PBS Documentary ‘American Experience: The Circus’ Due on Digital Oct. 9, DVD Nov. 6

The PBS Distribution documentary American Experience: The Circus will come out on digital Oct. 9 on iTunes and on DVD Nov. 6.

The four-hour, two-part program explores the history of this distinctly American form of entertainment, where young women could become lion tamers and young men traveled the world as roustabouts. Drawing upon a vast visual archive, and featuring a host of performers, historians and aficionados, The Circus brings to life an era when Circus Day would shut down a town and its stars were among the most famous people in the country.

Part One starts with the first one-ring show at the end of the 18th century in Philadelphia when the circus met the disapproval of the religious. In a society that valued sobriety and hard work, peering at half-naked aerialists amid shifty circus workers was frowned upon. Soon, circuses began to add elaborate menageries of exotic animals including lions, hippos and elephants, and “human oddities” from across the globe — rebranding themselves as “educational” experiences to concerned communities. Once the infamous showman and huckster P. T. Barnum transformed the trade in 1871, he and his partners created the largest touring show in existence.

Part Two follows James Bailey as he takes his circus to Europe on a five-year tour. Upon returning the circus tour to the U.S. the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey merged, creating a moving town of more than 1,100 people, 735 horses, nearly 1,000 other animals and 28 tents.

Featured were some of the most storied circus performers in history, including the famed aerialist Lillian Leitzel; May Worth, who stunned audiences by somersaulting on horseback; and big cat trainer Mabel Stark. In an era when women were still fighting for the right to vote, women circus performers stepped to the forefront of the suffrage movement.

‘Frontline’ Docs ‘Left Behind America’ and ‘Our Man in Tehran’ on Disc, Digital from PBS in November

PBS Distribution will release two “Frontline” documentaries in November, Left Behind America and Our Man in Tehran on DVD and digital.

Frontline: Left Behind America is available on Digital HD and DVD ($24.99) Nov. 20. In the decade since the Great Recession, many American cities and towns have bounced back. But for some small and mid-size cities that were once hubs for innovation and manufacturing, economic recovery has remained elusive. This documentary asks why and is an in-depth look at one such city, Dayton, Ohio, as its citizens continue to fight for economic revitalization 10 years after the financial crisis. Although Dayton’s job market has recently seen a resurgence, the jobs coming back to the city aren’t the high-wage jobs that used to be there — and the poverty rate in Dayton has reached 34.5 percent, or nearly three times the poverty rate nationwide. In addition to the economic downturn, the city has also been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.

Frontline: Our Man in Tehran comes out Nov. 6 on DVD ($24.99) and is available now for download. As tensions rose between the United States and Iran over the summer, with threats of war and sanctions, this “Frontline” documentary is a portrait of life inside the Islamic Republic. New York Times reporter Thomas Erdbrink’s account of traveling around the country, meeting people, and learning stories about their lives, hopes and fears is revealed in the program. It journeys into the private world of Iran, documenting the people and the country in a way never before seen.

Documentary ‘Dark Money’ Available on Digital, Coming to Disc Oct. 9 From PBS

The documentary Dark Money is available now digital and will come out on DVD Oct. 9 from PBS Distribution.

Presented in partnership with POV, the Sundance award-winning documentary, directed and produced by Kimberly Reed, uncovers the truth of how American elections are bought and sold. Dark Money examines the influence of untraceable corporate money on our elections and elected officials. The film takes viewers to Montana — a frontline in the fight to preserve fair elections nationwide — to follow a local journalist working to expose the real-life impacts of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. A century ago, secret money swamped Montana’s legislature, but citizens rose up to prohibit corporate campaign spending. In the wake of Citizens United — which allows unlimited, anonymous money to pour into elections nationwide — Montana is once again fighting to preserve open and honest elections.

View the trailer here.

PBS Inks Streaming Deal for International Dramas

PBS Distribution has inked a deal with Walter Presents, a streaming on-demand video service, to bring more than 300 hours of the international drama to Prime members on the PBS Masterpiece channel available on Prime Video Channels.

