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The Museum of Television & Radio Announces the Fifth Annual Television Documentary Festival April 15 to 25, 2004, in New York

Monday, March 15, 2004

New York, NY—The Museum of Television & Radio will present its fifth annual Television Documentary Festival in New York beginning on April 15 and running through April 25, 2004, with a special Members-only preview on April 14. A noncompetitive festival devoted to the art and history of television documentary, the 2004 Television Documentary Festival offers the premiere of seven films, with a discussion between the audience and the filmmakers, and in some cases the production teams and film subjects, following each screening; a retrospective screening series; a reexamination of a classic documentary; and seminars and workshops for adults and teens.    

This year's film premieres will include a Members-only screening of The Fight, an engrossing look at the intertwined careers of boxing greats Joe Louis and Max Schmeling; Born into Brothels, a transformative journey through the slums of Calcutta; David Grubin's epic look at the political career and tragic life of Robert Kennedy; Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues, an exploration of the myths and legends surrounding the country music icon; a candid study by MTV News of Americans and Iraqis dealing with the aftermath of the war; Ivy Meeropol's Heir to an Execution, a pilgrimage to learn more about her grandparents Julius and Ethel Rosenberg; and Still Doing It, a provocative new social-issues film on aging and sexuality.    

This year's Festival will also include a reunion of Top Value Television (TVTV) filmmakers, along with retrospective screenings of this 1970s countercultural video collective's work; a screening of the classic 1969 documentary Johnny Cash! The Man, His World, His Music; the Festival-opening seminar, To Be, or Not to Be, in the Picture: The Documentary Filmmaker and the Search for Truth, examining the reasons and ways a filmmaker becomes a participant in the documentary process; a hands-on workshop on crafting a successful pitch for aspiring documentarians; and the continuation of Docu-Jam: A Youth Documentary Showcase, featuring the work of young filmmakers from around the country. 

All Festival programs have been selected based on criteria in keeping with the Museum's ongoing mission to make available the finest collection of programs that uphold traditions of excellence, cultural impact, and historical significance. 

A complete Festival schedule and ticketing information follows. 

Funding for this Festival has been generously provided by The Hearst Corporation, A&E, Discovery Communications, HBO, The History Channel, and Court TV.  Additional support provided by IDA. 

The Museum's Television Documentary Advisory Committee members are Jon Alpert, Downtown Community Television Center; Nancy Dubuc, A&E; David Fanning, Frontline; Paola Freccero, Sundance Channel; Liz Garbus, Moxie Firecracker Films; Chana Gazit, Steward/Gazit Productions; Rena Golden, CNN International; David Grubin, David Grubin Productions; Diana Holtzberg, Films Transit International; Marjorie Kaplan, Discovery Kids/Discovery Communications, Inc.;  Lynne Kirby, Court TV; Barbara Kopple, Cabin Creek Films; Susan Lacy, American Masters; Lauren Lazin, MTV News and Documentaries; Ruby Lerner, Creative Capital; Al Maysles, Maysles Films, Inc.; Cara Mertes, P.O.V.; Stanley Moger, SFM Entertainment, LLC; Nina Henderson Moore, BET; Sheila Nevins, HBO; Elizabeth Peters, Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers; Steve Rosenbaum, Broadcast News Networks Inc. and Camera Planet; Prof. George Stoney, Tisch School of the Arts; Rosalind P. Walter; Susan Werbe, The History Channel; Christopher Wilcha, Filmmaker; and Kristal Brent Zook, Columbia University.  


Members-Only Festival Preview

Wednesday, April 14 at 6:00 p.m.


The Fight 

On June 22, 1938, when heavyweight champ Joe Louis stepped into the ring at Yankee Stadium to defend his title against Max Schmeling, the world knew that this was no ordinary bout. Schmeling, a German, was Hitler's mascot: a two-fisted symbol of Nazi aggression. Louis was the most celebrated black athlete in segregated America, a vessel for the hopes of his race and the expectations of his nation. Their monumental matchup drew the largest radio audience in history and was arguably the most politically charged sporting event of the century. In Barak Goodman's riveting documentary, it forms the climax of an epic narrative arc that expertly weaves each boxer's personal journey into the larger canvas of a complex and combustible era. (2003; 90 minutes. Written, produced, and directed by Barak Goodman. Coproduced by John Maggio.  Executive produced by Mark Samels.  A Social Media Productions film for American Experience in association with MDR/ARTE and BBC.) 

