Critically acclaimed films tackle social issues, from economic inequity to voter suppression: 80 percent directed by women and two thirds by filmmakers of color
America’s longest-running documentary series premieres July 20 on PBS with Linda Goldstein Knowlton’s We Are The Radical Monarchs—free educational resources for every film
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 pov.org. 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.”
POV Season 33 Schedule
And She Could Be Next
June 29 & 30, 2020 at 9 p.m.
Directed by Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia
And She Could Be Next follows a defiant movement of women of color as they transform politics from the ground up. Filmed during the historic 2018 midterm elections, the series features organizers and candidates (including Rashida Tlaib and Stacey Abrams) as they fight for a truly reflective government, asking whether democracy can be preserved—and made stronger—by those most marginalized. A co-production of POV and ITVS in association with the Center for Asian American Media and Latino Public Broadcasting. A co-presentation of Black Public Media and the Center for Asian American Media.
We Are The Radical Monarchs
July 20, 2020 at 9 p.m.
Directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton
Meet the Radical Monarchs, a group of young girls of color on the frontlines of social justice. Set in Oakland, California, the film documents the journey of the group as they earn badges for completing units on such subjects as being an LGBTQ ally, preserving the environment and disability justice. We follow the two founders as they face the challenge to grow the organization, before and after the 2016 election. A co-presentation of Latino Public Broadcasting.
July 27, 2020
Directed by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaïche
A political firebrand in her home country, Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemel is known by her opponents as “the devil’s advocate” for her decades-long defense of Palestinians who have been accused of resisting the occupation, both violently and nonviolently. Tsemel, who pushes the praxis of a human rights defender to its limits, takes on two contentious court cases in her tireless quest for justice. Official Selection, Sundance Film Festival. Shortlisted for Best Documentary Feature for the 92nd Academy Awards.
Chez Jolie Coiffure
August 3, 2020
Directed by Rosine Mbakam
In this captivating documentary filmed in a single tiny room, viewers step inside an underground hair salon with its charismatic proprietor, a Cameroonian immigrant named Sabine. She and her employees style extensions and glue on lashes while watching soaps, dishing romantic advice, sharing rumors about government programs to legalize migrants and talking about life back home in Cameroon.
August 10, 2020
Directed by Archana Atul Phadke
Three generations of the Phadke family live together in their home in Mumbai. When the youngest daughter turns the camera toward her family, the personal becomes political as power structures within the family become visible—and eventually unravel. Cruel and comic in equal measure, the film examines the vagaries of affection across generations, tied together by something stranger than love.
Portraits And Dreams
September 7, 2020
Directed by Wendy Ewald and Elizabeth Barret
Portraits And Dreams revisits photographs created by Kentucky schoolchildren in the 1970s and the place where their photos were made. Photographer and artist Wendy Ewald, who guided the students in making their visionary photographs, returns to Kentucky and learns how the lives and visions of her former students have changed. The film combines the new narratives and insights of the now adult students. A POV co-production with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.
September 14, 2020
Directed by Eva Mulvad
With adultery punishable by death in Iran, a young couple make the fateful decision to flee the country with their son. Love Child follows the trio on their life-threatening journey to plead asylum and witnesses a mother’s heartbreaking fight to keep her family together and secure a future for her son. Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival.
In My Blood It Runs
September 21, 2020
Directed by Maya Newell
Ten-year-old Aboriginal Dujuan is a child-healer and a good hunter and speaks three languages.Yet Dujuan is failing in school and facing increasing scrutiny from welfare authorities and the police. As he veers perilously close to incarceration, his family fights to give him a strong Arrernte education alongside his western education. We walk with him as he grapples with these pressures and shares his truths. A Co-Presentation of Pacific Islanders in Communications.
Our Time Machine
September 28, 2020
Directed by Yang Sun and S. Leo Chiang
When artist Maleonn realizes that his father is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, he creates “Papa’s Time Machine,” a magical, autobiographical stage performance featuring life-size mechanical puppets. Through the production of this play, the two men confront their mortality before time runs out and memories are lost forever. Best Documentary Cinematography, Tribeca Film Festival.
October 5, 2020
Directed by Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra
The Infiltrators is a docu-thriller that tells the true story of two young immigrants who get detained by the U.S. Border Patrol—on purpose—and put in a shadowy for-profit detention center. Marco and Viri are members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, a group of radical Dreamers who are on a mission to stop deportations. And the best place to stop deportations, they believe, is in detention. Official Selection, Sundance Film Festival. A co-presentation of Latino Public Broadcasting.
October 12, 2020
Directed by Sam Soko
Softie follows political activist Boniface “Softie” Mwangi, a daring and audacious political activist who decides to run for political office in Kenya after several years of fighting injustice in his country. But running a clean campaign against corrupt opponents with idealism as his only weapon proves challenging. Special Jury Award, Sundance Film Festival. A POV co-production.
The Mole Agent
January 25, 2021
Directed by Maite Alberdi
When 83-year-old Sergio is sent as an undercover spy to a Chilean retirement home to track suspected elder abuse, he learns a deeper lesson about human connection. Through the lens of the hidden camera in his decoy glasses, viewers watch as Sergio struggles to balance his assignment with his increasing involvement in the lives of several residents. Official Selection, Sundance Film Festival. A co-production of POV and ITVS.
Through The Night
May 10, 2021
Directed by Loira Limbal
In New Rochelle, New York, a 24-hour daycare is a lifesaver for parents who work multiple jobs and odd hours to make ends meet. Through the stories of two working mothers and a childcare provider, Through the Night reveals the personal cost of rising wealth inequality in America and the close bonds forged between parents, children and caregivers. Official Selection, Tribeca Film Festival. A co-production of POV and ITVS in association with Latino Public Broadcasting and Black Public Media.