Humanities At Home: Watch. Documentaries, Digital Shorts, Virtual Theater, and Festivals

May 15, 2020

Two months of staying home and tired of streaming the same old channels? Extend your video repertoire with several unique and award-winning offerings supported or developed by the state humanities councils. With a click of a button, access 30+ documentaries and videos developed in collaboration with local communities, scholars, and other experts, many of which have aired nationally on PBS, HBO, and NPR. Video topics range from history and literature to arts and culture, feature local community stories, and provide context on national concerns. All can be viewed for free through the supporting councils’ or partners’ websites, YouTube or Facebook channels. We invite you to watch and explore! Don’t forget to let us know your thoughts. Have a documentary you’d like to add? Let us know by emailing connect@statehumanities.org or tagging us on social with @HumFed.

Following is a list of the available documentaries, shorts, and other videos organized into categories: 1) Responding to COVID, 2) the Veteran Experience, 3) UnLadyLike2020 and Women’s History, 4) Virtual Theater, 5) the Hoosier Film Festival, 6) Feature Documentaries, and 7) About the Councils.

RESPONDING TO COVID:

The Envisioning Justice Rapid Response Video Series: Refuge (Illinois Humanities)

This video series was created to share short, original videos featuring perspectives and reflections from humanists, artists, and community organizers working in system-impacted communities amidst the corona virus pandemic.

IN Slow Moments (Indiana Humanities)

During the month of May, short films, virtual experiences and essays will help views find renewal, refuge, relaxation, and reflection in nature. These activities are inspired by the council’s award-winning program, Next Indiana Campfires.

A Message from Anthony Poore of New Hampshire Humanities (New Hampshire Humanities)

View this video message from Executive Director Anthony Poore on how New Hampshire Humanities is working to create and share quality humanities content while weathering the pandemic.

Connecting Through Stories (New Hampshire Humanities)

In response to COVID-19, the council’s Connections Adult Literacy program has gone digital to provide reading videos for students and teachers.

First Wednesdays Videos (Vermont Humanities)

First Wednesdays is a lecture series that typically offers talks in nine towns on the first Wednesday of each month, October through May. Topics are varied, timely, timeless, thought-provoking and fun, and now, adapted for a virtual audience.

Poetry During a Time of Crisis: West Virginia Poets on Community, Resilience, and the Power of the Arts (West Virginia Humanities)

This series shares videos of West Virginia poets reading original work, recorded in their own homes or other personal spaces.

THE VETERAN EXPERIENCE

Kansas Stories of the Vietnam War (Humanities Kansas)

To commemorate 50 years since the escalation of US involvement in the Vietnam War, the council launched a statewide oral history project which resulted in more than 70 stories of Kansans who shared their experiences, both at home and abroad.

Veterans Oral History Project (Maryland Humanities)

Since 2015, students at Southern High School in Anne Arundel County have conducted oral history interview with Vietnam War veterans and Vietnamese immigrants who experienced the war. This is the result.

West Virginia Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War (West Virginia Humanities)

With special funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the council partnered with West Virginia military veterans and Lost Valley Studios filmmakers Calvin Grimm and Tyler Miller to produce a total of six 30-minute episodes focusing on the stories of West Virginia veterans of WWII, Korea War, Vietnam War, the Cold War, the First Gulf War, and post-9/11. Episodes feature narration, on-camera interviews with veterans, footage from each conflict, and contextual commentary.

UNLADYLIKE2020: WOMEN’S HISTORY

Louise Arner Boyd (California Humanities)

This video explores the life and contributions of Louise Arner Boyd who partnered with the American Geographical Society (AGS) to explore uncharted regions and lead several expeditions. These expeditions generated new data in the fields of geology, oceanography, botany, and glaciology. Boyd was the official photographer and pioneered the use of photogrammetry, the science of taking photographs to create models or maps. Her photographic record also provides critical information to climate change researchers today, helping them to understand how ice has changed over the last century. In 1938, Boyd was awarded the Cullum Medal from AGS and became the first woman to autograph their Explorers Guide, signed by the major explorers of the 20th century. She was also the first woman to fly over the North Pole. This documentary short is part of the UNLADYLIKE2020 series generously supported by the NEH and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The digital series will culminate with an hour long broadcast on PBS American Masters.

Anna May Wong (California Humanities)

At 14, Anna May Wong had her first break when she was cast as an extra in the 1919 film, “The Red Lantern.” In an era when Chinese characters in Hollywood films were typically played by white actors in yellowface, Wong was the first woman to buck this trend, when she starred in classics like “The Toll of the Sea” (1922) and Douglas Fairbanks’ “The Thief of Baghdad” (1924). Despite her popularity and because of anti-miscegenation laws that prevented her from sharing an onscreen kiss with any person of another race, Wong continued to be cast in supporting roles. Tired of the typecasting, Wong left for Europe where she acted in English, German, and French films, including the highly popular British film, “Piccadilly” (1929). After returning to the US, her successful career earned her widespread celebrity and she became known not just for her acting, but her impeccable fashion sense and blunt bangs. This documentary short is part of the UNLADYLIKE2020 series generously supported by the NEH and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The digital series will culminate with an hour long broadcast on PBS American Masters.