In Person: Barak Goodman (Filmmaker) 

Museum Members should call (212) 621-6780 or e-mail to make reservations.  

Thursday, April 15 at 6:00 p.m.


To Be, or Not to Be, in the Picture: The Documentary Filmmaker and the Search for Truth

Many of today's documentary filmmakers come out from behind the camera rather than passively filming. Such directors as Michael Moore and Nick Broomfield play a visible, even catalytic role in their documentaries, flagrantly violating rules of cinema-verité filmmaking. This seminar will examine the reasons and ways a filmmaker becomes involved in the documentary process—from extensive use of narration to the aggressive pursuit of subjects. Panelists will also explore the ethical and ideological implications of the director becoming a participant in his or her documentary. 

This seminar is presented as part of the Museum's University Satellite Seminar Series.

Sent via satellite to universities and colleges across the country, this seminar includes a live question-and-answer session between panelists and the off-site audience. 

In Person: Alan Berliner (The Sweetest Sound, Intimate Stranger); Chris Hegedus (, The War Room); Alexandra Pelosi (Journeys With George); D.A. Pennebaker (Don't Look Back, Monterey Pop); Chris Wilcha (The Target Shoots First, Secondhand Stories). Additional panelists to be announced. 

Tickets: $15 ($12 for individual Museum Members).  

Friday, April 16 at 6:00 p.m.


Viva Video! TVTV Reunited

Incisive and irreverent, the ad-hoc video collective Top Value Television (TVTV) defined the countercultural documentary movement of the 1970s. Armed with Sony's mobile PortaPak and driven by a belief in the progressive potential of television, the young guerrillas of TVTV sought to break the corporate stronghold on the medium they had grown up with by probing the institutions and structures of power that hold sway over our lives and culture. Their iconoclastic approach to verité—which foreshadowed everything from the mockumentary to the ubiquitous genre of reality programming—had an everlasting impact not only on how documentaries are made, but on television itself.  In addition to showcasing several TVTV documentaries throughout the Festival, the Museum will bring together principal members of the group for this lively discussion about journalism, politics, satire, and the media. (See below for schedule of TVTV retrospective screenings Saturdays and Sundays throughout the Festival.) 

In Person: Wendy Apple; Skip Blumberg; Paul Goldsmith; Allen Rucker; Michael Shamberg; Tom Weinberg; Megan Williams; and Deirdre Boyle (Media Historian)  

Saturday, April 17 at 1:30 p.m.


The Art of the Documentary Pitch: How to Turn an Idea into a Reality

A Workshop Cosponsored by the International Documentary Association 

All documentaries begin with an idea that is eventually pitched to a producer or network.  In this workshop, modeled on the Museum's "Pitch to Polish" sitcom-writing seminars, a panel of veteran producers will discuss the process of developing a documentary and will simulate situations that filmmakers will face in trying to sell a nonfiction concept.  Several novice documentarians will be preselected to make public pitches to the panelists, who will evaluate their proposals for uniqueness and viability. Panelists will also take questions from the audience about how a documentary idea grows from seed to fruition. 

In Person: Chana Gazit (Producer/Writer, Steward/Gazit Productions); Diana Holtzberg (Acquisitions & Project Development Director, USA, Films Transit International); Lauren Lazin (Executive Producer/Senior Vice President, MTV News and Documentaries); Cara Mertes (Executive Director, P.O.V.); Steve Rosenbaum (President/CEO, CameraPlanet Pictures) 

Tickets: $15 ($12 for individual Museum Members).  

Saturday, April 17 at 3:00 p.m.


The World's Largest TV Studio and Four More Years

Formed in 1972, TVTV first gained prominence for its warts-and-all coverage of the rallies, receptions, and ruckus surrounding that year's Democratic and Republican National Conventions. By subverting mainstream broadcast news tactics with spontaneity and wit, these no-budget, free-form documentaries rewrote the book on presidential election coverage while providing viewers with an alternative and unfettered view of the political process. (1972; 120 minutes) 

Saturday, April 17 at 4:00 p.m.


Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids 

"...a work of art so deep and resonant that it puts most narrative films to shame."—The Hollywood Reporter 

First-time filmmakers Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman take us into a dark and squalid corner of Calcutta, where Briski runs a photography class for the sons and daughters of sex workers. Stigmatized from birth, these children face a bleak future. Under the tutelage of their "Zana Auntie," who labors mightily to enroll them in proper schools, they begin to see the world anew, through the lens of a still camera. The images they capture, which punctuate the documentary, are at turns arresting and intimate, quirky and self-reflective-the creations of young souls buoyant with artistic aspiration and the possibility of a better life. Winner of the Audience Award at this year's Sundance Festival, Born Into Brothels is a testament to the transformative power of self-expression. (2003; 85 minutes. Directed by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski. Executive produced by Geralyn White Dreyfous. Coexecutive produced by Pamela Tanner Boll. A production of Red Light Films in association with HBO/Cinemax Documentary Films.) 

In Person: Zana Briski (Director); Ross Kauffman (Director)  

Sunday, April 18 at 3:00 p.m.


The Lord of the Universe

TVTV thrived on chronicling spectacles of the absurd, such as the epochal gathering—billed as "the most holy and significant event in human history"-that brought together the Guru Maharaj Ji, a sixteen-year-old shaman who claimed to be God, and the lunatic fringe of ex-hippies who believed him. (1974; 60 minutes) 

Adland: Where Commercials Come From

TVTV turned its camera to the mechanism that drives commercial television ads—and the men who make them—and revealed the inner workings of Madison Avenue, a surreal place where cynicism and braggadocio reign supreme, and little hamburgers dance and sing. (1974; 60 minutes) 

Monday, April 19 at 6:00 p.m.



This new biography of Robert Kennedy traces his much-tortured odyssey from "a black-and-white moralist" working for Senator Joseph McCarthy to a thoughtful man discovering his own identity after his brother's assassination. Writer/producer David Grubin frames this portrait as a tragedy, inspired by a line from Aeschylus that Kennedy could recite from memory: "He who learns must suffer." Grubin documents Bobby Kennedy's capacity for change and growth with firsthand testimony from Jack Newfield, Adam Walinsky, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, among others. Like many Greek protagonists, Kennedy is often consumed with fury, especially directed toward Jimmy Hoffa and Lyndon Johnson, but is finally chastened by loss and grief, which taught the senator to empathize with the poor and disenfranchised. (2004; 110 minutes. Directed and written by David Grubin. Produced by David Grubin and Sarah Colt. Executive produced for American Experience by Mark Samels.) 

In Person: David Grubin (Producer/Writer); Jack Newfield (Journalist/Author, RFK: A Memoir)  

Wednesday, April 21 at 6:00 p.m.


Still Doing It: The Intimate Lives of Women over 65 

With startling candor that would make even Sex and the City's Samantha Jones blush, Still Doing It is one of the first documentaries to delve into the complex issues of desire and identity for the aging generation of women influenced by the sexual revolution. Director Deirdre Fishel spent over two years finding and creating relationships with nine courageous women—partnered, single, straight, gay, black, and white—who speak frankly about love and sex in later life, as well as the poignant realities of growing older. As the senior population begins to swell, this film raises revelatory questions about aging and sexuality. (2004; 55 minutes. Directed by Deirdre Fishel; Produced by Deirdre Fishel and Diana Holtzberg.) 

In Person: Deirdre Fishel (Producer/Director); Betty Dodson (Film Subject); Ellen Ensig-Brodsky (Film Subject); Diana Holtzberg (Producer)    

Thursday, April 22 at 4:30 p.m.


In Association with Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV) 

Across the country young people are documenting their lives and interests with video cameras. This year's Festival spotlights eight documentary shorts that explore identity, stereotypes, addiction, loss, cultural heritage, youth activism, and inequality. After the screenings, the youth producers will discuss the impact that making documentaries has had on their lives and future plans. This event is free to students with valid ID. 

