For the last decade, films on GBH WORLD’s America ReFramed have brought to life stories and voices that illuminate our ever-changing nation. The series has premiered 170 films, with more than half produced by women and a third credited to directors of color. We asked Liz Cheng and Chris Hastings, co-creators of the series, to reflect on the series and its impact.
How did you come up with the idea for America ReFramed?
CH: Ten years ago, there were so many powerful films available to public media that didn’t have a home. So, we put our heads together and developed a new curation strategy. The result was America ReFramed.
LC: We thought it was such a shame that many great films from independent producers weren’t being seen broadly, especially those featuring unheard stories that were organically coming from the communities being reported on. We’re so grateful that GBH supported these efforts.
What is the series’ special niche?
CH: America ReFramed’s palette is America—a transforming United States of America with all its complexity, challenges and triumphs.
LC:. News can be a never-ending blur of events. Our films allow you to stop and dig deep into the stories behind the headlines. We want to show important issues from all angles, with documentaries by and about Indigenous people; people of color; ethnic, religious and LGBTQ+ communities; people with disabilities; the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated; those with education needs; veterans; seniors; immigrants, and more.
What does America ReFramed’s 10th anniversary mean to you?
LC: It's significant because it means that our audiences across the country are demanding these films. It shows that a multicultural take on issues that illuminate a changing nation is important and valid. Everyone is interested in how their neighbors are different from them. These differences should be celebrated because they make our country unique, fascinating and great.
CH: I think it's important and significant that, after 10 years, this series is still needed. We have a lot of work to do when it comes to inclusion of voices historically excluded from public media. I think America ReFramed reckons with that.
Why did you choose Fannie Lou Hamer’s America as the anniversary special?
CH: For us to look forward, we have to look back at the game changers. Fannie Lou Hamer’s America: An America ReFramed Special captures our theme of a transforming nation. She was a Black middle-aged woman with an 8th grade education who was getting the work done. When we think about a transforming United States in 2022, we see that Black women are again leading us through change.
LC: She accomplished a great deal at personal expense. She sacrificed so much to fight injustice, and yet so few people know about her. The film is told in her own words with her own singing and is co-produced by her great-niece — so it doesn't get much more authentic than that.
What does the future hold for America ReFramed?
CH: We really want to amplify the voices of young, diverse filmmakers who are finding it so hard to get funding, who are finding it hard to navigate during a time when it's supposed to be the Golden Age of documentary, but it’s not that for everybody.
LC: We have arrived at this moment when the country is awakened that we need to celebrate our differences and we need to come together. Our dream is that America ReFramed can help do that.
“Finding Your Voice Through Fannie Lou Hamer” on February 15 will feature a discussion among the filmmakers and panelists, who will explore the connection of Hamer’s civil rights activism with present-day advocacy for social justice. Register here and watch for two more events in the spring.
To celebrate the legacy of America ReFramed, GBH is featuring Fannie Lou Hamer’s America: An America ReFramed Special, a documentary about the life and times of the Mississippi sharecropper and civil rights icon. The film airs at 9pm on February 22 on GBH 2 and the PBS Video App, February 23 at 12pm on GBH 44 and February 24 on GBH WORLD.