People worldwide have seen the Disney animated classic Bambi and have been deeply moved by it, but few can tell you the name of the artist behind the film. Even fewer are aware of this pioneering artist’s impact on American art and popular culture. Until his death at the age of 106, Tyrus Wong was America’s oldest living Chinese American artist and one of the last remaining artists from the golden age of Disney animation. The quiet beauty of his Eastern-influenced paintings caught the eye of Walt Disney, who made Wong the inspirational sketch artist for Bambi. Filmmaker Pamela Tom corrects a historical wrong by spotlighting this seminal, but heretofore under-credited, figure.
Learn the truth, witness his genius, in American Masters: Tyrus (PBS Distribution).
Born in Canton (now Guangzhou), China, right before the fall of the Chinese Empire, Wong and his father immigrated to America in 1919, never to see their family again. The film shows how he overcame a life of poverty and racism to become a celebrated painter who once exhibited with Picasso and Matisse, a Hollywood sketch artist and Disney Legend.
Previously unseen art and interviews with Wong, movie clips and archival footage illustrate how his unique style–melding Chinese calligraphic and landscape influences with contemporary Western art–is found in everything from Disney animation (Bambi) and live-action Hollywood studio films (Rebel Without a Cause, The Wild Bunch, Sands of Iwo Jima, April in Paris) to Hallmark Christmas cards, kites and hand-painted California dinnerware to fine art and Depression-era WPA paintings. The film also features new interviews with his daughters and fellow artists/designers, including his Disney co-worker and friend Milton Quon and curators and historians of Wong’s work.
Over one-and-a-half million refugees and migrants have smuggled themselves to the West since 2015, fleeing countries besieged by violence and poverty in search of safety and a better life. But the countries these refugees dreamed of reaching have changed.
FRONTLINE: Exodus: The Journey Continues is a stunning sequel to the 2016 documentary FRONTLINE: Exodus and tells the intimate, firsthand stories of refugees and migrants caught in Europe’s tightened borders, facing heightened nationalism and rising anti-immigrant sentiment. As this global migration and refugee crisis continues, with countries becoming less and less welcoming to those seeking refuge, this documentary is an eye-opening look at the evolving crisis that draws on footage filmed by the refugees themselves.
The program will be available on DVD April 17. The program is also available for digital download.
One of Louisa May Alcott’s most beloved novels is being adapted and remade again, this time for PBS. Save the date: MASTERPIECE: Little Woman premieres on May 13 and May 20; the Blu-ray and DVD hit stores May 22.The program will also be available for digital download.
Set against the backdrop of a country divided, the story follows the four March sisters on their journey from childhood to adulthood while their father is away at war. Under the guidance of their mother Marmee, the girls navigate what it means to be a young woman: from gender roles to sibling rivalry, first love, loss and marriage. Accompanied by the charming boy next door Laurie Laurence, their cantankerous wealthy Aunt March and benevolent neighbor Mr. Laurence, Little Women is a coming-of-age story that is as relevant and engaging today as it was on its original publication in 1868.
“Little Women is one of the most-loved novels in the English language, and with good reason,” says writer and executive producer Heidi Thomas. “Its humanity, humor, and tenderness never date, and as a study of love, grief, and growing up it has no equal. There could be no better time to revisit the story of a family striving for happiness in an uncertain world.”
Heading the cast are Emily Watson as Marmee, the devoted mother of the four adolescent March girls; Michael Gambon as Mr. Laurence; and Angela Lansbury as the March family matriarch, Aunt March.
The March sisters—the “little women” of the title—feature newcomer Maya Hawke as the willful and adventurous Jo; Willa Fitzgerald as the eldest and most virtuous, Meg; Annes Elwy as the shy sister, Beth; and Kathryn Newton as Amy, the youngest of the family.
Also appearing are Jonah Hauer-King as Laurie, the loveable boy next door; Dylan Baker as Mr. March, who is serving as a chaplain with the Union Army; Julian Morris as John Brooke, Laurie’s cultured and handsome tutor; and Mark Stanley as the charming Professor Bhaer.
A celebration of family as much as it is a recognition of the challenges of growing up and forging an individual identity, the programremains relevant due to the universal themes at its core. Backed by a nearly all-female creative team, Thomas’ adaptation doesn’t shy away from tackling the darker, more complex emotions the March family experiences. Drawing from a novel that was well ahead of its time the showspeaks to current issues as much as it does to the issues women faced at the turn of the 20th century.
Devotees of the original novel will relish the book’s indelible scenes in this MASTERPIECE production: the cruel fate of Jo’s manuscript, Amy’s accident on the ice, Meg’s first ball, Beth and the forbidden piano, the pickled limes affair, and many other cherished episodes in a journey to a bygone time.