Films to be screened include:

·Vicki Who? (5 minutes; Raw Art Works)

·Strictly Family: Changing the Definition (11 minutes; Downtown Community Television/DCTV)

·I Wish (9 minutes; Reel Stories/HBO Young Filmmakers Lab)

·El Ojo Malo: The Evil Eye (3.5 minutes; Espanola Valley High School)

·Meth: Don't Go There (16 minutes; Northwest Film Center)

·El Otro Lado de America: The Other Side of America (6 minutes; Spy Hop Productions)

·Me and My Mustache (6.5 minutes; Spy Hop Productions)

·Whose Streets? Our Streets! The True Face of Youth Activism (14 minutes; Educational Video Center)  

Thursday, April 22 at 7:00 p.m.


MTV News—True Life: I'm Living in Iraq 

As the New York Times noted, MTV is not all dazzle, but "has a conscience, too." The channel's sense of social responsibility is certainly evident in its extensive reporting from Iraq, in which it tackled many issues about the war and its aftermath. This new documentary is a hard-hitting study of young Americans and Iraqis embroiled in post-war reconstruction.  From a nurse taking care of both American and Arab casualties to the youngest member of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, those profiled grapple every day with the fears and opportunities of a nation being reborn.  Other examples of MTV News coverage will be screened: chief political correspondent Gideon Yago on the presidential campaign trail with soldier Chris Herzfeld, and a piece on African-American soldiers returning from Iraq to their homes in the inner city. (2004; 45 minutes. Directed and produced by David Schisgall. Executive produced by Lauren Lazin and Dave Sirulnick.) 

In Person: Marshall Eisen (Supervising Producer); Chris Herzfeld (Film Subject); David Schisgall (Director/Producer); Gideon Yago (Chief Political Correspondent, MTV News)  

Friday, April 23 at 6:00 p.m.


Heir to an Execution 

During the cold war hysteria of 1950s America, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were revered by some as martyrs and reviled by others as traitors. Fifty years after their execution for conspiracy to commit espionage, their granddaughter, Ivy Meeropol, tried to learn about and understand the public and private worlds of the so-called "Atom spies." Deftly weaving rarely seen archival footage into her narrative, Meeropol interviewed family and friends to explore how the Rosenberg case affected their lives. Heir to an Execution is an absorbing, emotional journey into a family's past, a past that becomes more ambiguous than expected, but that still has profound relevance for today. (2003; 99 minutes. Directed by Ivy Meeropol. Produced by Ivy Meeropol, Marc Levin, Daphne Pinkerson, and Sheila Nevins. Executive Produced by Nancy Abraham. A Blowback Production for HBO.) 

In Person: Ivy Meeropol (Director/Coproducer); Michael Meeropol (Film Subject/Eldest Son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg); Miriam Moscowitz (Film Subject)  

Saturday, April 24 at 1:30 p.m.


Johnny Cash! The Man, His World, His Music 

The intimate nature of television had a way of deepening the mystique of Johnny Cash.  Nowhere is that more evident than in this classic (and long out of circulation) verité portrait of a genuine American folk hero. Filmmaker Robert Elfstrom pinpoints Cash on the cusp of his extraordinary late-1960s comeback—back from the wilderness but forever on the road. As the prodigal troubadour crisscrosses the country, performing at prisons and fairgrounds, recording with Bob Dylan, stealing moments with wife June, touring Wounded Knee, and returning to the Arkansas shack that was once his home, Elfstrom's camera finds a route into the Cash mythos that is as captivating and unvarnished as the man himself. (1969; 90 minutes. Directed and filmed by Robert Elfstrom. Produced by Arthur and Evelyn Barron. A Verité Production in association with Hyrkin-Wiland for Public Broadcasting Laboratory.) 

In Person: Robert Elfstrom (Director/Filmmaker)  

Saturday, April 24 at 3:00 p.m.


The Good Times Are Killing Me

The festive music and harsh life of legendary accordionist Nathan Abshire figure prominently in this portrait of the rites, heritage, and fading ways of Louisiana's Cajun folk—the most sensitive and impressionistic of TVTV's efforts. (1975; 60 minutes) 

Hard Rain

The oddball in the TVTV oeuvre, this straightforward document of Bob Dylan performing in concert with Joan Baez marked the group's crossover to the big time (an NBC special) and landed the notoriously media-shy balladeer on the cover of TV Guide. (1976; 60 minutes)  

Saturday, April 24 at 4:00 p.m.