Tye Leung Schulze (California Humanities)

The youngest daughter of low-income Chinese immigrants, Tye Leung Schulze escaped domestic servitude at age nine and an arranged marriage at age 12. Se began her career translating for victims of human trafficking in San Francisco’s Chinatown and in 1910 became the first Chinese American woman to work for the federal government, as assistant matron and an interpreter at the Angel Island Immigration Station, a detention center designed to control the flow of Asian immigrants into the US under the Chinese Exclusion Act. While there she fell in love with a white immigration inspector, Charles Schulze, and married him against both their parents’ wishes and California’s anti-miscegenation laws. In 1912, one year after California granted women the right to vote, Leung became the first Chinese American woman to vote in a US election. This documentary short is part of the UNLADYLIKE2020 series generously supported by the NEH and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The digital series will culminate with an hour long broadcast on PBS American Masters.

Margaret Chung (California Humanities)

The eldest of 11 children in a Chinese immigrant family, she graduated medical school from the University of Southern California Medical School in 1916. As a student, she was the only woman in her class, wore masculine dress, and called herself ‘Mike.’ The first American-born Chinese female doctor, Chung was initially denied residencies or internships in US hospitals. In the early 1920s, she helped establish the first Western hospital in San Francisco’s Chinatown and led its OB/GYN and pediatrics unit. She became a prominent behind-the-scenes political broker during WWII, establishing a network of thousands of men in the military and navy that referred to her as “Mom Chung.” Chung also helped establish WAVES: Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services, the women’s branch of the naval reserves during WWII that helped pave the way for women’s integration into the US armed forces. This documentary short is part of the UNLADYLIKE2020 series generously supported by the NEH and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The digital series will culminate with an hour long broadcast on PBS American Masters.

Grace Abbott (Humanities Nebraska)

As chief of the US Children’s Bureau in the Department of Labor from 1921 to 1934, Grace Abbott was the highest ranked woman in the US government. She was also the first woman in US history to be nominated to a presidential cabinet post, as the Secretary of Labor in the Hoover Administration. Abbott led the fight to end child labor and introduced groundbreaking programs for maternal and infant care, including the first federally-funded social welfare program, the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Act of 1921. She became one of the first female broadcasters to a national audience and Good Housekeeping magazine called Abbott one of the “most influential women in the US.” After retiring from the Children’s Bureau, Abbott worked on drafts of the Social Security Act. This documentary short is part of the UNLADYLIKE2020 series generously supported by the NEH and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The digital series will culminate with an hour long broadcast on PBS American Masters.

Maggie Lena Walker (Virginia Humanities)

The first African American female bank president in the US was Maggie Lena Walker. At a time when white-owned banks did not accept deposits from black customers, Walker not only grew her bank, but expanded the economic base of the black community in Richmond by hiring and training black women workers and financing more than 600 home and business loans for black families by 1920. She was the largest employer of black women and founded a newspaper, The St. Luke Herald, where she served as managing editor. Her publication shed light on racial injustices plaguing the community, including consistent coverage of Jim Crow legislation and lynchings. She opened a department store tailored to African Americans and as a civil rights activist, organized the first Richmond branch of the NAACP, led a city-wide boycott against segregated streetcars, and promoted women’s suffrage and voter registration drives. This documentary short is part of the UNLADYLIKE2020 series generously supported by the NEH and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The digital series will culminate with an hour long broadcast on PBS American Masters.

Ynés Mexia (Humanities DC)

Ynes Mexia was born in Washington DC, where her father was a Mexican diplomat. A year later, they moved to Mexia, Texas, a town founded by her ancestors. In 1879, after her parents separated, she was sent to boarding school where she considered entering a convent. But, her father asked her to take care of his ranch and household in Mexico. In 1896, her father died and Mexia stayed in Mexico to manage his businesses. After two troubled marriages, she had a mental and physical breakdown and her physician in Mexico advised her to travel to San Francisco to see noted psychiatrist Dr. Phillip King Brown. Following his advise, she joined the Save the Redwoods League and the Sierra Club and became an active member of the environment movement in California. In 1921, at the age of 51, she enrolled at UC Berkeley where she was introduced to botany. Securing her own funding, Mexia explored and collected plants in little-visited regions of North and South American, including Mt. McKinley National Park in Alaska, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Argentina, and Tierra del Fuego. This documentary short is part of the UNLADYLIKE2020 series generously supported by the NEH and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The digital series will culminate with an hour long broadcast on PBS American Masters.

