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POV: The PBS Doc Strand Announces the 2011 Schedule

We recently published a detailed 2-parter on POV – the flagshipPBS documentary strand:

  • Click here for part 1: POV’s mission, history, budgets
  • And part 2: the filters, selection process, critical dates, typical fees, and more

Last week, POV announced its schedule for 2011. We reprint it here.

And next week: we begin a 2-parter on Independent Lens, the doc strand from ITVS

POV 2011 Schedule
(All programs air Tuesdays at 10 p.m. Eastern unless otherwise indicated; check local listings)

June 7 – Encore Presentation: The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers by Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith (Broadcast time to be announced)

This award-winning film re-airs at a time when people are again debating issues of individual conscience and government power. In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a leading Vietnam War strategist, concluded that America’s role in the war was based on decades of lies. He leaked 7,000 pages of top-secret documents to The New York Times, a daring act of conscience that led to Watergate, President Nixon’s resignation and the end of the Vietnam War. Ellsberg and a who’s who of Vietnam-era movers and shakers give a riveting account of those events in The Most Dangerous Man in America. A co-production of ITVS in association with American Documentary / POV. Winner of Best Feature-Length Documentary Award, 2010 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. 

June 21 – Kings of Pastry by Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker

When Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker, award-winning filmmakers of The War Room, and Don’t Look Back, turn their sights on the competition for the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France awards, the country’s Nobel Prize for pastry, you’re in for a treat. In Kings of Pastry, 16 chefs, including Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder of Chicago’s French Pastry School, whip up the most gorgeous, delectable, gravity-defying concoctions and edge-of-your-seat drama as they deliver their spun-sugar desserts to the display table. The inevitable disasters and successes prove both poignant and hilarious.

June 28 – My Perestroika by Robin Hessman

My Perestroika is an intimate look at the last generation of Soviet children. Five classmates go from living sheltered childhoods to experiencing the hopes of Gorbachev’s reforms and the confusion of the USSR’s dissolution to searching for their places in today’s Moscow. With candor and humor, the punk rocker, single mother, entrepreneur and married teachers paint a picture of the challenges, dreams and disappointments of those raised behind the Iron Curtain. Through first-person testimony, vérité footage and vintage home movies, this beautifully crafted documentary reveals a Russia rarely seen on film.

A co-production of Red Square Productions/Bungalow Town Productions and ITVS International in association with American Documentary / POV. An Official Selection of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

July 5 – Sweetgrass by Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor

Sweetgrass presents a riveting and poetic portrait of the American West just as one of its traditional ways of life dies out. Shot amidst the grandeur of Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, the film follows the last modern-day cowboys to lead their flocks of sheep up into the breathtaking and often dangerous mountains for summer pasture. Magnificently photographed and unsparingly candid, Sweetgrass discovers a world of harsh beauty and arduous labor, where humans still work in rugged intimacy with nature. An Official Selection of the 2010 New York Film Festival.

July 12 Enemies of the People by Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath

The Khmer Rouge slaughtered nearly two million people in the late 1970s. Yet the “killing fields” of Cambodia have remained largely unexplained. Until now, in Enemies of the People. Enter Thet Sambath, an unassuming, yet cunning, investigative journalist who lost his family in the conflict and spends a decade gaining the trust of the men and women who perpetrated the massacres. Sambath and co-director Rob Lemkin record shocking testimony, never before seen or heard, from the foot soldiers who slit throats and from Pol Pot’s right-hand man, the notorious Brother Number Two. Winner of World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize,  2010 Sundance Film Festival.

July 19 Biblioburro by Carlos Réndon Zipagauta

Biblioburro is the story of a librarian — and a library — like no other. A decade ago, Colombian teacher Luis Soriano was inspired to spend his weekends bringing a modest collection of precious books, via two hard-working donkeys, to the children of a poor and violence-ridden province. As Soriano braves armed bands, drug traffickers, snakes and heat, his library on hooves carries an inspirational message about education and a better future for Colombia. His efforts have attracted worldwide attention — and imitators — but his story has never been better told than in this heartwarming yet unsentimental film.

