MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions

MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions / Meet the 2013 Recipients

American Documentary (POV)

Brooklyn, New York
Published February 27, 2013

Sparking conversation and engagement beyond the screen

Documentary films tell stories about everyday people that often go untold. But what if they did more? What if these stories helped us understand our neighbors and ourselves so we could make our communities better places to live?

American Documentary sparks critical conversations and engagement in communities across the country by bringing its documentary films off the screen and into the real world. For 26 years, American Documentary has acquired, co-produced, and broadcast over 365 documentary films on the award-winning PBS series, POV (“point of view”). POV films have won every major film and broadcasting award, including 32 Emmy Awards and three Academy Awards.

American Documentary works with public television stations, educational institutions, and national and local organizations to build awareness campaigns for POV films by conducting screenings, discussions, and roundtables. This kind of cross-community dialogue is critical to making progress on the most pressing challenges we face as a society, for example: food security (Food, Inc.), a living wage (Waging a Living), veterans’ affairs (Where Soldiers Come From), and immigration (Sin País). 

In 2012 alone, Sin País contributed to the national dialogue on immigration, as American Documentary worked with national and local non-profit organizations interested in the issues raised in the film. Screenings of Sin País were planned in more than a dozen communities across the country, from Bettendorf, Iowa to Monroe Township, New Jersey to Sunnyvale, California.

American Documentary has proven to be nimble and adaptable to new media formats and responsive to opportunities for collaboration. It has produced original programs in partnership with the PBS NewsHour and The New York Times; short form and animated documentaries; an initiative to foster young filmmakers who have been mentored by POV directors; and in-depth conversations with filmmakers and issue-area experts. It has increased opportunities for viewers to move beyond the broadcast to access POV programs through an ever-expanding library of new and archival films available for free online streaming and on mobile devices, multiple re-broadcasts on local PBS stations’ primary and digital channels, and presented more than 600 community screenings nationwide each year.

American Documentary will use its $1 million MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions to build its cash reserve and complete an infrastructure upgrade. 

Grantee Profile: Learn more about American Documentary

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MacArthur named 13 organizations in five countries as recipients of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. The Award recognizes exceptional grantees and helps ensure their long-term sustainability.