tl;dr: Tough Topics

Disclaimer: The following post discusses issues regarding late-term abortions.  

While I was an intern at POV last summer, I worked on promoting a film called After Tiller. The film is about the four doctors who are legally and openly performing late-term (third trimester) abortions in the United States. It chronicles their decision to continue in their profession despite the murder of a colleague, Dr. George Tiller (who was killed while attending church in 2009). It’s an uncomfortable film at times, but worthwhile if you’re interested in why a late-term abortion might be requested, and why these doctors continue to risk their lives to help families make painful decisions.



In my opinion, it’s one of the most well made films of POV’s 27th season. But the public disagreed. Something important to know about POV is that it airs on PBS, a government funded television station. So when POV started to publicize the airing of After Tiller, the trolls were unleashed upon the film’s comment section. People were writing hateful vitriol, seething that a publicly funded television show would air any film that dare discuss abortion. Angry commenters threatened to petition PBS to get the film off the air, complaining that their tax dollars shouldn’t be used to fund something they disapproved of.*

But here’s the thing: After Tiller is a film that wants to explore why a woman might choose to have an abortion–from serious birth defects detected during pregnancy, to being financially unable to afford another child. After Tiller seeks to shed some light on this controversial issue; it’s interested in dialogue, not debate. It explores these issues with empathy and compassion, rather than with a political goal in mind. In fact, a colleague of mine at POV expressed that his mother, who is firmly anti-abortion, liked the film and learned a lot from it. I believe strongly that if the world wants fewer women to have abortions, we need to encourage strong sex education programs. And part of a strong sex ed program is talking about tough topics, including abortion rights.

After Tiller is available on Netflix.

I’d also recommend the following resources for more information on discussing tough topics–both of them are great resources to use in a classroom:

Shmoop hosts online courses on every topic imaginable, from Literature to Chemistry. The also have a great rundown on abortion rights, and the link between abortion law and the right to privacy.

ProCon is another great resource for educators. It provides nonpartisan summaries of a variety of controversial topics, including abortion.

*Hey, I’d love to not pay for a lot of things the US government spends our money on. But I do. 


tl;dr: Why is Peace So Difficult? Part I

Disclaimer: My bias might flare up in the next couple of posts. Just FYI.  

One of the most controversial issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict is that of Israeli settlements. You’ve probably already heard of them and even know what they are: Israeli communities built in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem (there used to be settlements in Gaza as well, but Israel withdrew from the area in 2005). These settlements are illegal under international law–they disobey the Geneva Convention’s ruling that states cannot move their own civilians into occupied territory–and are one of the biggest blockades to the peace process. I’ll let Al Jazeera go ahead and explain why:

One great film on Israeli settlements and what it’s like to live under Israeli military law is 5 Broken Cameras.

The film was nominated for an Oscar (Best Documentary Feature) in 2013, and aired on POV in its 26th season. It’s cleverly structured around each of the filmmaker’s broken cameras, most of which are broken in clashes with the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces), and tells the story of his family, living on the edge of the newly created separation barrier in the village of Bil’in. 5 Broken Cameras is available to watch on Netflix.

If you think you don’t have time to watch one of the best films to feature the Israel-Palestine conflict, check out the following infographics. Vizualizing Palestine is an excellent resource, with some of the best crafted graphics I’ve seen on Palestine.

This one is a great infographic companion to 5 Broken Cameras, and details facts and figures discussed in the film:

5 Broken Cameras: Growing up with the Bil'in Resistance(Source)

Oh, and that wall we talked about? Yeah, also illegal:

Where Law Stands on the Wall(Source)

Other sources to check out include B’Tselem and Jewish Voice for Peace, both of which are Jewish nonprofits acting in solidarity with Palestinians. Stay tuned for info and film recommendations on the Palestinian’s right to return later today.

tl;dr: Big Bird Wants YOU to Watch PBS Videos

Over the course of the next few weeks (or months, if I don’t get lazy), I’m going to be blogging about media that educates and entertains. My goal is to introduce weekly themes and write a couple of posts each week with film and video recommendations that relate to that theme. I’ll have posts dedicated to women’s reproductive rights, mass incarceration in the US, Israel and Palestine, and more.

