POV: Season 16 (2003 - 2004)


Season 16
POV

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Episodes

Air date: Jun 17, 2003

Socio-economic status, minority rights, and housing codes all come into dramatic conflict in co-directors Linda Goode Bryant and Laura Poitras' 2003 documentary Flag Wars. Set in a historic district in Columbus, OH, named Olde Towne East, Bryant and Poitras discover the serenity of the primarily African-American neighborhood is in jeopardy. Gay professionals are moving into the neighborhood with the intentions of buying inexpensive property, and as they improve upon their acquisitions, the new residents stand accused of using underhanded -- yet legal -- tactics in order to force the longtime residents to either refurbish their properties or move out of the district altogether. Yet the two minority groups are not as far removed from one another as it would initially appear, as certain conservative elements within the greater Columbus community seem interested in using the conflict to further their own agendas. Flag Wars was a competing film at the 2003 South by Southwest Film Festival, where it was awarded the Jury Documentary Prize.

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Air date: Jun 20, 2003

In 1999, the largely conservative Wairarapa district in New Zealand elected a former cabaret performer/actress named Georgina Beyer to the country's House of Parliament -- a seemingly unremarkable event in that country's history except for the fact that Beyer is a transsexual and may very well be the first transsexual in the world to be elected to a national office. In their 2002 biographical documentary Georgie Girl, co-directors Peter Wells and Annie Goldson highlight the popular Member of Parliament's rapid rise through local government to prominence in the New Zealand national government. Born George Bertrand and of Maori descent, Beyer's life began modestly as her farming family struggled against constant financial hurdles and racism. Escaping her rural beginnings and dealing with her gender identity issues with transsexual surgery, Beyer became a star performer in the gay nightclubs of Auckland and Wellington before a descent into drug addiction and prostitution sent her into a rehabilitation facility in the town of Carterton. Almost instantly, Beyer forged a strong attachment to her new community, which led to her involvement and subsequent success in local, and ultimately, national politics. Georgie Girl was selected for inclusion in a number of gay-oriented film festivals in 2002, as well as the PBS documentary series, P.O.V.

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Air date: Jul 1, 2003

In the Texas town of Lockney in 2000, cotton farmer Larry Tannahill, normally a mild, soft-spoken sort, boldly stood up and said "No!" to the town's ultraconservative school board. It all came about when the board voted to impose mandatory drug testing on all students. As a matter of principle, Tannahill refused to allow his son Brady to be tested -- thereby becoming the plaintiff in a legal case in which the ACLU was a leading player. With the entire town so vehemently pitted against him (as evidenced by disturbing footage of a volatile school board meeting), it is perhaps understandable that the hapless farmer would emerge as the put-upon hero of this made-for-TV documentary, but filmmakers Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermback generously allow Tannahill's opponents to articulately state their case, as well. Larry vs. Lockney made its PBS television debut as part of that network's P.O.V. anthology series on June 28, 2003.

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Air date: Jul 8, 2003

A profile of a Guatemalan orphan who was adopted by an Iowa couple and taken back to her homeland, where she recalls the 1982 military massacre that killed her parents and sister and some 170 others in her village, Rio Negro. "The army concluded that Rio Negro was a breeding ground for guerrillas," says the town's priest, Rev. Roberto Avalos, "and all this became a death sentence for the people of Rio Negro." At first haunted (events surrounding the attacks are seen in atmospheric flashbacks), Becker soon becomes consumed with rage and her quest for justice. And that involves the exhumation of her father's body.

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Air date: Jul 22, 2003

Arn Chorn-Pond, who survived Cambodia's Khmer Rouge genocide as a child, returns to his native land from his home in Massachusetts. His mission: "I'm trying to keep our music alive," he says, "because so much of our culture has been destroyed." Indeed, most Cambodian musicians were killed by the Khmer Rouge, so Arn (ironically, he survived because his captors needed someone to play propaganda songs) seeks out fellow survivors for his Cambodian Master Performers Program. They're seen recording and teaching, and recalling old horrors. Says Chek Mach, a successful opera singer who was literally forced to sing for her supper during the Khmer Rouge era: "When Pol Pot took over, everything stopped."

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Air date: Jul 29, 2003

Juan Carlos Zaldivar was born and raised in Cuba, but in 1980 he and his family left the country for the United States as part of the 1980 Mariel boat-lift. Zaldivar had intense reservations about leaving his homeland behind, especially considering the anti-American propaganda that was a staple of the Cuban cultural diet, but he eventually came to enjoy life in Miami, though he often found himself thinking of his former home and resisting most Floridians' attitudes toward Cuba and Fidel Castro's regime. Zaldivar, now working as a filmmaker, decided to revisit Cuba with a camera crew in tow, and 90 Miles is his document that contrasts his life in the United States with day-to-day life in the nation he left behind. 90 Miles (the title refers to the distance between Cuba and the Florida coast) was shown in competition at the 2001 Los Angeles Film Festival.

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Air date: Aug 5, 2003

"American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawaii" follows three "kunu hula" (master hula teachers) as they keep the "heartbeat of Hawaiian culture" alive among Hawaiians in California. The three are seen teaching and directing performances. And expounding. "I can go anywhere and be Hawaiian," says Mark Ho'omalu od Oakland, who describes his sometimes unorthadox hulas as "brash, aggressive, smart-alecky and sassy." But Sissy Kaio of Carson is more concerned with maintaining traditions than she is with innovation. "I've been wanting to go home for some time," she says. "But I can't because I have a responsibility here."

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Air date: Aug 19, 2003

Filmed between 1996 and 1999, this documentary chronicles the lives of four people recovering from mental illness at the Fountain House, a Manhattan-based rehabilitation center. The central figures are Francis Olivero (who later became a public advocate for the mentally ill), Fitzroy Frederick, Tex Gordon, and Zeinab Wali. Filmed in cinéma vérité fashion, the documentary also includes footage of its producers, Bill Lichtenstein and June Peoples, working side by side with Fountain House residents and volunteers, and following the four subjects in and out of the center as they endeavor to put their lives back together. The poignancy and power of the film is heightened when one is aware that co-producer Lichtenstein, a former ABC news employee, had once himself been diagnosed with manic depression. After winning several film-festival awards, West 47th Street made its TV bow as an episode of the PBS anthology P.O.V..

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Air date: Aug 26, 2003

In "Family Fundamentals," filmmaker Arthur Dong explores the relationships two gay men and a lesbian have with their religiously conservative families. Kathleen Jester's mother, a Pentacostalist, founded a ministry in San Diego for the parents of children who have "become" gay, while Brett Matthews, a former Air Force officer, is the son of a Mormon bishop in Utah. Brian Bennett, a gay Catholic and a Republican Party activist in California, doesn't discuss problems with his own family, but with his "surrogate father" (and long-time boss), former congressman Robert Dornan, an outspoken opponent of gay rights.

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Air date: Sep 2, 2003

Two short films focusing on Latinos. The first concerns a "tribe" from a California farm town who served in Vietnam; the second is about migrant workers in upstate New York combating poverty in their native Mexico. Charley Trujillo, the author of the 1991 National Book Award winner "Soldados: Chicanos in Vietnam," coproduced the first film, in which he and his friends from Corcoran, Cal., recall their lives before, during and after Vietnam. Then, filmmaker Alex Rivera follows Mexican workers in Newburgh, N.Y., whose "Grupo Union" funds public-works projects for their Puebla home town of Boqueron out of their meager salaries.

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