PBS documentaries

Documentaries thrive — at Oscar time and beyond

At Oscar time, our attention drifts to top names – Spielberg and Kidman and Denzel and such.
But maybe we’ll also notice Meera Devi and Suneeta Prajapati and others. They’re at the core of “Writing with Fire” (shown here) which is up for an Oscar (best documentary feature) on Sunday, March 27, then reaches PBS’ “Independent Lens” at 10 p.m. the next day.
“The extremely brave actions of these young women is amazing,” Lois Vossen, who started “Lens” 23 years ago, said by phone. “I don’t know whether I would have the guts to do what they do.”
They report for a print-and-online news agency in rural India. They are women from the Dalit caste (previously called “untouchables”), confronting people who distrust women and Dalit and maybe the news in general. Read more…

“Voice of Freedom” launches big PBS week

The world seemed to agree that Marian Anderson (shown here) was a great singer.
Audiences cheered; critics raved. Conductor Arturo Toscanani said this was a voice “one is privileged to hear only once in 100 years.”
What people didn’t agree on, in a segregated time, was where she could perform. That’s at the core of “American Experience: Voice of Freedom” (9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15), a documentary that launches an exceptionally strong week on PBS.
It’s followed on Tuesday and Wednesday by Henry Louis Gates’ resounding “The Black Church: This Is My Story, This Is My Song.” The week ends Sunday with an emotional, Christmastime season-finale of “All Creatures Great and Small.” Read more…

Masterful films eye voting and gossip

Let’s say you decide to turn Tuesday (Oct. 20) into a documentary film festival.
You ignore the rest of TV – “Voice,” “Bachelorette,” even the World Series – and watch two PBS films back-to-back. It’s “American Masters” at 9 p.m. and “Frontline” at 10:30 (check local listings).
Chances are, you’ll emerge impressed. These films are richly crafted … yet thoroughly different.
The “Masters” film – “Walter Winchell: The Power of Gossip” – is set mostly in the 1930s to ‘50s; the “Frontline” one – “Whose Vote Counts?” – is about the current chaos of long lines (shown here) and tangled rules for votin Read more…