Starting Oct. 19, subscribers in the United States can access the Walter Presents collection of top, award-winning drama series from around the world for $5.99 per month after a seven-day free trial.

Curated by Walter Iuzzolino, whose venture first gained popularity in the United Kingdom, the library of international dramas includes series ranging from Nordic thrillers to French political dramas, all with English subtitling. Additionally, select top-tier titles will be chosen by PBS for broadcast on PBS stations and streaming on PBS Passport, a digital member benefit available through local stations.

“PBS Distribution has always offered the best British dramas. Expanding our Prime Video Channel to include the best of foreign language dramas is a natural fit, giving our subscribers access to premium international series,” said Andrea Downing, co-president, PBS Distribution, in a statement. “Walter Presents will deliver hand-selected global hits to our audience.”

“I’m delighted and excited to be partnering with PBS Distribution, a company synonymous with quality drama and premium programming,” said Walter Iuzzolino, co-founder and curator of Walter Presents, in a statement. “The PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel already provides audiences with a fabulous collection of British series. Now, subscribers will have access to some truly amazing global drama series providing a chance to enjoy the very best the rest of the world has to offer.”

Walter Presents series coming to PBS include “Norskov,” a Nordic noir story about a police detective fighting corruption in his home town; “13 Commandments,” a Belgian thriller about a self-proclaimed modern-day Moses Inspired by the 10 commandments who is committing a series of gruesome crimes in a bid to restore society’s moral standards; and “Professor T,” another Belgian series about an eccentric and socially inept criminal psychology genius who reluctantly becomes an advisor to the police.

Walter Presents launched in the United Kingdom on Channel 4’s on-demand service “All 4” in January 2016.

Ella Ballentine and Sara Botsford Discuss Playing Classic Characters in PBS’s ‘Anne of Green Gables — Fire and Dew’

Anne of Green Gables — Fire and Dew, the third installment in the series based on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic story about a precocious orphan in the late-19th century, is available now on DVD and digital from PBS Distribution.

The first two installments are also available in a two-set DVD collection.

Fire and Dew (with an airing on PBS Sept. 23) follows Anne Shirley (Ella Ballentine) as she moves to Charlottetown from the Prince Edward Island hamlet of Avonlea and is overwhelmed by her new surroundings, difficult classes at the teacher’s college and a deepening romance with Gilbert. At the same time, her adoptive parents, siblings Matthew (Martin Sheen) and Marilla (Sara Botsford), deal with health and financial difficulties that jeopardize their lives at Green Gables. After Anne graduates, she must make an important decision, whether to move back home or continue on to university.

Ballentine has developed an admiration for the plucky titular character she plays.

“I love how strong she is,” she said. “Anne, right from when we’re introduced to her, has been through a lot of trauma but perseveres regardless. She has such a loving heart and is open to everyone. She doesn’t allow herself to be pushed around by anyone, not someone calling her names, not a silly boy, no one.”

Fire and Dew brings several new challenges to Anne.

“Anne deals with school and family struggles in Fire and Dew,” Ballentine said. “I feel like this is something almost everyone can relate to. School takes such a toll on our lives with the effort expected to be put in, and of course, family is a constant, so issues will occur. I think it makes Anne really reflect on what’s important to her. As a child, she was so curious and able to explore everything she chose, but these changes force her to step back and analyze where her time is better spent. She really matures in this film and makes bold choices.”

Marilla, too, is dealing with some emotional earthquakes in the third installment, but characteristically keeps a lid on any inner turmoil.

“She doesn’t want people to sympathize with her,” Botsfard said of her character. “She would hate that. And she would hate people to feel sorry for her. It’s just not in her nature at all. She is just such a survivor as a person. She doesn’t have frills in her life.”

It is a delicate balancing act for an actor to portray Marilla’s emotions under the surface, she noted.

“She spent her whole life tamping down those kinds of feelings, so part of what was fun about playing her was trying to get across the fact that she had emotional depth and wasn’t just hard,” Botsford said. “Her life is hard, and she is a person who has been taught just to get on with it and just make the best of things and don’t complain.”

