PBS has for years now been providing a significant platform for independent films with series “POV” and “Independent Lens,” which broadcast docs nationally to audiences who might not normally get a chance to find them given the current realities of theatrical releases these days. The network announced today that it was redoubling its indie film efforts with a multi-platform Independent Film Showcase to air in the fall as well as a second iteration of the shorts Online Film Festival it ran in March of last year.
Per PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger, “PBS is committed to providing the public with year-round access to the best in independent filmmaking, whether it’s short form or long form-on-air and online. Working with POV, ITVS and our public media partners, our goal is to spotlight more independent films and filmmakers and help bring new and larger audiences to this important genre for PBS and our stations.”
The four-week fall showcase will bridge the gap between “POV” and “Independent Lens” seasons, and will feature films from both series, creating a year-round throughline for docs on the network on Monday nights at 10pm. The films are listed below, with dates TBD and descriptions courtesy of the network.
“56 Up” is the eighth film in a series of landmark documentaries that began 49 years ago when UK-based Granada’s World in Action team, inspired by the Jesuit maxim “Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man,” interviewed a diverse group of seven-year-old children from all over England, asking them about their lives and their dreams for the future. Michael Apted, a researcher for the original film, has returned to interview the “children” every seven years since, at ages 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, and now at age 56. In this latest chapter, more life-changing decisions are revealed, more shocking announcements are made and more of the original group takes part than ever before, speaking out on a variety of subjects including love, marriage, career and class.
“Brooklyn Castle” (POV)
A film by Katie Dellamaggiore
Imagine a school where the cool kids are the chess team. Welcome to I.S. 318. “Brooklyn Castle”tells the stories of five members of the chess team at a below-the-poverty-line inner city junior high school that has won more national championships than any other in the country. The film follows the challenges these kids face in their personal lives — and on the chessboard — and is as much about the sting of their losses as it is about anticipation of their victories.
“Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey” (Independent Lens)
A film by Ramona Diaz
For Arnel Pineda, the past five years have been the stuff that dreams are made of. In 2007, his friend began uploading videos of the aspiring Filipino singer covering classic rock songs onto YouTube. One of the videos was seen by Neal Schon, guitarist for the iconic rock band Journey. Blown away by Pineda’s talent and uncanny vocal similarity to former Journey front man Steve Perry, Schon flew Pineda from Manila to San Francisco to audition for the band.The rest is history. But Pineda’s personal journey had just begun. His mother died when he was 12 and he ended up on the streets. And with no classical music training, he was anything but prepared for the grueling physical and emotional strains that come from fronting a rock band on a whirlwind world tour. Can a man who has already overcome so many obstacles deal with the demands of his newfound fame?
“The Waiting Room” (Independent Lens)
A film by Peter Nicks
“The Waiting Room” is an immersive documentary film that interweaves several stories that unfold in surprising ways in the ER waiting room at Oakland, California’s Highland Hospital — a facility stretched to the breaking point. The film is an intimate rendering of the story of our health care system at a moment of great change, told through the eyes of people stuck — sometimes for up to 14 hours — in the waiting room. The program tells the story of a remarkably diverse population battling their way through seismic shifts in the nation’s health care system while weathering the storm of a national recession. It’s a film about one hospital, its multifaceted community, and how our common vulnerability to illness binds us together. “This is the rare film that can change the way you think and see the world,” says The San Francisco Chronicle.
The Online Film Festival will become accessible starting March 4 on all PBS digital platforms, YouTube and PBS social media channels, and will showcase 25 short films produced by a number public media partners, including ITVS, POV, the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB), Vision Maker Media, National Black Programming Consortium (NPBC) and Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC).