THIRTEEN, Kunhardt McGee Productions and Inkwell Films, in Production on New PBS Series, Faces of America
Presented and written by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. ‘Faces of America’ takes the quest begun in ‘African American Lives’ and ‘African American Lives 2’ to a new level to provide an understanding of American identity and history
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--America is a nation of immigrants, and the richly diverse racial, ethnic, cultural and religious heritage that truly defines the American experience is the focus of Faces of America, a new four-part PBS series from the producers of African American Lives (2006), Oprah’s Roots (2007), African American Lives 2 (2008), and most recently Looking for Lincoln (2009).
“We hope to show how immigration of peoples from around the globe so profoundly has reshaped what it means to be ‘an American’ and continues to affect how we talk about identity throughout our society today.”
Since 2006, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr has been helping people find long-buried details of their recent and distant ancestries by restoring the branches of their individual family trees and then analyzing their DNA. Faces of America expands the role of DNA science to take the exploration of identity to an entirely new level. The series will film the sequencing of the full human genome for two of the series’ participants – a scientific and filmic first – to reveal detailed information about their ancestral make up.
Currently in production throughout Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia, anticipate broadcast of Faces of America on PBS in 2010. Faces of America is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG – one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.
“We will reveal in rich detail the fascinating stories about our guests’s ancestors, both since their arrival as immigrants to the United States, and before their arrival here, in the countries from which they emigrated,” says Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. “We hope to show how immigration of peoples from around the globe so profoundly has reshaped what it means to be ‘an American’ and continues to affect how we talk about identity throughout our society today.”
Global in scope, Faces of America will look beyond the black experience to explore American identity with guests who are Asian, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Syrian, West Indian, and Native American. Joining Professor Gates in this new series are poet Elizabeth Alexander, who composed and read the poem at President Barack Obama's inauguration, chef Mario Batali, comedian and television personality Stephen Colbert, writer Junot Diaz, writer Louise Erdrich, writer Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, cellist Yo Yo Ma, writer and director Mike Nichols, former monarch of Jordan Queen Noor, actress Meryl Streep, and Olympic gold medalist and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.
Too expensive for popular use, to date, less than 20 people have had their entire genome sequenced. Working with Illumina and Knome and geneticists at the Broad Institute and the Harvard Medical School, Faces of America will make medical history by filming the sequencing and interpretation of the genomes – six billion base pairs – of Professor Gates and his father, Henry Louis Gates, Sr. In addition, each guest will undergo dense genotyping to trace their father’s line, mother’s line and their admixture (that is their percentages of European, Asian, Native American, and African ancestry).
Faces of America will reveal to viewers and to the guests themselves their rich family stories, tracing them back to their arrival on America’s shores, and beyond: deep into the history of their countries of origin. In doing so, the series will show how America is the vibrant result of the confluence of many rich civilizations.
Faces in America is a production of Kunhardt McGee Productions, Inkwell Films and THIRTEEN for WNET.ORG in association with Ark Media. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., William R. Grant, Peter Kunhardt, and Dyllan McGee are executive producers. Senior producer is Barak Goodman.
About Kunhardt McGee Productions
For nearly 22 years, Kunhardt McGee Productions (formerly Kunhardt Productions) has been responsible for critically acclaimed historical programming with a reputation for high editorial standards. Most recently, Kunhardt McGee Productions co-produced Looking for Lincoln (2009), Oprah's Roots (2007) and African American Lives 1 and 2 (2006 & 2008) for PBS. Previously, the company produced Freedom: A History of US, an eight-hour PBS series based upon Joy Hakim's award-winning books. Other notable works from Kunhardt McGee Productions include Lincoln, a four-hour series for ABC; In Memoriam, a one-hour co-production with HBO about Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; and The American President, a 10-hour PBS series profiling all forty-one presidents of the United States. Kunhardt McGee Productions is currently producing a multi-part series, Human Nature, for Vulcan Productions and WGBH's Nova Science Unit to air on PBS in 2010. More information can be found at: www.kunhardtmcgeeproductions.com
About Inkwell Productions
Inkwell Films was founded by Henry Louis Gates Jr. to produce sophisticated documentary films about the African and African-American experience for a broad audience. In addition to Oprah’s Roots, Inkwell Films co-produced African American Lives (2006), African American Lives 2 (2008), Looking for Lincoln (2009) and is currently developing Blacks in Latin America with Wall-to-Wall Productions and I’ve Known Rivers: The History of the African American People, an eight-part series. Blacks in Latin America and I’ve Know Rivers are tentatively slated for national broadcast premiere in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
About Ark Media
Ark Media is a documentary film company founded in 1997 by the producing team of Barak Goodman and Rachel Dretzin. Ark's mission is to produce documentary films characterized by rigorous reporting, careful craft, and imaginative filmmaking. For the last decade, Ark has produced films primarily for the PBS series Frontline and American Experience, and for cable outlets such as The History Channel and American Movie Classics. During this time, Ark films have won nearly every major broadcast award: the Emmy, DuPont-Columbia, Robert F. Kennedy, Writers Guild and Peabody, as well as earning an Academy Award nomination and official selection to the Sundance Film Festival. For more information, visit www.ark-media.net.
New York public media company WNET.ORG is a pioneering provider of television and web content. The parent of Thirteen, WLIW21 and Creative News Group, WNET.ORG brings such acclaimed broadcast series and websites as Worldfocus, Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Charlie Rose, Wide Angle, Secrets of the Dead, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, Visions, Consuelo Mack WealthTrack, Wild Chronicles, Miffy and Friends, and Cyberchase to national and international audiences. Through its wide range of channels and platforms, WNET.ORG serves the entire New York City metro area with unique local productions, broadcasts and innovative educational and cultural projects. In all that it does, WNET.ORG pursues a single, overarching goal – to create media experiences of lasting significance for New York, America and the world. For more information, visit www.wnet.org.