Tag Archives: Stanley Nelson

May we present a nifty selection of nifty “American Experience” PBS specials

Sealab
In the spring of 1964, explorers were preparing for a new mission, diving into the sea as one of the Navy’s newly-minted “aquanauts.” Aquanauts were divers who attempted to chart the ocean’s depths and faced barriers that had thwarted humans for centuries: near total blackness, bone-jarring cold, and intense pressure that could disorient the mind and crush the body. Aboard Sealab, explorers would attempt to break through those barriers—going deeper and staying underwater longer than anyone had done before.

An audacious feat of engineering—a pressurized underwater habitat, complete with science labs and living quarters—Sealab aimed to prove that humans were capable of spending days or even months living and working on the ocean floor. Sealab would pioneer what is known as “saturation diving,” which would allow divers to remain undersea—and emerge unscathed—for more extended periods of time.

After a tragic accident the Sealab program was subsequently suspended and completely shut down in 1970, however the lessons learned were used in numerous covert Naval operations for years to come.


Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. presents the definitive history of one of the least understood chapters in American history—the transformative years following the American Civil War, when the nation struggled to rebuild itself in the face of profound loss, massive destruction and revolutionary social change. The film takes a broad view of the Reconstruction era and its aftermath.

The first half of the documentary centers on the pivotal and hopeful decade following the Civil War rebellion, charting black progress and highlighting the accomplishments of the many political leaders who emerged to usher their communities into this new era of freedom. The series’ second half looks beyond that hopeful decade, when the arc of history bent backwards.

Tracing the unraveling of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow segregation in the closing years of the 19th century, the film looks at the myriad ways in which black people continued to acquire land, build institutions and strengthen communities amidst increasing racial violence and repression.

The film also explores the flowering of African American art, music, literature and culture as tools of resistance in the struggle against Jim Crow racism, and the surge of political activism that marked the launch of iconic civil rights organizations.


Charm City
An official selection at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Maryland Film Festival, the Nashville Film Festival and at AFI Docs, this feature documentary was filmed over a violent three-year period when Baltimore’s nickname, Charm City, never seemed less apt. The film profiles a group of police, citizens, community leaders and government officials who, with grit, fury and compassion, are grappling with the consequences of violence and trying to reclaim their city’s future.

On the streets of Baltimore, shooting is rampant, the murder rate is approaching an all-time high and distrust of the police is at a fever pitch. With nerves frayed and neighborhoods in distress, dedicated community leaders, compassionate law enforcement officers and a progressive young city councilman try to stem the epidemic of violence. Filmed during the lead up to, and aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death in police custody, Charm City is a powerful cinema vérité portrait of those surviving in, and fighting for, the vibrant city they call home.


Dictator’s Playbook examines the historical, sociological and psychological foundations of 20th century dictatorships, and provides fresh insight into six brutal men who impacted world history, how they functioned, how they influenced each other and why they succeeded or failed.

Six episodes focus on one dictator, including: Kim Il Sung, Saddam Hussein, Benito Mussolini, Manuel Noriega, Francisco Franco and Idi Amin.


Margaret: The Rebel Princess focuses on Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth’s beautiful and rebellious younger sister. This program features rare footage and interviews with those who knew her best and offers unparalleled insight into Margaret’s turbulent life and times. Her unique position as the Queen’s younger sister in a changing Britain left her free to experiment and push boundaries, yet she was forever judged by the public and press beginning to question the very idea of a monarchy.

While Margaret often followed the rigid rules under which she was raised, she also stepped outside those rules and into scandal.


Directed by Peabody-and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, Boss: The Black Experiences in Business shines a light on the story of resilience and resistance within the black American experience in the face of racial hostility and violence, economic exclusion, segregation and discrimination. The new two-hour documentary traces the lives of African American entrepreneurs over 150 years, from those bound by bondage to moguls at the top of million-dollar empires.

Stories featured in the film include those of entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, publisher John H. Johnson, Motown CEO Berry Gordy and business pioneer and philanthropist Reginald F. Lewis, among many others.

This program brings viewers on a journey from the end of Reconstruction through the present, tracing the emergence of a stable black business community alongside the greater struggle for civil rights.


Homo Spatius
Can Homo sapiens evolve into Homo spatius?

