The Windermere Children, Masterpiece: Beecham House, The Queen at War and several “Nature” and “Nova” programs are among the titles PBS Distribution in June will release on DVD and through digital retailers.
Available now is The Windermere Children, a dramatization based on the true story of 300 children who were saved from the Nazi concentration camps, along with a documentary on the subject. The drama’s cast is led by Thomas Kretschmann (The Pianist), Romola Garai (The Miniaturist), Tim McInnerny (“Strangers”) and Iain Glen (“Game of Thrones”). In the dramatization, child psychologist Oscar Friedmann (Kretschamann), art therapist Marie Paneth (Garai), philanthropist Leonard Montefiore (McInnerny) and sports coach Jock Lawrence (Glen) have been given the task of looking after the children once they arrive. By the lake, the children learn English, play football, ride bikes, express their trauma through painting and begin to heal. Some locals taunt them, but they are embraced by others. Ultimately alone, the children are haunted by nightmares and hope for news about the families they left behind.
Also available now is the documentary Nature: Remarkable Rabbits. There are more than 100 domestic and wild kinds of rabbits, from swamp rabbits and Flemish giants to snowshoe hares. Yet, these prolific creatures are often overlooked and rarely get the respect they deserve — due, in part, to their adorable appearance and storybook depictions. Learn how hares are more than just a rabbit with long ears and legs, how rabbits have managed to survive in ever-changing landscapes — in downtown Chicago or Canada’s frozen boreal forest — and how they turn the table on their predators. Despite their remarkable ability to reproduce, many wild rabbits are in danger of being eradicated. Viewers join scientists in the field as they work tirelessly to save rabbit species from the brink of extinction and reveal ground-breaking new discoveries.
Also available is Nature: Cuba’s Wild Revolution. As the largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba is teeming with exotic biodiversity and host to spectacular wildlife found nowhere else on the planet. Jumping crocodiles of the Zapata swamp, the world’s tiniest hummingbird, thousands of migrating crabs, giant bat-eating boas that lie in wait for easy prey, coral reefs pulsating with life, and five-foot-long Cuban rock iguanas all call this island home. Decades of a socialist, conservation-minded government, American embargoes, and minimal development have left the island virtually unchanged for 50 years. As international relations ease, what will become of the spectacularly biodiverse wildlife sanctuary in this Caribbean paradise?
Season one of “Expedition With Steve Backshall” is also available. In this new series, adventurer and naturalist Backshall ventures into undiscovered territory, endures extreme physical challenges, encounters extraordinary wildlife, and teams up with remarkable people. From free-diving in underground river systems descending deep into the caves of the Maya underworld to kayaking Himalayan whitewater and scaling unclimbed Arctic peaks, these expeditions push Backshall and his expert crew to the limit. Some of the locations he explores include Oman’s Dhofar Mountains where he is the first to ascend the desert rock face, a Bornean cave system that has only recently been spotted from a dark shadow on a satellite image, and Greenland where he will attempt to summit an unclimbed mountain in the country’s remotest peaks.
Available June 16 is The Queen at War, examining Queen Elizabeth’s childhood as she endured WWII and how her actions impacted England as a whole. Narrated by Phyllis Logan (“Downton Abbey”), viewers take a look at Britain’s longest reigning monarch in history. The documentary offers a fascinating look at how Princess Elizabeth, just 13 years old when World War II broke out, was set on her life’s path to become a legendary monarch. Together with sister Margaret, the young princesses became symbols of hope for a nation wracked by a horrific war, the terrors of the Blitz and the relocation of over a million children. By 1945, Elizabeth had been transformed from a shy girl into a confident young woman and proved her mettle as a driver and mechanic in the women’s branch of the army. She was also already in love with the handsome naval officer she would one day marry. Told through the reminiscences of friends, including Lady Glenconner, royal biographers Christopher Warwick, Robert Lacey, Jane Dismore and Hugh Vickers, among others, the documentary features rare footage of the Queen’s war years culled from private and public collections.
Also due June 16 is the documentary Nova: Cuba’s Cancer Hope. In Cuba, as in the United States, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths. Decades of economic and political isolation have starved the country of medical resources, leading Cuba’s biomedical researchers to get creative and invent their own immunotherapies. Among them are very promising lung cancer vaccines that can help jumpstart the body’s immune response to cancer. Some U.S. patients are even defying their country’s trade embargo to travel to Cuba for treatment. The program explores the fascinating history of Cuban biomedical research and follows the journey of two cancer patients, one from the island and one from the United States, receiving the new vaccines. As they prove effective in some patients, Cuban scientists are teaming up with a leading U.S. cancer institute to develop an even more effective treatment by combining the best of both countries’ research and medical technologies.
Due June 30 is the drama Masterpiece: Beecham House. From filmmaker Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham, Blinded by the Light), Beecham House takes place in 19th century India at the start of the British Empire. The six-part miniseries explores the life of the mysterious John Beecham, a former East India Company employee who buys an imposing mansion in Delhi. Starring Tom Bateman (Vanity Fair, Jekyll and Hyde) as John, Lesley Nicol (“Downton Abbey”) as his mother Henrietta Beecham, and Leo Suter (Sanditon) as his brother Daniel, Beecham House follows the twists and turns, and complex relationships of John and those that surrounded and live in the mansion with him.
Coming June 30 is the documentary Nova: The Truth About Fat. For generations, fat has been the enemy, and overweight individuals have been stigmatized and shamed. Society has demonized it as a cumbersome health risk and cast overweight individuals as too gluttonous or lazy to make healthy choices, but scientists are coming to understand that fat is not so simple. In fact, it’s a fascinating and dynamic organ — one that has more to do with biological processes than personal choices. “Nova” asks and answers the questions that surround fat. Do we control our fat or does it control us? Why don’t sumo wrestlers suffer from the health problems that other obese people do? Why has evolution hardwired us to hang onto fat even when it’s unhealthy? What would happen if you had no fat at all? Through real-life stories of hunter-gatherers, supermodels, and a “Biggest Loser” contestant, the program explores the complex functions of fat and the role it plays in controlling hunger, hormones and even reproduction.