The affectionate sibling relationship between Marilla and Matthew, likewise, isn’t full of gushing sentiment, but conveyed in gentle ribbing and unspoken looks.

“I love the relationship between Matthew and Marilla — calling him an Old Goat — just their relationship, what they understand about each other, despite their foibles, that they love each other and care for each other,” Botsford said. “It was really fun, of course, working with Martin [Sheen] because he’s a master at conveying a million thoughts with a simple look. He can express a lot in one nod of the head.”

The story of Anne has endured for more than a century, with multiple adaptations on stage, screen and television. Despite the different time period, many of Anne’s struggles are universal, Botsford noted.

“Lucy Maud Montgomery let her grow up, and so she didn’t stay stuck in childhood for us as readers and viewers,” Botsford said. “She wasn’t just this 11-year-old kid who was cute and impossible and thought some imaginative things. She allowed her to grow up and allowed us to follow her as she became an adult, and I think that’s part of why she endures so strongly as a character because she tackles things that everybody has had to have tackled some time in their life. Are they going to leave home? Are they going to go to school? What kind of sacrifices are they willing to make for the kinds of things that they want? And what kind of sacrifices are they willing to make for their family? And I think most people can relate to those things. Yes, it is a very, very different time, but those essential things that she is grappling with — going into maturity, love and boyfriends, and embarrassment — everyone’s experienced those. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2018 or when it is, and I think that’s probably why she endures.”

Though a young person living in a quite different time, Ballentine said she found things she and the classic heroine have in common — and things to learn from Anne.

“I would like to say I’m strong and independent like Anne. My friends would certainly say I am,” she said. “I’m a very loud feminist, haha. I did find, though, after filming, to learn from Anne. She’s very wise. She knows to live in the moment. Of course, it’s wonderful to dream of the future, but not to allow yourself to worry about it. I’m a very anxious person but I’ve really tried to adapt Anne’s way of living peacefully to my own life.”

Ken Burns Documentary ‘The Mayo Clinic: Faith – Hope – Science’ Coming on Digital and Disc Sept. 25 from PBS

The Ken Burns documentary The Mayo Clinic: Faith – Hope – Science is being released on digital, DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 25 from PBS Distribution.

Executive-produced by Burns, and directed by Burns, Erik Ewers and Christopher Loren Ewers, the documentary features interviews with patients, including John McCain and the Dalai Lama, to tell the story of William Worrall Mayo, an English immigrant who began practicing medicine with his sons Will and Charlie in Rochester, Minn.

Mayo laid the foundation for a medical center that now treats over a million patients every year from 50 states and 150 countries. Blending historical narrative with contemporary patient stories, the program also looks at what the Mayo Clinic’s history can teach us about facing the challenges of patient care today.

‘The Miniaturist’ From Masterpiece Coming Out on Digital Sept. 10, Disc Sept. 18 From PBS

Masterpiece: The Miniaturist will be released on digital Sept. 10 and DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 18 from PBS Distribution.

Set in Golden Age Amsterdam in 1686, this adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestselling novel stars Anya Taylor-Joy (Split, The Witch), Romola Garai (Churchill’s Secret, The Hour) and Alex Hassell (Suburbicon, Anonymous). The story follows Nella (Taylor-Joy), a naive 18-year-old from a bankrupt aristocratic family in the provinces who is wooed by Johannes Brandt (Hassell), a handsome and prosperous merchant looking for a wife. Once wed, Nella lives in Johannes’ mansion, mostly without him, kept in the care of his grim and overbearing sister, Marin (Garai), and the household’s two controlling servants. As a wedding gift, Johannes gives Nella an exquisitely crafted cutaway model of the very house she is living in. He instructs her to furnish it to her liking and gives her the address to the miniaturist who creates the tiny objects. She and the miniaturist only communicate by letter and upon her first order, she receives more objects than she requests. Without direction from Nella, the miniaturist keeps sending new creations including dolls replicating Johannes, Marin and the servants, with details that hint at closely held secrets.

