The creative, fighting spirit is alive and well in 2018. The newest slate of documentary films from PBS television series POV arrives this June with a lineup of empowering and moving stories about the strength of art and activism. From scientists setting out to save the planet to hip-hop artists carrying out the quiet duty of fatherhood, humanity’s resilience amidst turmoil and tumult has never been more evident.
The 31st season of POV begins Monday, June 18, 2018 at 10 p.m. (check local listings) on PBS television and pov.org. The season will continue with broadcast premieres airing into October. A number of special spring 2019 pop-outs will be announced later in the season. This year, a special pop-out episode of Bill Nye: Science Guy premieres on April 18, spotlighting beloved children’s personality Bill Nye in celebration of Earth Day. All films will stream concurrently with broadcast on pov.org and on streaming devices.
American television’s longest-running independent documentary series, POV is the premiere showcase for independent nonfiction films accessible to the widest American audience, free on broadcast and online. In 2017, POV documentaries earned 12 News & Documentary Emmy Award nominations, a Peabody Award and an Academy Award nomination.
The stories featured highlight the creative and the daring, revealing how people channel their energy through their craft and conviction when facing adversity.
The season premieres with QUEST, a vérité portrait that premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and captures eight years in the life of a black family living in North Philadelphia. The film follows Christopher “Quest” Rainey and his wife, Christine’a “Ma Quest,” as they raise a family while nurturing a community of hip-hop artists in their basement home music studio. It is a moving study of the ordinary and the extraordinary in a place where music acts as both refuge and release. The film’s director, Jonathan Olshefski, won the Jeep Truer Than Fiction Award at the Independent Spirit Awards this year.
Art’s meditative quality is explored throughout the season and across the world. In a small town outside Mexico City, art is freedom in Brimstone & Glory. Capturing the weeklong National Pyrotechnic Festival, the film is a visual symphony exploring the town’s rich crafts tradition, as well as the precarious existence of the people producing these explosives every day.
For Yu Xiuhua, a 39-year-old woman in rural China, creative fulfillment comes through poetry. Poetry also brings unexpected success and fame to a life marked by hardship, including a loveless marriage and cerebral palsy, in Still Tomorrow.
The season also features a group of fighters seeking to upset the status quo and combat injustice. For the childhood television personality Bill Nye, his sights are set on a group of people flouting scientific consensus on theories ranging from evolution to climate change. Convinced their skepticism threatens the future of humanity, Bill Nye lays out a new manifesto in Bill Nye: Science Guy, where science is prized and loved again.
No status quo is seemingly as stubborn as gender, yet some women have not hesitated to take on this age-old inequality. In 93Queen, a group of Hasidic women set out to start an all-female EMS corps for their community, upsetting some of the men in their Brooklyn neighborhood. Across the world, in a Taliban-controlled region in Pakistan, one young woman puts her life on the line by playing squash, forbidden by the extremist group. As she dresses as a boy to hide her whereabouts and her play, The War to Be Her examines and defies the strict gender roles constricting many women like her.
Others take the fight to the shadows, where a secretive network of anonymous campaign donors are tilting elections across the country. Following an investigative reporter in Montana—once at the forefront of open campaign finance laws—Dark Money reveals how the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case has reopened the floodgates on an unlimited flow of money into political races big and small.
“In tough times, we seek stories that lift us,” said Justine Nagan, executive producer/executive director of POV/American Documentary. “With empowering visions of humanity’s promise, the films coming to POV this year showcase the fighters among us. They are people we grew up with on public television, our neighbors and those we may never meet from across the globe working to change their reality and our society. This is the power of nonfiction storytelling on public media—it stretches our expectations of what is possible and makes these stirring narratives available to all.”
POV 2018 Schedule – Season 31
(All programs air at 10 p.m. Check local listings)
Bill Nye: Science Guy
April 18, 2018
by David Alvarado, Jason Sussberg
Bill Nye is a man on a mission: to stop the spread of anti-scientific thinking across the world. The former star of the popular kids’ show “Bill Nye the Science Guy” is now advocating for the importance of science, research and discovery in public life. With intimate and exclusive access—as well as plenty of wonder and whimsy—this behind-the-scenes portrait of Nye follows him as he takes off his Science Guy lab coat and takes on those who deny climate change, evolution and a science-based worldview. The film features Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ann Druyan and many others. The film is a PBS Distribution release.
June 18, 2018
by Jonathan Olshefski
Filmed with vérité intimacy for nearly a decade, QUEST is the moving portrait of a family from North Philadelphia. Beginning during the Obama presidency, Christopher “Quest” Rainey and his wife, Christine’a “Ma Quest,” raise a family while nurturing a community of hip-hop artists in their basement home music studio. Epic in scope, QUEST is a vivid illumination of race and class in America and a testament to love, healing and hope. Official Selection, 2017 Sundance Film Festival. A co-production of ITVS and American Documentary | POV.
Singing with Angry Bird
June 25, 2018
by Hyewon Jee
Jae-Chang Kim runs a children’s choir in Pune, India. Although his quick temper earned him the nickname “Angry Bird,” he has made significant changes in the lives of the choir children. But skeptical of the practical value of music education, their parents are reluctant to let them sing. In order to convince them, Angry Bird decides to train the parents with their children for a joint concert, showing them the power of music in bringing families closer together.
