10 Extraordinary Documentaries by 10 Award-Winning Filmmakers Re-examine Influential Moments in U.S. History to Reveal New Insights about Our Country's Past and Present
Premieres on The History Channel in April 2006
PRNewswire — The History Channel today
unveiled details of its highly anticipated special event 10 DAYS THAT UNEXPECTEDLY CHANGED AMERICA, which premieres in April 2006. The announcement was made by Charlie Maday, Senior Vice President, Programming for The History Channel at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, California.
Each of the 10 films has been created by a different award-winning documentary filmmaker or filmmaking team and spotlights an event that triggered a seismic shift in America's political, cultural or social landscape. Using a range of storytelling techniques including recreations and even animation as well as interviews, archival footage and historical artifacts, the series offers viewers a fresh perspective on well-known historical incidents while also shining a light on the tremendous impact of less frequently cited events.
“For this landmark television project we decided to seek out the best and the brightest from the independent filmmaking community to bring a fresh approach to chronicling these fascinating turning points in American history,” said Maday. “We are thrilled by the creativity, energy and meticulous research these award-winning documentarians brought to each event.”
The 10 films are (in chronological order by date):
* “Massacre at Mystic” (May 26, 1637) – Directed by James Moll (The Last Days, Price for Peace), Oscar(R), Emmy(R), Peabody and Christopher Award winner. Narrated by Walter Woodward. Tells the story of the Pequot War, the first significant clash between the English and Native Americans.
* “Shays' Rebellion: The First American Civil War” (January 25, 1787) – Directed by R.J. Cutler (A Perfect Candidate, The War Room) Emmy winner and Oscar and Independent Spirit Award nominee. Narrated by Hector Elizondo with animation by two-time Oscar nominee Bill Plympton. Chronicles the post-Revolutionary War rebellion that helped inspire the drafting of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
* “The Rush” (January 24, 1848) -Directed by Jeffrey Friedman & Rob Epstein (The Celluloid Closet, Paragraph 175), Oscar, Emmy, Peabody and Sundance winners. Narrated by Zachary Drake. Looks at the Gold Rush and its impact on the explosive development of California and America's westward expansion.
* “Antietam” (September 17, 1862) – Directed by Michael Epstein (Final Cut, The Battle over Citizen Kane), Emmy and Peabody Award winner and Oscar nominee. Narrated by Jeffrey Wright. Focuses on the bloodiest battle in American history and its momentous military and political implications, including Lincoln's issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
* “The Homestead Strike” (July 6, 1892) – Directed by Rory Kennedy(American Hollow, The Farm), Emmy, Sundance and Independent Spirit winners and Oscar nominees. Narrated by Martin Sheen. Chronicles the deadly showdown between striking workers and armed guards at Andrew Carnegie's steel mill and its devastating effect on the U.S. labor movement.
* “Murder at the Fair: The Assassination of President McKinley” (September 6, 1901) – Directed by Joe Berlinger (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, Brother's Keeper), Emmy, Peabody, DGA, Sundance and Independent Spirit Award winner. Narrated by Terry Kinney. Recounts the dramatic events surrounding the shooting of the 25th President by a young anarchist at a pivotal moment at the dawn of the 20th Century, which paved the way for the rise of Theodore Roosevelt and ushered in a new age in American politics.
* “Scopes: The Battle over America's Soul” (July 21, 1925) – Directed by Kate Davis (Southern Comfort, Jockey), Emmy and Sundance winner. Narrated by John Sherlis. Re-examines the fierce legal battle between two larger-than-life personalities – William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow — over the teaching of evolution, a controversy that continues to divide Americans today.
* “Einstein's Letter” (July 16, 1939) – Directed by Barak Goodman (Scottsboro: An American Tragedy, The Fight), Emmy, Peabody, duPont winner and Oscar nominee. Narrated by Campbell Scott. Explores the events that led to the great scientist and ardent pacifist's decision to urge Franklin Roosevelt to develop an atomic bomb, a decision that propelled America into the nuclear age and which Einstein later came to regret.