Although modern society would be disorienting in the extreme to the March sisters, Thomas notes that even today “girls are still confused about their desires and their desirability, and the passage from innocence to experience is more turbulent than ever.”
“We need hope, and we need empathy,” Thomas adds. “We need laughter, and we need catharsis, we need joy and inspiration. Little Womengives us all of these things.”
Ann Curry spices up important issues. That’s one of the reasons we love We’ll Meet Again (PBS Distribution), her program that explores some of history’s most dramatic events through the personal stories of those who experienced them and brings together people whose lives intersected at pivotal moments. Executive produced and reported by Curry, each episode reveals the powerful bonds forged among people who now, against the odds, have the chance to reunite with someone who transformed their life.
The tides of history can disrupt lives, throwing strangers together or tearing loved ones apart. We’ll Meet Again reveals these moving personal stories of hope, courage and love: From a Vietnam War baby desperate to find the American father she last saw 40 years ago to the military chaplain who helped a stranger through the trauma of 9/11, from a Japanese-American girl interned in 1942 who never forgot the classmate who helped her during her darkest hours, to civil rights workers whose lives were forever changed by the deep relationships they formed in the ’60s South.
The program takes viewers on a journey of hope, searching for clues in marriage records and war and immigration documents, and combing archives to reunite those separated by time and distance.
“This series helps people separated by conflict, war and humanitarian disasters find each other again and reveals untold stories of courage, survival, friendship and even love,” says Curry. “This is human history—not from the point of view of kings or politicians or generals—but of everyday people on the front lines of massive events they have no way to control. Their stories tell us something about what we are made of.”
“Children of WWII” Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. entered World War II. Two children whose lives were forever changed by the war search for lost friends. Reiko, a Japanese-American woman sent to an internment camp as a child, hopes to find the classmate who stood by her in the face of anti-Japanese sentiment. Peter, who fled the Nazis with his parents in 1938, searches for the family who befriended him in the last refuge open to the German Jews: the Shanghai Ghetto.
“Rescued From Mt. St. Helens” When Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, 57 people were killed and hundreds more injured. Volcanic ash was scattered across 11 states. In this episode, two people who survived the disaster reveal how the experience influenced their lives. Mindy, a trainee scientist whose inspirational team leader was killed by the blast wants to find his family to let them know he saved her life. Sue hopes to find the brave helicopter pilot who risked his own life to rescue her.
“Lost Children of Vietnam” The war in Vietnam may have ended in 1975, but its impact lingers in countless lives today. Two children who became refugees after the war tell their stories. Tina, born in Saigon, searches for the American father she last saw more than 40 years ago, and Nam hopes to find Gary, the Texas cowboy he met as a 12-year-old refugee and who inspired his dream of coming to America.
“Heroes of 9/11” During the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC, strangers were thrown together in unimaginable situations. Patrick, a businessman visiting New York, searches for Emily, the photographer’s assistant who comforted him after the collapse of the World Trade Center. Timothy, a military chaplain plunged into chaos at the Pentagon, hopes to thank the fellow chaplain who gave him the courage to carry on.
“Freedom Summer” During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Fatima, a teenager from New York, volunteered to register voters in Louisiana. Now, she returns to the South, hoping to find Thelma, the daughter of her host family, whose courage in the face of racism was unforgettable. Sherie searches for Lefty, the charismatic civil rights activist whose commitment to nonviolence inspired her own lifelong involvement with social justice causes.
“Coming Out” For decades, gay Americans did not have equal protection under the law; many faced prejudice, possible imprisonment and rejection from their families and society. Two stories of the struggle for acceptance are told in this episode. Tom longs to find Maria, the friend he trusted with his secret and who saved him from brutal electroshock conversion therapy in the ’60s. Paul, who was University of New Hampshire student body president in 1973, searches for Wayne, who organized the first gay student organization on campus. Wayne’s courage to take the fight to court against overwhelming opposition from the state’s conservative governor changed Paul’s life and ultimately helped him accept his own sexuality.
We could say that PBS Distribution programs being out the beast in us.
Go where no human cameraman can go to witness a new perspective of the animal kingdom. NATURE: Animals With Cameras journeys into animals’ worlds using custom, state-of-the-art cameras worn by the animals themselves. Capturing never-before-seen behavior, these animal cinematographers help expand human understanding of their habitats and solve mysteries that have eluded scientists until now. The DVD will be available April 24. The program will be also available for digital download.
Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan (Nature:Snowbound: Animals of Winter) and a team of pioneering animal behaviorists join forces to explore stories of animal lives “told” by the animals themselves. The cameras are custom-built by camera design expert Chris Watts to fit on the animals unobtrusively and to be easily removed at a later point. From this unique vantage point, experience the secret lives of nine different animal species. Sprint across the savanna with a cheetah, plunge into the ocean with a seal and swing through the trees with a chimpanzee.
The one-of-a-kind sequences captured by the animals include several on-camera firsts. The cameras allowed for newborn meerkats to be shown in their burrow for the first time ever, as meerkat pups don’t emerge from the burrow until they reach three weeks of age. In the Atlantic Ocean, an unborn devil ray is shown kicking inside its mother’s stomach—a phenomenon never before captured on film.
The program visits eight countries and features three different species per episode.
Following the publication of Nature‘s article acknowledging the greatest discovery in Egypt’s Khufu pyramid for more than 1,000 years, Secrets of the Dead: Scanning the Pyramids (PBS Distribution) unveils the adventure behind this revelation in this new documentary. The only one of the Seven Wonders of the World still standing, the Great Pyramid of Khufu has fascinated people for centuries. Tracing the origin of the legends of secret chambers hidden in the heart of the pyramid, the program shows what lies within, solving a 4,500-year-old mystery, by following the first scientific mission in 30 years to be authorized by the Egyptian government to examine the pyramids of Egypt.
Passionate about ancient history, the global team of Scan Pyramids consists of particle physicists, experts in innovation and 3D technologies, and engineers in thermal imaging from Egypt, France, Japan and Canada. For more than two years, they explored every corner of the pyramid, using non-invasive technologies including infrared cameras, 3D scanners and cosmological particle detectors located inside and outside the monument. Their search detected unknown cavities in the Great Pyramid of Khufu for the first time since the Middle Ages. Viewers are able to witness Scan Pyramid’s adventures and successes in this extraordinary scientific and historical journey through time and space that led to this historic discovery.
Meet Sudan, the last male of his sub-species, the Northern White Rhinoceros. NATURE: The Last Rhino (PBS Distribution) tells his harrowing journey through the international cast of characters who have been involved in Sudan’s life, from when he was snatched as a calf from his mother’s side in war-torn Central Africa, to his captivity as a prized exhibit in a cold, concrete zoo behind the Iron Curtain while poaching devastated his kind to extinction back home.
Now at 43 years old and half-blind, Sudan is living out his days under 24-hour armed guard, on a protective sanctuary in Kenya. As his kind nears its last hour, scientists and animal experts turn to technology in a race to save the Northern White Rhino before it dies out forever.
It’s a series that remains unforgotten. Yes, it’s that good.
PBS Distribution will be releasing the first two seasons of Masterpiece Mystery!: Unforgotten on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD. Two stone-cold cases of murder test the wits of crime-solving duo Detective Chief Inspector Cassie Stuart and Detective Sergeant Sunny Khan, played by Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar in two seasons of the critically acclaimed UK crime series.
Save the dates: Unforgotten Season 1 will be available on DVD and Blu-ray April 24; Unforgotten Season will be available on DVD and Blu-rayMay 15. Both programs will also be available for digital download.
The Telegraph (London) called Unforgotten’s opening episodes “the gateway to a labyrinth of absorbingly interconnected lives,” adding that Walker and Bhaskar portray “two of the most credibly ordinary cops currently on the TV beat.”
The Australian (Sydney) singled out screenwriter Chris Lang as “a cunning master of parallel plotting. Compelling stuff.” And The Independent (London) lauded the remarkable supporting cast of “unforgotten and unforgettable actors.”
Joining Walker and Bhaskar is Peter Egan, who appears in both seasons as Cassie’s father and Tom Courtenay, who won a best supporting actor BAFTA for his role in the series. Also appearing in Season 1 are Gemma Jones, Trevor Eve, Cherie Lunghi, Bernard Hill, Hannah Gordon and Ruth Sheen.
Guest stars in Season 2 include Badria Timimi, Mark Bonnar, Lorraine Ashbourne and Rosie Cavaliero.
Season 1 opens with a human skeleton found beneath a basement. The remains could be centuries old—or four decades, as comes to light upon further investigation of the crime scene. Cassie and Sunny eventually discover the victim was a young man, Jimmy Sullivan and his nearly-disintegrated pocket diary leads the detectives to a list of names that may hold the key to solving the murder.
The list of names includes Sir Phillip Cross (Eve), a mobster who bribed his way into the aristocracy; Father Robert Greaves (Hill), a beloved vicar with a dark secret; Lizzie Wilton (Sheen), a reformed skinhead; and Eric Slater (Courtenay), an elderly, disabled bookkeeper taking care of his wife, Claire (Jones) who is suffering from dementia. They all lead very different lives, but something links them, something that explains Jimmy’s final resting place and the torture marks found on his bones.