For over 50 years now, we have been testing our human nature in our effort to conquer outer space, and still 30 years away from a possible human exploration of Mars, a question remains: Can our body take such travels? Will it ever adapt?

Accelerated aging, muscular atrophy, slowed-down brain functions, euphoric hallucinatory spells; as soon as we leave our usual environment towards extra-terrestrial horizons, we face conditions which our bodies are unfit for. However, the pull of exploration is stronger and space medicine is at work to prepare astronauts for travelling to new worlds , in a near or more distant future.

Combining human adventure and the exploration of the human body, this film offers unique insights into the physical and psychological effects of space travel on the astronauts and measures the impact on medical sciences.

For the record: Celebrate Black History Month with these historically important films and records

Black Wings  (PBS Distribution)
For early aviators, conquering the forces of gravity was a daunting challenge. But black aviators had an additional challenge: to conquer the forces of racism.

Image result for PBS BLACK WINGS

Meet the men and women of color who took to the skies throughout the 20th century and helped prove to a segregated nation that skin color didn’t determine skill level. From biplanes to commercial jets, and from barnstormers to war fighters, meet the path-breaking pilots who opened the skies for all.


In the firmament of rock ‘n’ roll’s first-generation creators, no artist looms larger than Chuck Berry. In a consistently innovative recording career that spanned more than 60 years, the iconic singer-songwriter-guitarist, who passed away on March 18, 2017, laid much of the groundwork for modern rock ‘n’ roll, while creating some of rock’s most distinctive and enduring anthems, including “Johnny B. Goode”, “Roll Over Beethoven,”, “Rock and Roll Music” and “Reelin and Rockin”.

Geffen/UMe are paying tribute to the immortal spirit of Chuck Berry with the ultimate vinyl version of his landmark greatest hits compilation, The Great Twenty-Eight, with The Great Twenty-Eight: Super Deluxe Edition.

The five-disc vinyl box set housed in a textured box, complements the original two-LP, 28-song compilation with an additional LP, More Great Chuck Berry, containing 14 more hits, rarities and B-sides missing from the original, as well as a rare live album, Oh Yeah! Live in Detroit, available on vinyl for the first time. The collection also include a newly created bonus ten-inch EP Berry Christmas, featuring four holiday-themed classics on “Rudolph-Red” vinyl, with one song on vinyl for the first time as well. A limited edition version on “Chess Blue” vinyl, limited to 500 copies.

Bob Dylan once called Berry “the Shakespeare of rock ‘n’ roll.” John Lennon stated, “If you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.'” As Keith Richards writes in the booklet intro, “Chuck Berry is the gentleman who started it all.”

And if those testimonials aren’t convincing enough, one listen to The Great Twenty-Eight: Super Deluxe Edition will make the case for Chuck Berry’s singular, timeless rock ‘n’ roll brilliance.


 

Cruel and Unusual, a profound documentary telling the story of three men—Robert King, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, known as the Angola 3. Wrongfully convicted for murdering a prison guard in 1972 at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, these men have spent longer in solitary than any other prisoners in the US.  On his release, Albert Woodfox had spent 43 years in a six foot by nine foot cell for a crime he did not commit.

Cover for the documentary, "Cruel And Unusual"

The film is available for sale and rental on Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, as well as DVD and Blu-ray.

Told in detail by interviews and prison phone calls from King, Wallace and Woodfox, Cruel and Unusual allows viewers to experience these men’s pain and anguish. From the worst of the worst in their cells, these men managed to find the best of the best that the human spirit has to offer. They have fought for justice and never accepted defeat so that no one else will ever suffer the way they did. A call to action, the film aims to support the growing campaign to end the overuse of long term solitary confinement in America’s prisons.


The rich history of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) began before the end of slavery, flourished in the 20th century, and profoundly influenced the course of the nation for over 150 years—yet remains largely unknown. This latest documentary from Stanley Nelson, America’s foremost film chronicler of the African American experience, is the powerful story of the rise, influence, and evolution of HBCUs come to life.

The story is told in Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities (PBS Distribution).

A haven for Black intellectuals, artists, and revolutionaries—and a path of promise toward the American dream—HBCUs have educated the architects of freedom movements and cultivated leaders in every field while remaining unapologetically Black for more than 150 years. These institutions have nurtured some of the most influential Americans of our time, from Booker T. Washington to Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois to Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison to Oprah Winfrey, Alice Walker to Spike Lee to Common.