July 26 Mugabe and the White African by Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson

Mugabe and the White African, much of which was filmed clandestinely, tells an alarming story from one of the world’s most troubled nations. In Zimbabwe, de facto dictator Robert Mugabe has unleashed a “land reform” program aimed at driving whites from the country through violence and intimidation. One proud “white African,” however, has challenged Mugabe with human rights abuses under international law. The courage Michael Campbell and his family display as they defend their farm — in court and on the ground — makes for a film as inspiring as it is harrowing.

Aug. 2 Steam of Life by Joonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen

From a land of long, dark winters comes Steam of Life, a moody, comic and moving study of Finnish men as framed by the national obsession with the sauna. There, they come together to sweat out not only the grime of contemporary life, but also their grief, hopes, joys and memories. Beautifully and hauntingly shot, the acclaimed film provides a surprising glimpse into the lives of Finnish men and a remarkable depiction of the troubled and often reticent hearts of contemporary Western men.

Aug. 9 – Encore Presentation: Food, Inc. by Robert Kenner

How much do we know about the food we buy at our local supermarkets and serve to our families? Though our food appears the same as ever — a tomato still looks like a tomato — it has been radically transformed. In the Academy Award®-nominated blockbuster Food, Inc., producer-director Robert Kenner and investigative authors Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) lift the veil on the U.S. food industry, revealing eye-opening facts about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we may go from here.

Aug. 16 – Encore Presentation: The Oath by Laura Poitras

Filmed in Yemen and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, The Oath interweaves the stories of Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard, and Salim Hamdan, a prisoner at Guantanamo facing war crimes charges. Directed by Laura Poitras (Flag Wars, POV 2003; the Oscar-nominated My Country, My Country, POV 2006), The Oath unfolds in a narrative structure filled with plot reversals and betrayals, leading ultimately to Osama bin Laden, 9/11, Guantanamo and the U.S. Supreme Court. A co-production of ITVS in association with American Documentary / POV. Winner of Excellence in Cinematography Award: Documentary, 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Aug. 23 – POV Short Cuts

A one-hour collection of documentary shorts by established and emerging filmmakers, including:

  • Big Birding Day by David Wilson. This short offers a glimpse into the world of competitive birdwatching, as three friends attempt to see as many species as possible in 24 hours.
  • Flawed by Andrea Dorfman Artist/filmmaker. Andrea Dorfman’s drawings burst colorfully into life as she animates the story of her long-distance relationship with a man whose profession — plastic surgery — gives her plenty of fodder. 
  • Tiffany by Beverly Morris. In this animated short, Beverly Morris tells of her ongoing struggle to hold on to the most contested object in her divorce — the Tiffany lamp.


Following the success of its first season on POV in 2010, StoryCorps will bring its Peabody Award-winning storytelling back for a second season. Since 2003, the acclaimed nonprofit organization StoryCorps, founded by MacArthur Fellow Dave Isay, has been recording and preserving the voices of everyday people, one conversation at a time, for public radio. POV’s short films, animated and directed by The Rauch Brothers, use some of StoryCorps most popular recordings. Funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Two StoryCorps shorts will be featured on Aug. 23; additional shorts airing during the season will be announced:

  • Miss Devine Cousins James Ransom and Cherie Johnson recall their inimitable Sunday school teacher, Miss Lizzie Devine. This animated short, set in the small Bradenton, Fla. town of the cousins’ memories, will have you laughing along with James, Cherie and the fearsome Miss Devine.
  • No More Questions Strong-willed grandmother Kay Wang allowed her son and granddaughter to drag her into a StoryCorps booth. Though Kay was reluctant, she still had stories to tell — from disobeying her mother and rebuffing suitors while growing up in China to late-life adventures as a detective for Bloomingdale’s department store. Kay passed away just weeks after that interview, and her son and granddaughter returned to remember her gentler side, which she kept to herself.

