POV’s 33rd season premieres on PBS this summer with stories of hope and shared humanity during these unprecedented times. The critically acclaimed series returns with thirteen features that showcase unsung heroes and unforgettable protagonists—from youth activists in Oakland to caregivers in New York state, from organizers in Atlanta to educators in Appalachia.
America’s longest-running documentary series continues to feature diversity on both sides of the camera, with nearly 80 percent of the season’s films helmed by women and more than two thirds by filmmakers of color. In addition, more than half of the titles are international, the work of exciting new talent from Australia, Cameroon, Chile, China, India and Kenya. Premieres continue through fall 2020 with primetime specials in early 2021, along with short, streaming and interactive releases throughout the season.
“As America’s home for documentaries, PBS is committed to telling stories that deepen understanding and encourage conversation,” said Paula Kerger, PBS president and CEO. “Year after year, POV delivers powerful films featuring diverse voices, and we’re thrilled to share another extraordinary season with our audiences.”
POV’s historic 33rd season kicks off with Linda Goldstein Knowlton’s We Are The Radical Monarchs on July 20 at 9 p.m., available to stream on all PBS platforms, including PBS.org, the PBS Video App and online. The documentary, which debuted at SXSW Film Festival 2019, follows a group of young girls of color on the frontlines of social justice. Radical Monarchs co-founders Anayvette Martinez and Marilyn Hollinquest—two queer women of color and working mothers—share their journey as they grow the group in Oakland, a city with a deep history of organizing movements. “I think self-empowerment and self-worth for young girls of color is really critical, and it’s really lacking,” says Martinez. “How do we create alternative spaces where that can happen?”
A hopeful story of sisterhood and self-love, the film shines a spotlight on the next generation of inspiring activists. We watch the first Radical Monarchs troop over three years, as members earn badges related to the environment and disability justice. The documentary is one of several stories this season that reimagines what learning can look like, more timely than ever during a time when nationwide school closures have revealed systemic gaps and inequities.
POV explores themes of civic engagement throughout this pivotal election year, as filmmakers address issues of ethics and inclusivity in front of and behind the lens. Sundance Film Festival favorite The Infiltrators is a hybrid docu-thriller about young immigrants who purposely get arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol to help stop deportations. Oscar-shortlisted documentary Advocate follows a Jewish lawyer who defends Palestinians accused of resisting occupation, and takes a unique approach to documentary animation to protect the identity of an underage defendant. “In My Blood It Runs” exposes Australia’s school-to-prison pipeline through the eyes of an Arrernte and Garrwa boy and credits the film’s Aboriginal protagonists as collaborative directors. The multi-part documentary And She Could Be Next follows a defiant movement of women of color fighting to transform American politics from the ground up, produced by an all women of color crew. This is POV’s first miniseries and will precede the season as a special presentation airing on June 29 and 30.
In addition to national broadcast exposure, POV plays a critical role in early project support for diverse and underrepresented artists. The following four films–a third of the season–are POV co-productions, with stories gaining newfound urgency in the COVID-19 era. Through The Night explores the close bonds forged between parents, children, and caregivers at a 24-hour daycare in New Rochelle, New York–a community in the news due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed by Loira Limbal, the film was selected to be part of the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. In “Portraits And Dreams,” photographer Wendy Ewald reconnects with former students in Kentucky and revisits their visionary photos, which defy mainstream narratives about the region. Softie–the first Kenyan-produced and directed film to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, follows a political activist running for local office amid widespread corruption. Chilean documentary The Mole Agent, another 2020 Sundance film, introduces audiences to an 83-year-old widower who goes undercover in a retirement home—calling to mind our nation’s senior care facilities, which remain vulnerable and isolated during this time.
POV also stands out as a leading platform for international documentaries, providing artful reminders of human connection in this period of social distancing. Set in Shanghai, “Our Time Machine” is a moving portrait of an artist who creates a sweeping stage production when his father develops Alzheimer’s disease. The film won the best documentary cinematography award at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and will broadcast alongside Oscar-nominated short “Negative Space,” part of a new season of the Emmy-nominated POV Shorts series rolling out this fall. About Love explores nuanced relationship dynamics across three generations of a family in India. Arthouse favorite Chez Jolie Coiffure offers a vérité look at the critical role of hair salons in an African immigrant community in Brussels. An intimate look at the ongoing refugee crisis, “Love Child” follows an illicitly formed family as they escape Iran to plead asylum and start a new life someplace safe.
“Authentic independent storytelling is always important,” said Justine Nagan, executive director of American Documentary and one of POV’s executive producers. “But right now it feels essential. We don’t know whether this pandemic will persist into the summer or beyond, but we know that viewers will need stories like these as we move through collective trauma. Artists have a way of taking us to new places and helping us see with fresh eyes. We are proud to showcase their work and serve national audiences with media that will move them.”
Broadcast on the national PBS schedule, POV is available to millions of viewers through broadcast and streaming. This year marks the 50th anniversary of PBS, the nation’s platform for noncommercial media whose mission is to inform and inspire. To support educators and parents tackling remote learning, POV will produce educational resources for every episode, including lesson plans, discussion guides, and reading lists, and behind-the-lens filmmaker interviews available free on the POV website.