Stanley Nelson and Firelight Films have partnered with Independent Lens on a new trilogy of films that will chronicle pivotal moments in American history led by black artists, cultural leaders and ordinary people. Nelson will direct and produce three new documentaries including “America Revisited II”. The films will cover topics such as the rise of funk music, the evolution of African American art, and the deeply rooted and vibrant history of Harlem.
The trilogy will begin with “Make It Funky: The History of Funk”, followed by “In Our Own Image: The Story of African-American Art” and end with “Harlem: The Soul of the Nation”. In addition, Nelson will direct “Creating the New World: The Transatlantic Slave Trade,” a previously announced documentary that was commissioned for “America Revisited I,” an earlier trilogy of films that Nelson also directed for Independent Lens.
“I am delighted to be working with ‘Independent Lens’ again on ‘America Revisited II’, after such a success with the first two films of the previous trilogy, ‘Tell Them We Are Rising’ and ‘The Black Panthers’ – which continue to resonate in the national conversations around racial justice unfolding today, ”said filmmaker and Firelight Films founder Stanley Nelson. “With this next trilogy, I am delighted to turn my lens to black artists and culture, and to explore and pay homage to the rich history of Harlem, the place I call my home.”
Awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama, Nelson has directed and produced numerous acclaimed films, many of which cover the civil rights movement and the struggle for equality. Many have become benchmarks in documentary filmmaking, including: “Freedom Summer”, “Freedom Riders”, “Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple” and “The Murder of Emmett Till”. The Emmy-winning filmmaker also directed and produced “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”, winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Documentary, and “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities”, both of who were part of “America Revisited I” and debuted on “Independent Lens” in 2016 and 2018 respectively. “The Black Panthers” remains the highest rated independent documentary to air on PBS.
The “America Revisited II” trilogy is produced in partnership with Nelson Firelight Films’ production company and co-funded by ITVS, the largest funder of public television productions in the United States, as part of its Series and Special Projects initiative. ITVS also co-funded the films featured in “America Revisited I”. The “America Revisited II” films will premiere on ITVS ‘flagship series “Independent Lens” on PBS.
“‘Independent Lens’ is extremely pleased to continue our collaboration with Stanley, one of America’s leading documentary filmmakers,” said Lois Vossen, executive producer of “Independent Lens.” Starting with ‘A Place of Our Own’ (2004), passing through “The Black Panthers” (2016) and “Tell Them We Are Rising” (2018), Stanley’s deeply influential and revealing work demonstrates his commitment to advancing underrepresented stories from the periphery to the His films are a powerful testament to ‘Independent Lens’ continued commitment to excellence, inclusion and great storytelling. “
Here are the official loglines of the films:
“Make It Funky: The History of Funk” is a syncopated journey through the history of funk music, from its African roots and early jazz to the early works of James Brown and the rise of the Funkadelic Parliament, to until today. Resolutely urban, the funk music reflected a post-movement civil rights sensibility. The film examines the symbiotic relationship between the explosion of funk music and the turbulent political and racial dynamics of downtown America in the 1970s.
“In Our Own Image: The Story of African-American Art” explores African-American art – from its roots in the plantations of the South to its place on the world stage – while telling the moving stories of the artists who create it, of the people who collect it, the institutions that protect its heritage and the era in which the art was created. More than a historical documentary, the film also struggles with the question: “Why create art?
“Harlem: The Soul of the Nation” tells the rich, daring and complicated story of Harlem and the people who have witnessed its flourishing. The film dissects distinct periods of Harlem’s development, tracing the dynamic demographic changes of the 20th century – from the Jewish and Italian farmlands of the late 19th century to the black artistic explosion of the Harlem Renaissance and the Jazz Age. in the 1920s, detailing the history of the “New Negro Movement” developed in Harlem with the first generation of blacks born completely outside the stifling boundaries of slavery.