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.
Radio Unnameable (#202) Duration: 1:56:45 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
Legendary radio personality Bob Fass revolutionized late night FM radio by serving as a cultural hub for music, politics and audience participation for nearly 50 years. Long before today's innovations in social media, Fass utilized the airwaves for mobilization encouraging luminaries and ordinary listeners to talk openly and take the program in surprising directions. Fass and his committed group of friends, peers, and listeners proved time and time again through massive, planned meetups and other similar events that radio was not a solitary experience but rather a platform to unite communities of like-minded, or even just open-minded, individuals without the dependence on large scale corporate backing. Radio Unnameable is a visual and aural collage that pulls from Bob Fass's immense archive of audio from his program, film, photographs, and video that has been sitting dormant until now. Revealing the underexposed world of independent radio, the film illustrates the intimate relationship Fass and, by extension, WBAI formed with their listeners that were strong enough to maintain the station?s role as one of the most successful listener-sponsored programs in the United States.
My Louisiana Love (#108) Duration: 1:26:46 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
This film traces a young woman's quest to find a place in her Native American community as it reels from decades of environmental degradation. Monique Verdin returns to Southeast Louisiana to reunite with her Houma Indian family. But soon she sees that her people's traditional way of life is threatened by a cycle of man-made environmental crises. Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil leak are just the latest rounds in this century-old cycle that is forcing Monique's clan to adapt in new ways. Monique must overcome the loss of her house, her father, and her partner, and redefine the meaning of home.
Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea (#206) Duration: 1:26:46 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
Once known as the California Riviera, the Salton Sea is now called one of America's worst ecological disasters: a fetid, stagnant, salty lake, that coughs up dead fish and birds by the thousands in frequent die-offs that occur. However, amongst the ruins of this man-made mistake, a few remaining eccentrics (a roadside nudist, a religious folk artist, a Hungarian revolutionary, and real estate speculators) struggle to keep a remodeled version of the original Salton Sea dream alive. Accidentally created by an engineering error in 1905, reworked in the 50's as a world class vacation destination for the rich and famous, suddenly abandoned after a series of hurricanes, floods, and fish die-offs, and finally almost saved by Congressman Sonny Bono, the Salton Sea has a bittersweet past. The film shares these people's stories and their difficulties in keeping their unique community alive, as the nearby cities of Los Angeles and San Diego attempt to take the agricultural water run-off that barely sustains the Salton Sea. While covering the historical, economic, political, and environmental issues that face the Sea, PLAGUES AND PLEASURES offers an offbeat portrait of the peculiar and individualistic people who populate its shores. It is an epic western tale of fantastic real estate ventures and failed boomtowns, inner-city gangs fleeing to white small town America, and the subjective notion of success and failure amidst the ruins of the past.
The New Public (#204) Duration: 1:56:46 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
The New Public follows the lives of the ambitious educators and lively students of Bed Stuy's new Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School (BCAM) over the course of the founding year, with the filmmakers returning three years later to again document the senior year of that first graduating class. Beginning in August 2006, just days before BCAM will open its doors for the first time. Dr. James O'Brien, former D.J. and point guard turned first-time principal, and his faculty of eight, take to the streets in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn to recruit students. Their enthusiasm is infectious and enticing: strong support for the individual student, a rigorous academic curriculum and unconventional arts electives taught by local artists. While at first running smoothly, as months go by, conflicts arise, and by the end of freshman year, the school's idealistic vision is addressing some issues, but aggravating others. Flash-forward to September 2010, the first day of senior year, the school is complete with 4 grades and 450 students, with a faculty that has grown from 8 to 50. Of the 104 students in their founding class, almost half have transferred or dropped out, leaving a senior class of 60 and only 30 on track to graduate. BCAM has made major adjustments, most notably, more disciplinary structure and no arts electives for seniors. What happens in the 4 years is both compelling and frustrating, and it's what makes The New Public a critical document of the complexities, frustrations and personal dramas that put public education at the center of national debate. What makes a kid or a school succeed are a series of complicated, interconnected dynamics, including, a re-evaluation of how we define success.
America Dreams Deferred (#114) Duration: 1:59:00 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
A young Latino man, William Caballero, juggles unconditional family love with the challenges of breaking the cycle that has kept so many relatives from reaching their dreams. Set against a backdrop of Coney Island and Fayetteville, North Carolina, an NYU graduate student turns the camera on his Puerto Rican-American family plagued by social, medical and public health issues. US health care and culture is examined through this young man's lens, which also explores both his and family's dreams. Many immigrants in the US aspire to achieve the American dream and this Latino family comprised of immigrants to second-generation Americans is no different. As subjective as the barometer of reaching this goal is, the film begs the ultimate question: who attains their American dream?
My Brooklyn/Fate of a Salesman (#208) Duration: 1:56:46 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
My Brooklyn is a documentary about Director Kelly Anderson's personal journey, as a Brooklyn "gentrifier," to understand the forces reshaping her neighborhood along lines of race and class. The film asks how to heal the deep racial wounds embedded in our urban development patterns, and how citizens can become active in restoring democracy to a broken planning process.
Fate of a Salesman is an intimate portrait of a way of life on the verge of disappearing. In its 60th year of business, Men's Fashion Center in Washington, DC has come to represent identity, legacy and redemption for salesmen Willie and Steve and owner Jerry. But business has crawled to a halt in the face of a tough economy and changing neighborhood, pushing the store to the verge of closure. Set amidst racks of pin-striped suits and feathered hats, the clothing of a bygone era, the men struggle to redefine themselves as the place with which they have long identified begins to vanish.
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (#209) Duration: 56:46 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth tells the story of the transformation of the American city in the decades after World War II, through the lens of the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing development and the St. Louis residents who called it home. At the film's historical center is an analysis of the massive impact of the national urban renewal program of the 1950s and 1960s, which prompted the process of mass suburbanization and emptied American cities of their residents, businesses, and industries. Those left behind in the city faced a destitute, rapidly de-industrializing St. Louis , parceled out to downtown interests and increasingly segregated by class and race. The residents of Pruitt-Igoe were among the hardest hit. Their gripping stories of survival, adaptation, and success are at the emotional heart of the film.
Downeast (#210) Duration: 1:26:46 STEREO (Secondary audio: none)
Set during an era of U.S. post-industrialization in which numerous factories have been exported, Downeast focuses on Antonio Bussone's efforts to open a processing factory in rural Maine.