ITVS Honored at the 72nd Annual Peabody Awards

Summer Pasture and the Why Poverty? series were among the programs honored on Monday at the George Foster Peabody Awards in New York City. Administered by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Peabody is one of the most prestigious honors in electronic media.


The 72nd Annual Peabody Award Luncheon on Monday, May 20, 2013. Courtesy of Lois Vossen.

Summer Pasture and two of the documentaries from the Why Poverty? series, ITVS-funded Park Avenue and Solar Mamas, aired on Independent Lens in 2012, representing the only PBS programming to be recognized at this year’s ceremony. Independent Lens Senior Series Producer Lois Vossen attended the luncheon and accepted the Summer Pasture award on behalf of the filmmakers, who were unable to attend:

“It was an honor to attend the Peabody Awards to accept a Peabody on behalf of Lynn True, Nelson Walker, and Tsering Perlo for their beautiful film Summer Pasture. Independent Lens was also awarded a Peabody for Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream and Solar Mamas, which broadcast as part of the Why Poverty? series. Winning PBS’s two Peabody Awards this year is further indication of the extraordinary and extraordinarily important work independent filmmakers do. Their unyielding passion and commitment to journalism makes them a vital part of public television. We need their voices now more than ever. It also didn’t hurt that Judd Apatow told me today how much he loves Independent Lens and that it is one of his favorite series!” Continue reading

Two ITVS Programs Win Peabody Awards

Summer Pasture and the Why Poverty? series were among the ITVS programs to earn the George Foster Peabody Awards this year. Administered by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Peabody is one of the most prestigious honors in electronic media.


Congratulations to the filmmakers on this incredible achievement! This brings the total of Peabody awards for ITVS films to 24.

Summer Pasture, an Independent Lens program, is the unique love story of Locho and Yama, nomadic herders in Tibet faced with a difficult choice as their way of life begins to give way to the modern world.

Why Poverty? is a collection of eight films, co-productions of ITVS and STEPS International, that are part of a global cross-media project aimed at raising awareness of poverty in America and around the world.

The Peabody Awards will be presented May 20, 2013 at a luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City with Scott Pelley, anchor of The CBS Evening News, as this year’s emcee.

Online Symposium Examines and Asks: Why Poverty?

Women play a vital role in the economic prosperity of their families, communities, and countries. Yet in every part of the world, women work longer hours than men, are consistently paid less for their work, are at a higher risk of unemployment, and are far more likely to live in poverty. This central theme is the topic of a global online film symposium Wednesday, December 12 at 2pm ET / 19:00 UTC. To participate, visit

The online symposium will feature clips from Welcome to the WorldSolar Mamas, and other films from Why Poverty?, a global media event created to encourage people to talk about poverty around the world. Continue reading

Welcome to the World, Tonight on Why Poverty?

By Brian Hill
Director of Welcome to the World

130 million babies are born each year, and not one of them decides where they’ll be born or how they’ll live. Welcome to the World premieres tonight as part of the Why Poverty? series special on Global Voices.

Apart from those in the medical profession, there can’t be many men in the world who have seen as many babies born as I did this year. It all started when I was invited to make one of the films for the Why Poverty? season, a global initiative posing important questions about poverty and inequality.

I wanted to start at the beginning, at the birth of a child, to see how poverty might impact the life of an infant, and how we might then imagine how that life would turn out. Once you decide to start right there, at the moment of birth, you are necessarily involved in questions of infant mortality — the chances a child has of survival. And infant mortality goes hand in hand with maternal mortality. You can’t talk about one without the other. Continue reading

Poor Us: An Animated History of Poverty

By Ben Lewis
Director of Poor Us

The poor may always have been with us, but attitudes towards them have changed. Beginning in the Neolithic Age, Ben Lewis’s film Poor Us, which premieres tonight as part of the Why Poverty? series special on Global Voices, takes us through the changing world of poverty. You go to sleep, you dream, you become poor through the ages. And when you awake, what can you say about poverty now? There are still very poor people, to be sure, but the new poverty has more to do with inequality…

I got the idea of how I wanted to make this film from a coincidence of spelling. The first three letters of the word POVERTY are POV, which in filmmaking language is an acronym for Point-of-View. It made me realize instantly that I wanted to tell the history of poverty from the point of view of a poor person.

I wanted to make a film that, like the others I have made, was simultaneously a meticulously researched historical documentary and a wildly imaginative fictional envisioning of history. In other words, I wanted to make a film that blurred the line in new ways between documentary and fiction.

So the first thing I did was spend two months in the British Library reading scores of new micro-histories of poverty, studies of poverty in specific historical epochs and locations, which have been published in the last fifteen years. All this new research is little known. I read Sharon Farmer’s Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris, Mine Ener’s Managing Eygpt’s Poor 1800-1952, and Lillian Li’s Fighting Famine in North China, as well as John Iliffe’s classic The African Poor. Continue reading

Land Rush: A Journey of Discovery

By Osvalde Lewat
Director of Land Rush

75% of Mali’s population are farmers, but rich, land-hungry nations like China and Saudi Arabia are leasing Mali’s land in order to turn large areas into agribusiness farms. Many Malian peasants do not welcome these efforts, seeing them as yet another manifestation of imperialism. As Mali experiences a military coup, the developers are scared off – but can Mali’s farmers combat food shortages and escape poverty on their own terms? Land Rush premieres tonight as part of the Why Poverty? series special on Global Voices.

