As the year comes to a close, we’re often brought together to usher in newness – a new year, new resolutions and a (re)new(ed) sense of purpose. In December, WORLD presents films that showcase moments, extraordinary and everyday, of leaning into one’s faith or spirituality. While we celebrate the holidays this month with family and friends, new and forever, watch documentaries that keep us grounded in what matters most.
On December 14, America ReFramed premieres its first animated experimental film titled By Water. Based on a true story inspired by filmmaker Iyabo Kwayana’s experience with her brother, the film is a collection of memories that opens the door to healing, demonstrating how faith and family, no matter the distance, often go hand in hand.
This December, enjoy the year’s end with WORLD.
NEW Finding Family | Stories from the Stage
December 4 on TV, online & on the PBS app
Families are woven into the fabric of society. While some families are tied together by biology, others are created when people welcome children into their hearts and homes through adoption. Betsy Komjathy helps her teenage son make contact with his birth mother; Dan Dahari describes being smuggled out as an infant from Mexico; and Paul Brouillette's relationship with his mom takes a twist when he adopts a baby boy.
Hayden & Her Family | America ReFramed
December 7 on TV, online & on the PBS app
The Currys are raising 12 children, five of whom are adopted from overseas and have special needs. One of those children is Hayden, a young girl from China born with linear nevus sebaceous syndrome. Hayden becomes the thread to this intimate adoption journey as she, her new parents and her siblings experience the complexities, jealousies and joys of becoming a family. Read a Q&A with filmmaker May May Tchao.
An expansive look at the Commandment to “rest” and “keep holy the Lord’s Day” across religions and cultures throughout America. From the first Pilgrim settlements to the large-scale religious gatherings of today to how COVID has changed the way Americans gather for worship, the film explores how Sabbath has been and continues to be an important theme etched into the story of America.
NEW Taking Flight | Stories from the Stage
December 11 on TV, online & on the PBS app
Some people are terrified of flying, yet others can't wait to take off. Heather Angell confronts her worst fear: flying; Tom Williams indulges in a midlife crisis splurge by purchasing a plane; and Linda Button learns the difference between curses and kindness during a bumpy flight.
How to Have an American Baby | POV
December 13 on TV, online & on the PBS app
A kaleidoscopic voyage into the shadow economy catering to Chinese tourists who travel to the U.S. to give birth for citizenship. Told through a series of intimately-observed vignettes, this story of a hidden global economy emerges, depicting the fortunes and tragedies that befall the ordinary people caught in its web. A co-presentation with Chasing the Dream, a public media initiative from The WNET Group.
In the first animated experimental film to appear on America ReFramed, an unlikely hero journeys into his own memories, which transform into a vehicle for reconciliation and healing for himself and his sibling. Based on a true story, the film was written and inspired by filmmaker Iyabo Kwayana’s personal experience with her brother. Upon receiving an unexpected voicemail from him three years after his disappearance, Kwayana heeded her brother’s message and created this film as a way to “complete” his story.
Any Given Day | America ReFramed
December 14 on TV, online & on the PBS app
Filmmaker Margaret Byrne follows three formerly incarcerated Chicagoans as they manage their respective mental illnesses while searching for stability in their families, friendships, jobs and housing. While documenting the challenges that are faced at the intersections of a punitive carceral system, poverty and substance use, Byrne reckons with her own history of mental illness. Read a Q&A with the filmmaker and watch a behind-the-scenes interview.
Netanyahu, America & the Road to War in Gaza | FRONTLINE
December 20 on TV, online & on the PBS app
The struggle between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and multiple U.S. presidents over Middle East peace, his turbulent relationship with the Palestinians and the road to war in Gaza.
On Sapelo island, two young brothers, JerMarkest and Jonathan, are coming of age in the last remaining enclave of the Saltwater Geechee. As Sapelo’s storyteller and elder matriarch, their adoptive mother, Cornelia Walker Bailey, works to preserve what remains of her African-American community in the face of encroachment by property developers.
Cultural Expressions: Kwanzaa
December 28 on TV | Available on PBS Passport
Explore the seven principles that make up the foundation of Kwanzaa through seven real-life stories of impact revealing how each principle plays a role in the Black community, enhanced by cultural elements of dance, storytelling, music and spoken word.
“Where are you really from?” Inspired by a young generation’s creative response to this loaded question, the film follows artists and activists from immigrant families coming of age in an era of rising xenophobia and political turmoil. Set in New York and Berlin, the film shows them create families, fight for citizenship, make art and forge identities, while redefining what it means to belong. Watch a Meet the Makers conversation with Sonny Singh, Tania Mattos, filmmaker Christina Antonakos-Wallace and executive producer Hari Kondabolu.
December 8 on YouTube
In March 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. SEVA highlights how the pandemic profoundly impacted people, and how Sikhs contributed to helping and saving lives around the world by responding to the crisis and redefining what seva looks like. This film aims to honor those who lost their lives and the Sikhs who selflessly served during one of humanity’s darkest hours.
Holiday Horror | Stories from the Stage
December 18 on TV | Available now online & on the PBS app
Holidays can be a source of joy, stress...or horror! Cyndi lands a gig as one of Santa’s elves and uncovers a gruesome reality; Ekhlas waits hungrily as calamity creates an epically long Ramadan fast; and Matt gathers his courage at Thanksgiving to stand up to his girlfriend’s tough as nails dad. Plus, Wes Hazard shares a hilarious Christmas story involving his younger self.
A Town Called Victoria: Parts 1, 2 and 3 | Independent Lens
December 22 on TV | Available now online & on the PBS app
A south Texas town is thrown into the national spotlight when a local mosque is burned down in an apparent hate crime. After the media moves on, the community is left to reflect on its complex history with racism.
Holiday Spirit | Stories from the Stage
December 25 on TV | Available now on the PBS app
Top storytellers share stories that conjure the holiday spirit. David Dean Bottrell discovers his passion after stealing the school play's spotlight; Andrea Kamens’s bright menorah cuts through the darkness of anti-semitism; and Joe Charnitski tries to break a nightmare-before-Christmas bad luck streak.
A look at the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe through the lived experiences of impacted Jewish women and the interfaith leaders advancing a freedom of religion argument to challenge abortion bans. Through the lens of maintaining the separation between church and state, these nationwide efforts are focused on protecting religious freedom – and democracy – for all.
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