American Masters Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues 

With his seductive musings on love and ruin, Hank Williams didn't just embody the honky tonk ethos, he practically invented it. Dirt-poor and rail-thin, he blazed out of Alabama in the late 1940s with the go-for-broke fervor of a man whose days were numbered. The emotional clarity of his voice spoke to millions, and by the age of twenty-five he was country music's first superstar. Four years later, overtaken by his own heart, he was gone—an icon to the world and an enigma to those who thought they knew him best. In this engrossing biographical portrait, which features a treasure trove of newly discovered archival material and the first ever on-camera interview with the singer's widow, director Morgan Neville sets out to find the real Hank Williams. (2004; 90 minutes. Directed by Morgan Neville. Written and produced by Neville and Colin Escott. Executive Producers Susan Lacy and Steven Bass. A Production of Thirteen/WNET New York, Nashville Public Television, Tremolo Productions, and BBC in association with Cactus Three for American MastersAmerican Masters is produced for PBS by Thirteen/WNET New York. Broadcast premiere: June 23 at 8 p.m. on PBS.) 

In Person: Morgan Neville (Director/Coproducer); Colin Escott (Biographer/Coproducer)  

Sunday, April 25 at 3:00 p.m.


Super Bowl

"Regular television—those fellows in the neat blazers—has already told you who won."—TVTV cofounder Michael Shamberg

TVTV goes behind the scenes to meet the players, their wives, coaches, team owners, fans, and journalists in this wry deconstruction of the hype and hoopla surrounding the nation's annual "circus maximus." (1976; 60 minutes) 

TVTV Looks at the Oscars

TVTV tackles America's other hallowed tradition, the Academy Awards, by blending priceless moments of veracity (such as nominee Lee Grant rehearsing her "losing smile") with wicked satire (Lily Tomlin, as housewife Judith Beasley, blithely commenting on the televised pageantry). (1976; 60 minutes)   

  • Tickets for each Festival event, unless otherwise noted, are $10 each ($8 for Museum Members) and $5 for students with valid ID. The series price for any three events is $24 ($18 for Museum Members) and $12 for students.
  • Tickets for the opening Satellite Seminar are $15 each ($12 for Museum Members)
  • Tickets for the Art of the Documentary Pitch Workshop are $15 each ($12 for Museum Members)
  • Admission to the Viva Video!: TVTV Retrospective Screenings is included with the Museum's suggested contribution: Members free; $10.00 for adults; $8.00 for senior citizens and students; and $5.00 for children under fourteen.
  • Admission to Docu-Jam is free to students with valid ID.
  • Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling the Museum at (212) 621-6600 Mondays to Fridays from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m., or at the Museum's front desk during regular Museum hours (Tuesdays to Sundays 12:00 to 6:00 p.m., Thursdays until 8:00 p.m.).
  • Members of American Women in Radio and Television, the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, the International Documentary Association, and DocuClub may purchase tickets at the Museum Members price. 

Programs and participants are subject to change. Doors open 30 minutes prior to scheduled start time, and all seating is general admission. No refunds or exchanges. For up-to-the-minute Festival information call the Hotline at (212) 621-6699, e-mail, or visit the Museum's website at  

The Museum of Television & Radio, with locations in New York and Los Angeles, is a nonprofit organization founded by William S. Paley to collect and preserve television and radio programs and advertisements and to make them available to the public. Since opening in 1976, the Museum has organized exhibitions, screening and listening series, seminars, and education classes to showcase its collection of over 100,000 television and radio programs and advertisements. Programs in the Museum's permanent collection are selected for their artistic, cultural, and historic significance.

The Museum of Television & Radio in New York, located at 25 West 52 Street in Manhattan, is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 6:00 p.m. and until 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays. The Museum of Television & Radio in California, located at 465 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, is open Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 5:00 p.m. Both Museums are closed on New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Suggested contribution: Members free; $10.00 for adults; $8.00 for senior citizens and students; and $5.00 for children under fourteen. Admission is free in Los Angeles. The public areas in both Museums are accessible to wheelchairs, and assisted listening devices are available. Programs are subject to change. You may call the Museum in New York at (212) 621-6800, or in Los Angeles at (310) 786-1000. Visit the Museum's website at