH 44, GBH Kids and national services WORLD and Create. With studios and a newsroom headquartered in Boston, GBH reaches across New England with GBH 89.7, Boston’s Local NPR; CRB Classical 99.5; and CAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station. Dedicated to making media accessible to and inclusive of our diverse culture, GBH is a pioneer in delivering media to those who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired. GBH creates curriculum-based digital content for educators nationwide with PBS LearningMedia and has been recognized with hundreds of the nation’s premier broadcast, digital and journalism awards. Find more information at gbh.org
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