Through the lens of independent films, this series tells the many stories of a transforming American culture and its broad diversity. It takes an unfiltered look at relevant domestic topics (healthcare, immigration, the workplace, and politics) with personal storytelling tied to programming social themes. The series showcases films that will give viewers a "snapshot" of the transforming American life - the guts, the glory, the grit of a new and changing America. From contemporary life on Native American reservations to stories of recovery on the Gulf, from hardships and revitalization in towns big and small, to stories from city streets across the country, these independent, personal and opinionated films document the times in which we live.
Cambodian Son (#320) Duration: 1:29:50 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
Born in a refugee camp in Cambodia, poet Kosal Khiev was lucky to escape the wartorn country before he was two years old. Granted asylum, Khiev grew up in the U.S. with his mother and siblings. By the age of 16, he was convicted of attempted murder and spent the next 14 years in jail-including 18 months of solitary confinement in the New Folsom State Prison in California. Fatefully, during his time in solitary Khiev experienced a breakthrough that forged his path to freedom. In jail, he found writing and spoken-word mentors and upon release became a student/participant in the inaugural class of "The Actors' Gang" led by Artistic Director and Founder Tim Robbins. As a refugee with no permanent resident status in the U.S., however, Khiev was deported to Cambodia, a country he's never known. "How do you survive when you belong nowhere?" The documentary follows a year in the life of Khiev, while he navigates his new fame as Phnom Penh's premiere poet and receives the most important invitation of his career-to represent the Kingdom of Cambodia at the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Later he visits France for the first time where his life comes full circle and he faces a past he never dreamed of.
Trash Dance (#302) Duration: 1:29:19 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
Choreographer Allison Orr finds beauty and grace in garbage trucks, and in the unseen men and women who pick up our trash. Filmmaker Andrew Garrison follows Orr as she rides along with Austin sanitation workers on their daily routes to observe and later convince them to perform a most unlikely spectacle. On an abandoned airport runway, two dozen trash collectors and their trucks deliver - for one night only - a stunningly beautiful and moving performance, in front of an audience of thousands.
American Heart (#303) Duration: 1:28:10 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
Seven years in the making, American Heart takes viewers on an intimate journey into the lives of three refugees who now call Minnesota home. All of them confront life-threatening health emergencies throughout the course of the film, and their trajectories prove surprising even to their doctors. At the center of it all is a remarkable health clinic, tucked away in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood of St. Paul. The HealthPartners Center for International Health serves a diverse population of refugees and immigrants from around the world. American Heart is directed by Minneapolis filmmaker Chris Newberry.
By The River of Babylon: An Elegy for South Louisiana (#324) Duration: 58:31 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
This program looks at the disappearing culture and environment in Southwest Louisiana: its marshlands and man's calamitous engineering mistakes, and the unique habitat that gave rise to the Cajun and Creole, music, culture and people left in its wake. With compelling footage and expert commentary from Bob Marshall, a local Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, among others, the film documents the facades and interiors of a good number of famed but decaying dance halls.
Riveting performances by leading Zydeco proponents such as Clifton Chenier and Beau Jocque are juxtaposed by thorough and thoughtful explanations such as the rapacious dredging of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet through wetlands to give oil tankers direct access to the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana, a major source of energy for the nation, is being destroyed bit by bit and the region's eco-system and marshland continues to be damaged by flooding due to both storms and river reconstruction. Like the famed music of the region, the documentary is both a love letter and a lament over the destruction of the region and by association, the decline of its culture and way of life.
Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek (#219) Duration: 1:23:27 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
This program follows the painful but inspiring journey of Derrick Evans, a Boston teacher who moves home to coastal Mississippi when the graves of his ancestors are bulldozed to make way for the sprawling city of Gulfport. Over the course of a decade, Derrick and his neighbors stand up to powerful corporate interests and politicians and face ordeals that include Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster in their struggle for self-determination and environmental justice.
Downeast (#210) Duration: 1:26:46 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
Set during an era of US post-industrialization in which numerous factories have been exported, this program focuses on Antonio Bussone's efforts to open a processing factory in rural Maine.
9-Man (#318) Duration: 1:37:23 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
9-Man is a story about streetball battle in the heart of Chinatown featuring a chaotic, Chinese-only game played competitively in parking lots and alleys since 1938. Through revealing verite scenes, archival material and primary source interviews, the film broaches conversations about Chinatown's Bachelor Society, the Chinese Exclusion Act, cultural belonging and loss, masculinity, genetic disparity in sports, immigrant culture, the Chinatown diaspora, microaggressions, reverse racism, Asian-American identity politics, self-doubt and social isolation.
Purgatorio (#301) Duration: 1:27:36 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
Reyes' provocative essay film re-imagines the Mexico/U.S. border as a mythical place comparable to Dante's purgatory. Leaving politics aside, he takes a fresh look at the brutal beauty of the border and the people caught in its spell. By capturing a stunning mosaic of compelling characters and broken landscapes that live on the US/Mexico border, the filmmaker reflects on the flaws of human nature and the powerful absurdities of the modern world. An unusual border film, in the auteur tradition of camera-stylo, Purgatorio ultimately becomes a fable of humanity, an epic and visceral experience with powerful and lingering images.
Gaucho Del Norte (#304) Duration: 59:34 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
Since the 1970's, shepherds from South America have been brought to work in the American west. The film follows Eraldo Pacheco, a Chilean, on his journey to Idaho on a three-year contract.
If You Build It (#322) Duration: 1:29:24 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
This documentary follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller to rural Bertie County, the poorest in North Carolina, where they work with local high school students to help transform both their community and their lives. Living on credit and grant money and fighting a change-resistant school board, Pilloton and Miller lead their students through a year-long, full-scale design and build project that does much more than just teach basic construction skills: it shows ten teenagers the power of design-thinking to re-invent not just their town but their own sense of what's possible.