To kickstart this project, I’d like to introduce some more broad recommendations. The following is a list of TV series and YouTube channels that cover a variety of topics:

1. PBS Digital Studios. 

PBS Digital Studios is PBS for the internet. They have over 30 channels discussing art, science, technology, history, and more. Odds are, if you consider yourself a Nerdfighter, you’ll be a fan of PBS Digital Studios. In fact, a lot of Vlogbrothers* content is produced by PBS.

Why You Should Watch It: 

Big Bird Wants YOU to watch PBS videos. Don’t disappoint Big Bird.

Seriously, though. PBS Digital Studios does an awesome job of being a nostalgic PBS series (Reading Rainbow remix anyone?) while also embracing new media (they even have a Tumblr). Some of their best work includes:

My Favorite: The Idea Channel

2. Crash Course 

Speaking of PBS Digital Studios, Crash Course recently received funding to continue their educational series on YouTube. Started by the Vlogbrothers, Crash Course is a series of YouTube shows dedicated to providing short education courses for free on the internet. They currently have 11 different educational series: World History, Biology, Ecology, English, US History, Chemistry, Psychology, Big History, Anatomy and Physiology, Astronomy, and US Government and Politics.

Why You Should Watch It: 

Don’t you want to watch Wheezy Waiter explain how the US government works to your children? No? Just me? Okay. I’m going to let John and Hank give you some more reasons:

My Favorite: Catcher in the Rye, Parts 1 & 2

3. POV

POV is an Emmy award winning documentary series that airs on PBS. Their goal is to feature innovative documentaries with fresh perspectives, or “points of view,” each season.

Why You Should Watch It: 

I worked there! Support my shameless plug! But also, it’s a fantastic idea and it pulls it off well. The documentaries they choose for each season are all over the map in terms of content, so you’re pretty much guaranteed a good two hours of doc that is not only informative and well made, but there will be a diversity in opinions and perspectives every week.

My Favorite***: Cutie and the Boxer

Where Can I Watch It? 

Most POV films (including Cutie) are available on Netflix, and are from time to time free to stream on POV’s website. Season 28 will premiere sometime this summer, so keep an eye out for it on your local PBS station!

4. Independent Lens

Can you tell I have a PBS bias yet? Independent Lens is very similar to POV, but has an even greater variety of films. It’s currently in its 13th season and airs approximately 25 episodes per season (as compared to POV’s typical 12 or so).

Why You Should Watch It:

Ditto what I said for POV. Also, watch this trailer:

My Favorite: How to Survive a Plague

Where Can I Watch It? 

Many Independent Lens films are available on Netflix (including How to Survive a Plague), and are also available through PBS’ streaming service. They are currently airing on PBS on Monday nights at 10pm EST.

5. TED 

The only non-PBS product on this list, TED showcases “ideas worth spreading” through a series of short presentations on a wide variety of scientific, cultural, and political topics. From talks on prosthetic limbs to a presentation on sexuality in Islam, if you can think it, TED probably has it.

Why You Should Watch It: 

Anyone reading this has probably put “Watch more TED Talks” on their New Year’s Resolution list at some point, so I’ll keep this brief. TED has a knack for picking great speakers talking about interesting topics from fresh perspectives. They’re masters of performance, which has garnered the organization criticism as well as praise. Check it out to find out for yourself.

My Favorite: The Power of Introverts


Where Can I Watch It? 

TED talks are available on YouTube as well as through TED’s website. There are also multiple TED playlists available on Netflix.

Let me know if you have any recommendations to add to this list!

That’s all for now. Check out the blog next Monday for a series of posts on gender representation in media.

*Watch Vlogbrothers now if you haven’t already (they probably could have had their own entry in this post, but I can’t pick a favorite).

**Hosted by John Green’s wife, Sarah Green, otherwise known as The Yeti.

***Probably not actually my favorite POV film, but it is in the top 5 and I doubt I’ll have an opportunity to feature it in the future of this blog.