Brimstone & Glory
July 2, 2018
by Viktor Jakovleski
The National Pyrotechnic Festival in Tultepec, Mexico, is a site of festivity unlike any other in the world. Conflagrant revelry engulfs the town while artisans show off their technical virtuosity. For the three-quarters of Tultepec residents who work in pyrotechnics, the festival anchors their way of life. It is an explosive event with unrestrained delight and real peril. Plunging headlong into the fire, Brimstone & Glory honors the spirit of Tultepec’s community and celebrates celebration itself.
The Workers Cup
July 9, 2018
by Adam Sobel
In 2022, Qatar will host the biggest sporting event in the world, the FIFA World Cup. But right now, far from the bright lights, star athletes and adoring fans, the tournament is being built on the backs of 1.6 million African and Asian migrant workers. With unprecedented access, The Workers Cup gives voice to the men who are laboring to build sport’s grandest stage while competing in a soccer tournament of their own.
Lindy Lou, Juror Number 2
July 16, 2018
by Florent Vassault
For 20 years, Lindy has lived with an unbearable feeling of guilt. Committed to fulfilling her civic duty, Lindy sat with 11 other people on a jury that handed down the death penalty to a Mississippi man convicted of a double homicide. An overwhelming feeling of regret compels Lindy to track down her fellow jurors. A conservative, religious woman from the South, she manages to tackle this topic with humor, an open mind and sincere curiosity.
The War to Be Her
July 23, 2018
by Erin Heidenreich
In Waziristan, “one of the most dangerous places on earth”, Maria Toorpakai defies the Taliban, disguising herself as a boy so she can play sports freely. But when she becomes a rising star, her true identity is revealed and death threats force Maria to leave her country. Undeterred, Maria decides to return facing the danger and to play the sport she loves.
July 30, 2018
by Sabaah Folayan, Damon Davis
When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of the St. Louis area and beyond. Whose Streets? is an unflinching look at the Ferguson, Missouri uprising. As the national guard rolls in, a new generation mounts a powerful battle cry not just for their civil rights, but for the right to live. Official Selection, 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
August 6, 2018
by Jian Fan
A village woman with no high school diploma becomes China’s most famous poet, and her book of poetry the best-selling such volume in China in the past 20 years. Still Tomorrow follows Yu Xiuhua, a 39-year-old woman living with cerebral palsy, as she faces sudden fame. The film poignantly weaves her personal narrative with that of an ascendant, urbanizing China.
Nowhere to Hide
August 27, 2018
by Zaradasht Ahmed
Nowhere to Hide follows male nurse Nori Sharif in one of the world’s most dangerous and inaccessible areas: the “triangle of death” in central Iraq. Initially filming stories of survivors and the hope of a better future as U.S. and Coalition troops retreat from Iraq in 2011, Sharif eventually turns the camera on himself. Through five years, Sharif and his family experience dramatic change as conflicts continue with Iraqi militias and the rise of ISIS.
Voices of the Sea
by Kim Hopkins
Revealing stark realities for the poorest of rural Cubans with unique access and empathy, this is the story of a 30-something mother of four longing for a better life. The tension between wife and aging husband—one desperate to leave, the other content to stay—builds into a high stakes family drama after her brother and the couple’s neighbors escape. A co-production of American Documentary | POV and ITVS.
by Tiffany Hsiung
The Apology follows three former “comfort women” who were among the 200,000 girls and young women kidnapped and forced into military sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. Seventy years after their imprisonment and after decades of living in silence and shame, the survivors give their first-hand accounts of the truth for the record, seeking apology and the hope that this horrific chapter of history not be forgotten.
by Paula Eiselt and Heidi Reinberg
Set in the Hasidic enclave of Borough Park, Brooklyn, 93Queen follows a group of tenacious Hasidic women who are smashing the patriarchy in their community by creating the first all-female volunteer ambulance corps in New York City. With unprecedented and insider access, 93Queen offers a unique portrayal of a group of religious women who are taking matters into their own hands to change their own community from within. A co-production of American Documentary | POV and ITVS.
by Anna Fitch, Banker White and Arthur Pratt
Through the eyes of Sierra Leonean filmmaker Arthur Pratt, Survivors presents an intimate portrait of his country during the Ebola outbreak, exposing the complexity of the epidemic and the sociopolitical turmoil that lies in its wake. During one of the most acute public health crises of the modern era, Survivors reveals the bureaucratic missteps that took place, as well as remarkable stories of individual bravery and the deep humanity of those caught in the middle of this unfolding crisis. A co-production of American Documentary | POV and ITVS.
by Kimberly Reed
Dark Money, a political thriller, examines one of the greatest present threats to American democracy: the influence of untraceable corporate money on our elections and elected officials. The film takes viewers to Montana—a frontline in the fight to preserve fair elections nationwide—to follow an intrepid local journalist working to expose the real-life impacts of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Through this gripping story, Dark Money uncovers the shocking and vital truth of how American elections are bought and sold. Official Selection, 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
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