‘Hillary’ Miniseries, Third Installment of ‘Anne of Green Gables’ Due on Digital and Disc from PBS

Anne of Green Gables — Fire and Dew, the third installment in the series based on the classic book, and the miniseries Hillary, about the famous explorer, are coming on disc and digital from PBS Distribution.

The continuing Lucy Maud Montgomery story of a free-spirited teenager on Prince Edward Island, Anne of Green Gables — Fire and Dew, will be available on DVD and digital Sept. 18. The first two installments will also be available in a two-set DVD collection. The third in the series, which airs Sept. 23, follows Anne Shirley (Ella Ballentine) as she moves to Charlottetown and is overwhelmed by her new surroundings, difficult classes at the teacher’s college and a deepening romance with Gilbert. At the same time, Matthew (Martin Sheen) and Marilla deal with health and financial difficulties that jeopardize their lives at Green Gables. After Anne graduates, she must make an important decision, whether to move back home or continue on to university.

The six-part miniseries Hillary (available now for digital download) debuts on DVD Aug. 21. The program, from New Zealand, is based on the life of mountaineer and philanthropist Sir Edmund Hillary. Based on thousands of hours of exclusive interviews, it tells the story of the first man to conquer Mt. Everest. The program recounts his beekeeping days in South Auckland, to his ascent of the world’s highest mountain with climbing partner Tenzing Norgay, to the plane crash that killed his wife and daughter. When he summited Everest in May 1953, Hillary put his small home country, New Zealand, on the map. He was so beloved in there that his likeness is featured on the five-dollar note, and he was given a state funeral after his 2008 death. Andrew Munro (The Kick) stars as Hillary, while Dean O’Gorman (The Hobbit) plays George Lowe, his longtime friend and climbing partner, and Amy Usherwood (“Shortland Street”) plays his wife, Lady Louise Hillary.

‘Vietnam War’ Doc a Double Winner at EMA’s Independent Studio Home Entertainment Awards

Well Go USA’s IP Man 3 won the Hall of Fame Award at the seventh annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit (LAES) July 17 in Hollywood.

The 2015 Hong Kong biographical martial arts film, which has a 78% favorable Rotten Tomatoes score, was honored for its consistent performance since release three years ago.

The honor was presented at the 2018 Independent Studio Home Entertainment Awards, part of the annual conference, which this year is focused on indie studios and content.

The conference is produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA).

PBS Distribution’s The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick picked up two awards, Sellthrough Title of the Year from an Independent Studio and Documentary Title of the Year from an Independent Studio.

Loving Vincent, from Cinedigm and Good Deed Entertainment, was honored as the Rental Title of the Year from an Independent Studio.

And California Typewriter, from Gravitas Ventures, was named Original/Limited Release Title of the Year from an Independent Studio.

PBS Distribution’s Andrea Downing, who accepted the award for The Vietnam War, said the filmmakers dealt with a “very complicated topic” and “really tried to tell the story from multiple perspectives.”

The documentary, which runs 18 hours, recently launched on Netflix, she said.

PBS ‘American Masters’ Documentary on Baseball’s Ted Williams to Bow July 24 on DVD and Digital

PBS Distribution will release American Masters — Ted Williams: “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived” on DVD and Digital HD July 24.

The program premieres July 23 on PBS.

Co-produced by Albert M. Tapper Productions, in association with Major League Baseball, David Ortiz’ Big Papi Productions and Nick Davis Productions, the program explores not only the Baseball Hall of Famer’s on-field accomplishments but also his complicated relationships with family, teammates, press, fans and himself. The release honors Williams’ centennial and marks the first baseball subject in the series’ 32-year history.

Narrated by Jon Hamm, the documentary features never-before-seen archival footage and in-depth interviews with those who knew and studied Williams, including his daughter Claudia Williams, author/journalist Ben Bradlee Jr., veteran baseball writer Roger Angela, and broadcasters Bob Costas and the late Dick Enberg.

Williams is the last player to hit over .400, finishing the 1941 season batting .406. Former players — including Baseball Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Wade Boggs, three-time All-Star Jim Kaat, and current Cincinnati Reds first baseman and former National League MVP Joey Votto — share how Williams influenced them in the program.