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POV Season 15 Episodes

12 Episodes 2002 - 2003

Episode 1

The Smith Family

Tue, Jun 25, 2002 90 mins

An affecting portrait of a Mormon family confronting AIDS opens the series' 15th season. Director Tasha Oldham follows Kim and Steve Smith, and their teenage sons through Steve's illness, which he contracted through homosexual contact. (Supplementing Oldham's footage are family home videos.) Kim admits to feelings of anger and betrayal. She's also frustrated by insurance snafus, and her own health isn't the best (she contracted the HIV from Steve). And Steve, guilt-ridden, worries about his standing with the church.

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Episode 2

Boomtown

Tue, Jul 2, 2002 60 mins

Following Native American operators of legal fireworks stands during the monthlong runup to Fourth of July 1999 on Bainbridge Island, Wash. The hour also explores how these entrepreneurs keep their feet---and their identities---in both the Indian and non-Indian worlds ("We walk on both sides at all times," says Nic Armstrong, whose father, Bennie, is the tribal chairman of the Suquamish nation). As for the fireworks selling, it's an important component of the local economy, and it's a small business, with all the risk that entails.

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Episode 3

Hybrid

Tue, Jul 9, 2002 60 mins

Filmmaker Monteith McCollum's lyrical portrait of his grandfather, Iowa corn farmer Milford Beehgly, who believed passionately in the value of corn hybridization (and built a successful seed business on it). The flinty Beeghly, who died in 2001 at age 102, was certain that hybrid corn could solve world hunger and lead to world peace. "Corn has personality, too," says Beeghly in the film. Supplementing Beeghly's remarks are comments from family members.

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Episode 4

Refrigerator Mothers

Tue, Jul 16, 2002 60 mins

In "Refrigerator Mothers," seven mothers of autistic children born in the 1950s and '60s describe the burdens caused by their being blamed for their offsprings' autism at a time when it was believed that the neurological disorder was caused by maternal coldness (hence the term "refrigerator mother"). The hour also explores how the blame-the-mother theory took hold (its major proponent was legendary developmental psychologist Bruno Bettelheim), and how it was gradually disproved.

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Episode 5

Fenceline: A Company Town Divided

Tue, Jul 23, 2002 60 mins

"Fenceline: A Company Town Divided" examines the racial divide over a chemical plant in the Mississippi River town of Norco, La. Norco is in the heart of an industrial area that some call "cancer alley." But not many employees and retirees of Norco's Shell chemical plant, most of them white, would agree: They love Shell and say that they're healthy. The blacks who live next to the plant have a different view, and many say they're unhealthy. The program explores this faultline in parallel interviews with residents of both communities.

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Episode 6

Sweet Old Song

Tue, Jul 30, 2002 60 mins

From July 2002: A profile of 93-year-old fiddle and mandolin legend Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong (he also paints and writes poetry) from the point of view of his wife, Barbara Ward, who's in her early 60s and is an artist and writer herself. Ward narrates the film, which chronicles their courtship (they met in 1983), samples Armstrong's music and follows them to his Tennessee home town, where painful memories of segregation are eased by accolades (including a day in his honor). And when he visits the cemetery where his parents are buried, he's upbeat. "Nobody's carrying me," he says.

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Episode 7

Mai's America

Tue, Aug 6, 2002 90 mins

"Mai's America" follows a Vietnamese exchange student through her senior year in high school and on to college. "America is all the movies I grew up with," Mai says before leaving her home in Hanoi. Then she arrives in the town where she's to go to school. It's in Mississippi, and it's not exactly what she had imagined. But she's outgoing and makes friends ranging from two "popular" girls to a cross-dressing gay man. Mai's history teacher also befriends her, and gives her a different perspective on "the American War." Then it's on to college. Filmmaker: Marlo Poras.

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Episode 8

Senorita Extraviada

Tue, Aug 20, 2002 30 mins

"Senorita Extraviada," filmmaker Lourdes Portillo's mournful musings on the unsolved murders of some 270 young women in and around Juarez, Mexico, since 1993. Portillo's mission: "to track down the ghosts," she says, "and to listen to the mystery that surrounds them." Portillo also charts the police investigations of the crimes (and explores allegations of police wrongdoing). But mostly she seeks out the relatives of victims. "Who knows what she went through?" says one father. "I don't want to think about it."

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Episode 9

Escuela

Tue, Aug 27, 2002 60 mins

Following 14-year-old Liliana Luis, the daughter of migrant farm workers, as she travels between Texas and California (and back)---changing schools as she does, in mid-term. Not surprisingly, Liliana doesn't like this---she must leave a California boyfriend behind when she returns to Texas, and each "new episode" in another school makes her uneasy. Also not surprisingly, Liliana is hardly the only migrant child in this situation, and too many drop out. One is her older sister Elizabeth, for whom life remains precarious.

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Episode 10

Afghanistan 1380

Mon, Sep 9, 2002 60 mins

"Afghanistan Year 1380" follows surgeon Gino Strada and medical coordinator Kate Rowlands as they treat victims of the fighting in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. Their Kabul hospital had been shut down by the Taliban, and as the film opens, they're operating in the town of Anabah, controlled by the Northern Alliance, where they treat both fighters and children ("and when the planes bombed my father died," says one boy). But when the Taliban falls they head back to Kabul---as bombs fall around them---to reopen their hospital. Among their patients: injured Taliban fighters.

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Episode 11

Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin

Mon, Jan 20, 2003 90 mins

Profiling Bayard Rustin, the long-time pacifist and civil-rights activist (1912-87), who organized the 1963 March on Washington. It was one of Rustin's least controversial moments. Rustin is recalled here in stills, clips, comments by friends and colleagues, and readings from his FBI file. He was a pacifist who resisted the draft in WWII. He was also gay and didn't go out of his way to hide it. "He was his own man," says writer Midge Decter.

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Episode 12

Two Towns of Jasper

Wed, Jan 22, 2003 90 mins

"Two Towns of Jasper" gauges the racial fallout from the 1998 murder-by-dragging of black resident James Byrd Jr. by three white men by following the Texas town's black and white residents separately during the defendants' 1999 trials. The murder, says, filmmaker Marco Williams, "was an incident that magnifies differences." Williams, who's black, follows blacks in Jasper, while coproducer Whitney Dow, who's white, follows whites. There's little overt hostility, and much searching for common ground. But not as much finding of it. As a white cleric puts it: "They're feeling wounds we're not feeling."

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