Before working on Land Rush with Hugo Berkeley (co-director of Land Rush), questions relating to the global food system, international agricultural policy, and the sale of arable land in the South were abstract for me. Certainly the 2008 global food crisis, with its scenes of rioting, had shocked me. But I didn’t fully grasp the global scale of the crisis and what it meant for each one of us.

Once I started filming Land Rush, these issues became unavoidable. My own perception of events collided with the reality of Malian farmers and the agribusiness corporation Sosumar. They were no longer distant or unknown names, but people made of flesh and bone, whose fate hung perilously in the balance.

I discovered the invisible thread that connects disparate points on the globe, that binds Malian farmers to the thousands of people around the world who must fight to keep their heads above water, yet who ultimately discover that they have been excluded from the ways of the modern world. They are excluded by those who believe that only finance and the need to generate large profits must prevail. Continue reading

Questioning the Power of Celebrity: The Making of Give Us the Money

By Bosse Lindquist
Director of Give Us the Money

From Live Aid to Make Poverty History, celebrities have become activists against poverty. Bob Geldof and Bono have been the most prominent voices advocating on behalf of the poor. But have their concerts and campaigns really lifted millions out of poverty? Give Us the Money premieres tonight as part of the Why Poverty? series special on Global Voices.

Summer of 1974, I hitchhiked from Sweden to Kenya in order to escape my family and upbringing. I ended up teaching in a small rural secondary school by Lake Victoria. It changed my life in many ways and I fear I learned more about life than I managed to teach my students.

Living on a local Kenyan salary in a mud hut gave me a crash course in the basics of life for a substantial part of Earth’s population. It also gave me a different perspective on development workers and foreign aid. I could see my fellow wazungus (white people) whiz by on the national road in luxurious air-conditioned cars, too often insulated from reality physically, culturally, and intellectually. To me, this seemed like at least a partial explanation to why many development projects didn’t deliver the goods in those days.

Ever since I’ve been wondering what outsiders can do to affect change in somebody else’s country. Especially when it comes to beating the totally atrocious and unacceptable extent of people living in extreme poverty. Continue reading

Audiences Ask Why Poverty?, This Week on Global Voices

Why Poverty? is a groundbreaking film series featuring a simultaneous global broadcast of documentaries, online shorts, and interactive discussions. Why Poverty? focuses on the question: Why do a billion people in the world still live in poverty?

Why Poverty? was created four years ago by STEPS, a group of broadcasters and producers who created a series focusing on HIV in South Africa (STEPS for the Future) and the multi-part documentary series Why Democracy? For Why Poverty?, STEPS and other broadcasters collaborated to create an international media event that would showcase films about poverty and engage a global debate on issues revolving around poverty.

Spearheaded by STEPS Producer Don Edkins, BBC Storyville Commissioning Editor Nick Fraser, and DR (Denmark) Commissioning Editor Mette Hoffman Meyer, the project now involves over 70 international broadcasters who will broadcast and transmit the films during the month of November and reach over 50 million people.

ITVS is the US partner for Why Poverty? and has already broadcast the premiere film, Mona Eldaief and Jehane Noujaim’s Solar Mamas on November 5th, followed by Alex Gibney’s Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream on November 12th on the PBS series Independent Lens. The remaining 6 films will be broadcast on the Global Voices series on the World Channel during the week of November 26. Continue reading

Solar Mamas Inspires Audience Engagement

Solar Mamas is an inspiring and moving film about Rafea, a beautiful, strong-willed 32-year-old Jordanian mother of four, traveling outside of her village for the first time in order to attend Barefoot College’s solar engineering program. India’s Barefoot College, where rural, poor, and often illiterate women from around the world, offers them a rare opportunity to receive an education that teaches them how to make their communities self-reliant and sustainable.

Part of Why Poverty? and Women and Girls Lead, it premiered on Independent Lens and is currently screening nationwide as part of ITVS’s Community Cinema screening series. If you missed both of these chances to watch Solar Mamas, it’s not too late: it is streaming online at PBS Video.

If you are inspired to take action after watching the film, the Community Cinema website is featuring suggested actions you can take to help others like Rafea work towards a greener more prosperous world. Organizations such as SELF, SEED and My Hero Projects concentrate to help those living in poverty, supporting innovative small-scale, and locally driven entrepreneurship. Continue reading

ITVS Documentaries at IDFA 2012

A record 17 ITVS documentaries will screen at IDFA 2012 (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam), including 8 films from Why Poverty?

Check out the IDFA films below and join us in congratulating all the filmmakers!

Why Poverty? is a project from ITVS’s Global Perspectives Project in partnership with STEPS International 70 international broadcasters. The project has commissioned award-winning filmmakers to make eight documentaries, and new and emerging talents to make around 30 short films. The films tackle big issues and pose difficult questions, but they’re also moving, subtle and thought-provoking stories.

IDFA has declared Thursday, November 22nd Why Poverty? Day at the festival.

You can watch clips and shorts online now, and find out more about what’s happening at: Continue reading