Docs

‘POV’ to kick off 25th year with “My Reincarnation”

Launched in 1988, the PBS documentary strand marks a quarter century on the air with films by directors Jennifer Fox, Jonathan Demme, Patricio Guzman and Natalia Almada, amidst a growing controversy surrounding the pubcaster's decision to move it from Tuesday to Thursday nights.
March 22, 2012

The programmers at ‘POV’ have announced the line-up of films for its 25th season amidst a growing controversy in the documentary community over pubcaster PBS’ decision to move the independent film series – along with the Independent Television Service (ITVS) doc strand ‘Independent Lens’ – from Tuesday to Thursday nights.

The 25th season of ‘POV’ will kick off on June 21 and run until October 18 with two special presentations scheduled for fall and winter. Director Jennifer Fox’s My Reincarnation, a 20-years-in-the-making doc about exiled Tibetan Buddhist master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and his Western-born son, Yeshi, will launch the season.

Other highlights from the milestone season include Chilean filmmker Patricio Guzman’s 2011 critical favorite Nostalgia For The Light; Peter Kinoy, Pamela Yates and Paco de Onís’ 2011 Sundance selection Granito: How to Nail a Dictator; Jonathan Demme’s Hurricane Katrina doc I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad and the Beautiful; Natalia Almada’s El Velador (The Night Watchman); Bernardo Ruiz’s Reportero; and A. Sabin and David Redmon’s fashion exposé Girl Model.

“One thing we’re seeing in this year’s line-up is a real stylistic diversity stylistically,” says Simon Kilmurry, executive director of ‘POV,’  speaking to realscreen. “They have this texture, this richness to them and that’s what makes the films we focus on at ‘POV’ different from what’s out there in the media.”

Programmers will also re-license films from the ‘POV’ archive to stream online alongside interviews with the films’ directors that will update viewers on what they’ve worked on in the years since. Kilmurry is also planning a series of ‘POV’ events at various film festivals.

“Hopefully we’ll do something at Hot Docs,” he says. “We’re still working on what that might look like.

“We have all of the season posters here on our wall and I can look back and go, ‘Oh my God, that was on ‘POV’,” he adds. “You get a sense of documentary history to a certain extent. You get a sense of which ones hold up and which ones hold up less well and that’s often surprising. I’m spending a lot of time digging into the archives to decide which ones still speak to contemporary events and which ones are still fresh.”

Kilmurry is also part of an indies task force, along with PBS programmers and producers at ITVS, that is examining future strategies to ensure the doc strands receive consistent carriage.

Both series previously aired on Tuesday nights until PBS decided to focus that night on history series and news show Frontline. This season, the pubcaster moved ‘Lens’ to Thursdays, a night typically devoted to popular local programming, with ‘POV’ slated to move to that night upon its season launch in June.

As a result, ‘Independent Lens’ has lost viewership, according to a recent article published by public media news site Current.org, and some PBS stations in key markets have shifted it around the schedule to accommodate that local programming.

Over the weekend, 65 producers and directors signed a letter written by Chicago-based non-profit production company Kartemquin Films protesting the new time slot. It now has upwards of 300 signatures and the Writer’s Guild of America, East has also urged PBS to reconsider the move. (Realscreen will have more on the story in an upcoming feature.)

“With both series being on Thursday nights, we are in some ways competing with one of the core and important missions of public television and that’s to provide local programming,” says Kilmurry.

He adds that talks with the network have just begun, so it’s too early to tell whether a return to Tuesday nights or another schedule change is in the cards.

“We’re talking to PBS for their help around station relations and trying to make sure the message that’s being sent throughout the system is that content is core to the mission of public broadcasting,” he says. “It brings in a younger audience and a diverse audience and those are audiences that deserve to be served by public broadcasting as much as anyone.

“We’ll have to see what the effect of that might look like: additional promotion, additional work-around carriage for the series,” he adds. “We have to see what impact that has on the new schedule.”

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