Season 2 starts innocently enough with a routine river dredging operation. When the scoop brings up a soggy, old suitcase, the workers open it and find a corpse sealed up so long that the tissues have turned to a soapy substance. Gruesome forensic work identifies the victim as David Walker, a businessman missing for twenty-five years.
Cassie and Sunny locate Walker’s wife, Tessa Nixon (Ashbourne), now remarried. A hard-bitten DI herself, Tessa reminds her fellow police officers that “sixty-three percent of all murder victims are killed by their partners.”
“You’ll be thinking that, won’t you?” she says. “I would be.”
But Cassie and Sunny have other suspects to consider. A pager found with Walker’s remains leads them to Sara Mahmoud (Timimi), a Muslim teacher who wishes she’d never heard of David Walker. Other clues connect Walker with Colin Osborne (Bonnar), a gay attorney in the process of adopting a young girl with his partner; and Marion Kelsey (Cavaliero), a harried nurse in a children’s cancer ward.
The puzzle pieces won’t fit together—until, as The Telegraph admiringly notes, Cassie has an inspiration that climaxes in “the perfect ending.”
PBS Distribution continues to make news with four special, must-see programs that will be available on DVD in April.
The New York Cantors (available April 10 ) Three young cantors, all rising stars in the world’s Jewish music scene, are brought together in Amsterdam’s revered 17th century Portuguese Synagogue for a concert of Jewish sacred and secular music arranged for orchestra and choir. The New York Cantors are comprised of Brooklyn-born Yaakov (Yanky) Lemmer, cantor of the Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York City; Azi Schwartz, a native of Israel and cantor at New York’s Park Avenue Synagogue; and Netanel Hershtik, cantor at The Hampton Synagogue, Westhampton Beach, New York, also Israeli-born.
Understanding the Opioid Epidemic (available April 10)
Through personal stories and interviews with experts, this program reveals the tragic impact of the overuse of prescription painkillers on individuals, families and communities. They are stories that often begin with medical treatment for moderate to severe pain that evolve into drug addiction and death. In addition to the personal stories of those impacted by the opioid crisis, the documentary explores the dramatic increase in the use and acceptance of prescription painkillers.
Impossible Builds, Volume 1 (available April 24) This is an “access all areas” look at the creation of some of the world’s most ambitious, complex, and technologically advanced construction projects. From subaquatic homes and the ultimate in billionaire luxury, to futuristic towers and pencil thin skyscrapers – these are the structures they said could never be built.
But now, using revolutionary technology and cutting-edge construction materials, three previously impossible builds are taking shape across the world. And the program is on site to follow their progress every step of the way.
Survival Guide for Pain-Free Living with Peggy Cappy (available April 24) Anyone who has lived with pain knows how physically and emotionally debilitating it can be. This is why Peggy’s most popular programs have addressed how yoga can be used to alleviate pain and cope with various challenges from arthritis to back pain.
In this show, Peggy and Lee, a neuromuscular therapist, offer effective strategies for dealing with pain day-by-day and highlight stories of those who once suffered pain but are now living pain-free.
Sometimes we are please to tell you about NOVA programs that are, well, out of space. Witness:
NOVA: Black Hole Apocalypse (PBS Distribution, releasing April 3)
Black holes are the most enigmatic, mysterious, and exotic objects in the universe. In Black Hole Apocalypse, NOVA investigates recent surprising discoveries about black holes that have raised deep questions and brought astrophysicsto a major crossroads. Guided by astrophysicist and novelist Janna Levin, viewers journey to the weirdest places in the cosmos to explore the profound mysteries of these gravitational monsters.
Where do they come from? What’s inside them? What happens if you fall into one? And what can they tell us about the nature of space, time, and gravity? Through dynamic CGI animation, Levin illustrates the principles of gravity, and even takes a trip to the edge of the black hole at the center of our galaxy. What will happen if she gets too close?
NOVA: The Impossible Flight (PBS Distribution, releasing April 10) It is one of the greatest aviation undertakings of our time: a 26,000-mile perilous journey to circle the globe in a plane that doesn’t use a single drop of fuel. The launch of the Solar Impulse II in March 2015 is the culmination of a 13-year bold endeavor to push the boundaries of human flight and demonstrate the potential for renewable energy.
In this program, NOVA embarks on an ambitious quest with two intrepid pilots and a team of brilliant engineers, meteorologists, and flight controllers as they design, construct, and fly around the world in the first zero-fuel, solar-powered airplane.
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