 Aug. 30 Armadillo by Janus Metz

In 2009, Janus Metz and cameraman Lars Skree accompanied a platoon of Danish soldiers to Armadillo, a combat operations base in southern Afghanistan. For six months, often while under fire, they captured the lives of the young soldiers fighting the Taliban in a hostile and confusing environment, where official rhetoric about helping civilians too often met the unforgiving reality of being a foreign occupier. Winner of the Critics’ Week Grand Prix at Cannes, Armadillo is one of the most dramatic and candid accounts of combat to come out of Afghanistan.

Sept. 6 Better This World by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway

The story of Bradley Crowder and David McKay, who were accused of intending to firebomb the 2008 Republican National Convention, is a dramatic tale of idealism, loyalty, crime and betrayal. Better This World follows the radicalization of these boyhood friends from Midland, Texas, under the tutelage of revolutionary activist Brandon Darby. The results: eight homemade bombs, multiple domestic terrorism charges and a high-stakes entrapment defense hinging on the actions of a controversial FBI informant. Better This World goes to the heart of the war on terror and its impact on civil liberties and political dissent in post-9/11 America. A co-production of ITVS.

Sept. 13If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front by Marshall Curry

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front explores two of America’s most pressing issues — environmentalism and terrorism — by lifting the veil on a radical environmental group the FBI calls the country’s “number one domestic terrorism threat.” Daniel McGowan, a former member of the Earth Liberation Front, faces life in prison for two multimillion-dollar arsons against Oregon timber companies. What turned this working-class kid from Queens into an eco-warrior? Marshall Curry (Oscar®-nominated Street Fight, POV 2005) provides a nuanced and provocative account that is part coming-of-age story, part cautionary tale and part cops-and-robbers thriller. A co-production of ITVS. Winner of Best Documentary Editing Award, 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

Sept. 20 The Learning by Ramona Diaz

One hundred years ago, American teachers established the English-speaking public school system of the Philippines. Now, in a striking turnabout, American schools are recruiting Filipino teachers. The Learning is the story of four Filipino women who reluctantly leave their families and schools to teach in Baltimore. They hope to use their higher salaries to transform their families’ impoverished lives back home. But the women bring idealistic visions of the teacher’s craft and of life in America, which soon collide with Baltimore’s tough realities. A co-production of CineDiaz and ITVS in association with The Center for Asian American Media, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and American Documentary / POV.

Sept. 27 Last Train Home by Lixin Fan

Every spring, China’s cities are plunged into chaos as 130 million migrant workers journey to their home villages for the New Year in the world’s largest human migration. Last Train Home takes viewers on a heart-stopping journey with the Zhangs, a couple who left infant children behind for factory jobs 16 years ago, hoping their wages would lift their children to a better life. They return to a family growing distant and a daughter longing to leave school for unskilled work. As the Zhangs navigate their new world, this award-winning film paints a rich, human portrait of China’s rush to economic development. An EyeSteelFilm production in association with ITVS International. An Official Selection of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Winner of Best Feature-Length Documentary Award, 2009 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.

Fall 2011 Special Where Soldiers Come From by Heather Courtney

From a snowy, small town in northern Michigan to the mountains of Afghanistan, Where Soldiers Come From follows the four-year journey of childhood friends who join the National Guard after graduating from high school. As it chronicles the young men’s transformation from restless teenagers to soldiers looking for roadside bombs to 23-year-old combat veterans trying to start their lives again, the film offers an intimate look at the young men who fight our wars, the families and towns they come from — and the way one faraway conflict changes everything. A co-production of Quincy Hill Films and ITVS in association with American Documentary / POV, with funds provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Winter/Spring 2012 SpecialRacing Dreams by Marshall Curry

Fondly described as “Talladega Nights meets Catcher in the Rye,” Marshall Curry’s Racing Dreams chronicles a year in the life of three tweens who dream of becoming NASCAR drivers. Though they aren’t old enough for driver’s licenses, Brandon, Josh and Annabeth race extreme go-karts at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour in the World Karting Association’s national series, the “Little League” of professional racing. The film is a humorous and heartbreaking portrait of racing, young love and family struggle. Winner of Best Documentary Feature Award, 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.

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