* “When America Was Rocked” (September 9, 1956) – Directed by Bruce Sinofsky (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, Good Rockin' Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records), Emmy, Peabody, Sundance and Independent Spirit Award winner. Examines the cultural fallout of Elvis Presley's groundbreaking appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
* “Freedom Summer” (June 21, 1964) – Directed by Marco Williams (Two Towns in Jasper, I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown vs. Board of Education), Peabody and duPont winner. Narrated by Joe Morton. Recounts the national attention garnered by the killings of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, which helped spur Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Maday emphasized that 10 DAYS THAT UNEXPECTEDLY CHANGED AMERICA is not
intended to be a countdown or a list of the most important days in U.S. history. “We challenged the filmmakers to go beyond the predictable, and to think about different and interesting ways to illuminate familiar and lesser known events that would be intriguing to our audience,” he said. Susan Werbe, The History Channel Vice President of Programming and Executive Producer of 10 DAYS THAT UNEXPECTEDLY CHANGED AMERICA, spearheaded
the project from its inception. “Susan came up with the concept for the
special and has worked tirelessly over many months to shape and refine it. By
engaging an exceptional team of independent filmmakers, she enabled each of them to put their unique imprimatur on their particular show while collectively telling compelling stories about the origins of our country as
part of 10 DAYS THAT UNEXPECTEDLY CHANGED AMERICA,” stated Maday.
According to Dan Davids, President of The History Channel-U.S.A., “Some days may be obvious while others may be surprising; some unfolded during a single day, while others triggered a cultural upheaval that lasted years,” he continued. “In true The History Channel fashion, the goal of this major
project was to select historical moments representing the broad themes that shaped America's people, culture and history while creating compelling, informative and entertaining television. We hope that the choice of days will spark debate and conversation and raise awareness of the colorful and fascinating history of our great nation.”
In selecting the 10 days to be documented, The History Channel embarked on a multi-faceted discovery process, which began in September 2004, when the question “What are the influential events in American History?” was posted on the network's Web site message board. After receiving hundreds of responses,
the channel followed up with an internal poll of the A&E Television Networks staff. The network then convened an advisory panel of noted historians, each of whom specializes in different areas of American history.
Maday challenged them to think “outside the box.” Said Maday: “In an effort to avoid obvious and often-told events such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we asked our
advisors to think broadly and creatively about American history and culture, to include events that reflect the diversity of current historical research and to weigh each event's impact on our world today.”
After lively discussions over a day and a half, a list of 29 days grouped into 12 eras was generated. The historian advisory panel counseled against more recent events, such as 9/11, as they felt not enough time has passed to get the proper historical perspective. The list was next presented to a group of selected, highly creative, independent filmmakers who were asked to join
the project and give The History Channel their top three choices of days. “In the end, we have 10 great filmmakers and 10 very intriguing days,” said Davids.
The History Channel Vice President of Programming Susan Werbe (The Presidents; The Crusades; FDR: A Presidency Revealed) is Executive Producer of 10 DAYS THAT UNEXPECTEDLY CHANGED AMERICA. Award-winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost, Brother's Keeper), who directed one of the films, is Co-Executive Producer of the project and played an integral part in selecting the film's directors and overseeing the series' creative direction. “I've been an admirer of Joe's work for many years and we had been looking for a project to do together,” said Werbe. “He is extremely well respected within the independent film community as well as with cable networks. I thought he was the ideal person to help shepherd this ambitious project.”
A companion book, 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America, written by professor, author and The History Channel resident historian Steve Gillon, will be published on April 5, 2006 by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group. The trade paperback will delve even more deeply into the 10 influential events covered in the series and their long-term impact on the
nation's history. Gillon is the host of “History Center,” The History Channel
popular Sunday morning panel discussion show, the author of the critically acclaimed Boomer Nation: The Largest and Richest Generation Ever, and How It Changed America. He is currently writing a new book titled Unlikely Allies, which examines the relationship between Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton.
Between 1997 and 2003, Dr. Gillon was the Carol E. Young Professor and Dean of
the Honors College at the University of Oklahoma. An unabridged audio CD
version of 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America also will be available from RH Audio.
10 DAYS THAT UNEXPECTEDLY CHANGED AMERICA is produced by The History Channel in association with @radical.media. Managing Producers for @radical.media are Greg Schultz and Sidney Beaumont. @radical.media is a global commercial production company with an entertainment division which has produced numerous award-winning feature films
and television programs including the Academy Award winning “Fog of War,” the
Grammy Award winning “Concert For George,” and the critically acclaimed Court
TV drama “The Exonerated” and Joe Berlinger's “Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster.”
Now reaching more than 88 million Nielsen subscribers, The History Channel(R), “Where the Past Comes Alive(R),” brings history to life in a powerful manner and provides an inviting place where people experience history personally and connect their own lives to the great lives and events of the
past. The History Channel has earned six News and Documentary Emmy(R) Awards and received the prestigious Governor's Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for the network's “Save Our History (R)” campaign dedicated to historic preservation and history education.
SOURCE The History Channel