Graphic with film titles and their headshots of main characters behind a white Reel South logo.
New on Reel South

Ninth Season Promises Sharp Lens on US Military, Health, and Spiritual Histories

Mar 7, 2024 by Nicholas Price


Watch Season Trailer Here

Season 9 Press Kit Available Here

Durham, North Carolina –– The award-winning PBS series Reel South has announced a new season of exemplary films documenting the cultures and histories that redefine the American South. Coming to PBS stations and streaming platforms, the new season will be released weekly beginning April 08, 2024.

Six episodes bring forward a cache of archival footage, photographs, mixed media, and headlines past and present to extoll missing stories from our shared military, health, and spiritual histories.

“This season adds new depth to the historical records the U.S. and the American South have preserved, and it challenges Americans to ask what defines and who establishes our collective posterity,” said Reel South series producer Nick Price. “Above all, each film showcases the power of human connection and the communities created in any aftermath.”

The series has chosen to premiere the season with a pair of short films that feature two overlooked perspectives from the Vietnam War and the impacts of racism from the era.

David Brodie’s The Volunteer (Kansas City Film Festival, Doc Edge New Zealand, Sidewalk Film Festival) reunites Vietnam veteran Bruce Nakashima with the fellow soldier who saved his life during an anti-Asian act of racism within his own company. After a decades-long search for each other, Nakashima and Alabama-native L.V. Hendking relate their lived experiences as Vietnam War veterans of color. The film is paired with The Day That Shook Georgia, which revisits an explosion at an armament factory in southeast Georgia and current efforts to honor the victims. Directed by Patrick Longstreth, local news and personal archives help re-center one of the worst industrial accidents in American history and the predominantly Black women who fell victim to the negligence.

“Reel South’s unique vantage and PBS’ trusted platform is the perfect partnership to highlight the under-represented histories buried in America’s compelling past and present. These films speak to the importance of regional perspectives to help inform our national story,” said PBS Plus Director of Programming Michael E. Tang.

Two feature films are included in the season, including Matthew Hashiguchi’s The Only Doctor (Hot Docs 2023) (Anjanette Levert, producer), a longitudinal story of a rural medical clinic in southern Georgia and the only doctor running the facility from 2018 through the first years of the pandemic. The Only Doctor will premiere April 29. The other feature is the public media debut from Cuban-American Eliecer Jimenez, whose film retells the calamitous history of the 1962 Bay of Pigs invasion through the personal interviews of the Cuban exiles-turned-mercenaries who felt abandoned by the US government. Veritas (Documenta 15) premieres April 15, some 63 years after the operation.

Six additional short films complete the season’s acquisitions slate. On April 22, four shorts will air together in a detailed curation of stories set at home and abroad. This program explores the collective action to archive and preserve our physical and spiritual selves.

In Exile (dir. Nathan Fitch)

In Springdale, Arkansas, migrants from the Marshall Islands gather to commemorate the 1946 bombing of Bikini Atoll and ask the questions: Why did the United States choose their islands and what are the ongoing impacts on their indigenous Pacific Island community? In Exile explores the nuclear legacy of the US in the Pacific and the lingering catastrophe in its wake.

It’s in the Voices (dir. Field Humphrey)

A historian revisits the oral history of a 1920s school teacher in the Mississippi Delta.

Clinton Bagley revisits his first interview from Mississippi’s Washington County Oral History Program. Amongst the files and folders, one piece of material sticks out––the catalyst for the whole program. In a conversation he recorded in 1975 with Daisy Greene, a retired school teacher from his hometown of Greenville, Mississippi, we learn about a devastating flood in 1927, often cruel systems of oppression, and the disparate voices that define the Delta.

Fallout (dir. Madison Hill)

Three community members in a rural Appalachian town experience illnesses after exposure to contamination from a nearby US Army Ammunition Plant. Due to the open burning of waste, the facility is considered the largest polluter in Virginia, releasing millions of pounds of toxic pollutants into the air, soil, and water each year. The film incorporates contaminants from the facility into 1200 feet of 16mm film.

Finding Us (dir. Kathryn Carlson)

Georgetown University sold hundreds of enslaved people to stave off bankruptcy, scattering families across the South, never to see each other again. With the help of DNA databases, their descendants are reconnecting six generations later. “Finding Us” is a portrait of four descendants who are using their unique talents to regrow the family trees felled nearly two centuries ago.

On May 6, Heather Courtney’s film For the Record, whose central protagonist narrates the season trailer (see above), premieres alongside Thom Southerland’s I’m the Girl. Together, as local newspapers wane, a trove of archives remains. Unearthed in these two films are the important stories of any town’s record and the people who keep it. One newspaper publisher strives to keep the town’s paper of record alive and an iconic photo of an unknown girl is inspected by the women who claim to know the truth.

“For the past decade, Reel South has provided filmmakers working in our region the opportunity to get their powerful films seen across the country. As the American South continues to drive the national conversation, these stories provide a well-needed, authentic lens into our communities and cultures,” said PBS North Carolina’s Rachel Raney, co-creator and co-executive producer of the series.

Finally, Reel South concludes its ninth season with an hour-long program of original shorts that were commissioned and produced last year. Five films, directed by filmmakers representing diverse backgrounds and perspectives, engage the spiritual and existential challenges of the South's diverse landscapes. More information will be shared about these films and filmmakers in a forthcoming press release. This season’s finale will be titled Land-scraped Landscapes and caps the six-week run on May 13.

The new season will also broadcast via WORLD beginning April 13.


Southern Storytelling