FRONTLINE (PBS) Announces Un(re)solved Podcast, Debuting at Tribeca Festival
Featured in Tribeca’s Juneteenth Programming lineup, the five-part audio series is part of FRONTLINE’s larger Un(re)solved initiative
On Friday, June 11, FRONTLINE will launch the first episode of Un(re)solved, a new, multipart narrative podcast series telling a story of lives cut short and a federal effort to re-examine more cold case murders that date back to the civil rights era.
A part of FRONTLINE’s larger, multi-platform Un(re)solved project, this new podcast series will examine the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act — probing what prompted the FBI to investigate decades old unsolved civil rights era murders, why they and the Department of Justice have made no arrests and brought no new federal prosecutions in the more than 10 years since the act was passed, and how families whose loved ones were killed are still seeking justice.
In tandem with the series’ June 11 premiere, the podcast will make its world premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Festival as a Narrative Nonfiction Official Selection in the Festival’s Competition Program. The podcast — as well as the Un(re)solved AR installation and web interactive — will be included in Tribeca Festival’s Juneteenth Programming.
From award-winning reporter and podcast host James Edwards (16 Shots and South Side Stories), the series explores the government’s efforts to grapple with America’s racist legacy through the Till Act — interweaving Edwards’ personal story, as he reflects on his family’s experience with racist violence.
By reflecting on his family’s history, sharing candid moments with victims’ next of kin and drawing on childhood memories of racist killings that resonate against today’s headlines, Edwards creates a through line between the stories of yesterday and today.
“Before names like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery became names as familiar to me as those of my family or friends — I often thought about the many number of lives, Black like mine, who did not get to see their next life,” says Edwards. “I hope by bringing these stories to light that each person on the Till Act list becomes less invisible and is remembered along with the names that are better known. All of them were someone to somebody, and the fullness of their lives deserves to be remembered.”
Drawing on dozens of firsthand interviews with family members, current and former FBI agents and Justice Department officials, journalists, and selected audio stories from partners at StoryCorps, Edwards explores whether America’s inability to confront its own past has kept it from moving forward — and how for many families with loved ones on the list, justice has remained elusive despite the hope initially provided by the Till Act.
In the series, Edwards speaks with Deborah Watts, a cousin of Emmett Till, who says: “It’s not much of a reality and nor do we think the amount of dollars and the resources that were given to [the Justice Department] have equated to anything that is remotely close to justice or any relief or remedy or support for the families,”
“So for us, with Emmett’s name being assigned and attached to [the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act], it doesn’t sit well with us, because we want to make sure that there is justice and that they are doing what they said they were going to do,” Watt adds.
“We have an obligation to the families and to the victims to see what can be done,” said Alberto Gonzales, former US Attorney General whose office announced the FBI Cold Case Initiative, an internal effort to identify and reinvestigate civil rights era murders, months before the Till Act became law.
Set against the backdrop of present-day protests over policing, justice and systemic racism in the U.S., the result is a podcast series that is both historic and urgent.
Executive produced by award-winning filmmakers Dawn Porter (John Lewis: Good Trouble, Gideon’s Army) and Raney Aronson-Rath (Executive Producer, FRONTLINE), the Un(re)solved project also includes a web interactive experience and augmented-reality installation, directed by Tamara Shogaolu (Creative Director, Ado Ato Pictures) that will tour across the country in schools,; broadcast documentary; companion educational curriculum; and events. In addition to StoryCorps, other collaborators include: 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.
Un(re)solved is supported by PBS; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Abrams Foundation; the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation; 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; the GBH Catalyst Fund; the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation; the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund; the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center; The Barbra Streisand Foundation; and Unity for Humanity.
“In making Un(re)solved, we knew the value in taking creative risks,” says Porter. “I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to work with these brilliant creative artists — including the podcast production team, alongside everyone involved in the larger Un(re)solved initiative. We’re so pleased to tell this story through an audio series in addition to the web interactive, AR installation and eventual documentary film. The multiplatform nature of this project involves the audience in the experience in a meaningful way, and hearing James’ personal story makes this podcast series all the more intimate and impactful.”
“James’ dogged investigative reporting paired with his willingness to share his personal family history allows Un(re)solved to serve as both a powerful example of accountability journalism and intimate, unforgettable storytelling experience,” says Aronson-Rath. “We hope that this podcast series honors the victims of racist violence in America, holds those in power to account and gives a voice to the many families who’ve experienced immeasurable loss.”
The trailer for the Un(re)solved podcast series is available now on pbs.org/frontline, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Episode one of Un(re)solved will be available Friday, June 11, 2021, on Tribeca Festival’s website, pbs.org/frontline or wherever you get your podcasts. Un(re)solved is made at GBH in Boston and is powered by PRX.
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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. Visitpbs.org/frontline and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, andYouTube to learn more. FRONTLINE is produced by GBH in Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Support for Un(re)solved provided by PBS; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Abrams Foundation; the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation; 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; the GBH Catalyst Fund; the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation; the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund; the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center; The Barbra Streisand Foundation and Unity for Humanity. 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.