VIRTUAL THEATER

Girl with Gun (Wyoming Humanities)

This virtual play explores how Lynnette “Squeaky” Fromme’s escape from prison. Fromme tries to find her way back to the only man who ever understood her. Inspired by true events, Girl with Gun offers a new take on the life of the most notorious member of the Manson Family and attempted assassin of Gerald Ford.

Two Degrees (Wyoming Humanities)

This virtual play explores the life of Gina Sigel Emma Phelps, a paleoclimatologist, focusing on ice in Greenland. In drilling and studying ice core samples, she sees first hand the symptoms of our changing planet. In addition to her growing urgency for the planet, Emma, as a recent widow, experiences grief that compounds itself with each passing month. Now she’s been asked to come to Washington, DC to testify in a Senate Committee regarding climate change legislation and in this intersection of science and politics, of politics and the personal, she finds more than just a little ice is breaking up under the strain of change.

FEAST (Wyoming Humanities)

In this re-imagining of the Beowulf story, Grendel’s mother has thrown a dinner party at the end of humanity to seek justice for her son’s murder at the hands of a brutal strongman, only to confront her own complicity in his death and the subsequent spread of authoritarianism. Immersive, heightened high fantasy crashes into our contemporary political moment, asking us to consider our own responsibility to confront climate change, income inequality, and state-sponsored violence.

THE HOOSIER FILM FESTIVAL

Sundown to Sunrise (Indiana Humanities)

Trace one man’s journey from sundown to sunrise as he and his family integrate an all-white Indiana town in 1968. By breaking the color barrier, they also helped transform the town and place it on a trajectory of inclusion.

Hometown Media (Indiana Humanities)

Follow a week in the life of a small-town newspaper in Wayne County, Indiana, for a look at how rural journalism is practiced today and why it matters.

The EarthKeepers (Indiana Humanities)

In southern Indiana, a married couple decides to leave academia to start a composting business – employing ex-offenders along the way. Now they’re on a mission to avert a looming waste crisis in Indiana, and beyond.

Raised in Contrast (Indiana Humanities)

This film takes a look at the experiences of mixed-race and non-white Hoosiers who live in rural and suburban communities.

FEATURE DOCUMENTARIES

Magnetic North (Alaska Humanities Forum)

This six-part documentary film series explores the personalities and character of Alaskans whose actions and ideas have shaped the history, spirit, and values of our state. Collectively, they challenge the preconceived notions of the Last Frontier, promote a richer understanding of its unique identity, and speak to our shared experience of life in contemporary Alaska.

Asian Americans (California Humanities)

Watch the PBS premiere, a five-hour film series that chronicles the contributions and challenges of Asian Americans, the fastest-growing ethnic group in America. Personal histories and new academic research will cast a fresh lens on US history and the role Asian Americans have played in it.

Film Screening / Workshop (Mass Humanities)

The council co-sponsored an online streaming event and premiered two new documentaries that follow-up the Emmy award-winning film, Dawnland. The filmmaker, learning director, and scholars led a moderated discussion on historical and inter-generational trauma, providing take away tool for use in the classroom.

Just Listening (Missouri Humanities)

A 26-minute documentary that focuses on art as a reaction to tragedy and as a form of activism, this film was produced by Speak Up Productions and includes images of art, spoken word, artist interviews, and a historical narrative on Ferguson.

Coming Home (Vermont Humanities)

This documentary focuses on five people returning back to their Vermont communities from prison. The film explores the COSA program (Circle of Support and Accountability) that helps reintegrate folks back into their daily lives. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Bess O’Brien reveals stories often hidden in Vermont communities.

ABOUT THE COUNCILS

Humanities in American Life (Federation of State Humanities Councils)

Three animated video shorts that explain the work of the state humanities councils and the importance of the public humanities in every day American life.

We are the Humanities (California Humanities)

A video series that examines what the humanities mean to a group of prominent Californians

CT Experience Video Series (Connecticut Humanities)

In collaboration with CT public television, this series tells compelling stories and shares intriguing images of Connecticut’s cultural heritage in order to reveal connections between the past, present, and future.

Think Humanities Vlog (Kentucky Humanities)

This video series examines Kentucky’s writers, inventors, judges, musicians, architects, doctors, and more.

Virtual Humanities (Humanities Montana)

These videos explore contemporary culture, journalism, literature, poetry, and more.

Oh the Humanities! (New Jersey Council for the Humanities)

This video series helps prospective grantees, partners, and ambassadors better understand the public humanities.

Thanks for reading through this list. Connect and engage in conversations about these programs and more on social media using #HumanitiesAtHome!

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