Hope & Fury: MLK, The Movement and the Media

A Two-Hour Documentary Special for MSNBC

Produced, Written & Directed by Phil Bertelsen and Rachel Dretzin

Marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King in Memphis, HOPE & FURY: MLK, THE MOVEMENT AND THE MEDIA is a gripping account of American history told like never before by an all-star lineup of civil rights leaders, pioneering African-American reporters who chronicled the movement, journalists from across generations, as well as present-day activists who have adopted the tactics of their forbearers to shine a light on inequality in the modern era. The film offers a fresh look at the historic civil rights movement and combines first-hand personal recollections with rare, archival footage and photographs – some of which will be broadcast on network television for the first time.

Into The Amazon

John Maggio’s film Into the Amazon chronicles former president Theodore Roosevelt's epic 1914 journey deep into the unforgiving Brazilian jungle. In a flotilla of makeshift canoes, Roosevelt and his team were unprepared for the perilous conditions that greeted them on the treacherous muddy river that snaked through a thousand miles of dense Amazonian rainforest. Crippled by disease, unrelenting downpours and impassable rapids, it was Roosevelt’s last great expedition that saw one man swept to his death, another murdered and nearly cost him his own life. Coming in January 2018 to American Experience.

Gerald R. Ford: A Test of Character

Aired on National Geographic in May 2016

Although President Ford is often overlooked in the pantheon of U.S. presidents, his story illuminates a vital and fascinating moment in U.S. history. Ford assumed the presidency when the twin crises of Watergate and Vietnam threatened to undermine our democracy. Having never stood for election to national office, Ford was all but unknown to the American public. Whether he had the skill and character to steer the country through this period was an open question.

The film features in-depth interviews with major figures from the period, including Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, who covered the Ford presidency as young reporters; Ford’s cabinet members and staff including Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger, and Donald Rumsfeld; two of Ford’s children, Steven and Susan; and the historian, Richard Norton-Smith, among many others.

The Italian Americans


Written and Directed by: John Maggio

Produced by: Muriel Soenens and Julia Marchesi

Edited by: George O'Donnell and Seth Bomse

Co-Producer: Josh Gleason

Associate Producer: Hannah Olson

Directors of Photography: Sam Russell and Stephen McCarthy

Original Music: Gary Lionelli

Narrated by: Stanley Tucci

THE ITALIAN AMERICANS (2014) is a four-hour documentary series, which chronicles four generations of Italian-American lives, from the massive late 19th century wave of immigration to the present day. This great sweep of history provides the backdrop for the stories of families, both ordinary and well-known: their departures and reunions, their struggles to stay connected to their homeland while making their way in America, their entry into labor, entertainment, politics, and war. The Italian Americans will tell stories of people both famous and ordinary. Their everyday struggles with family, work, identity, and belonging, mirror the experience of millions of immigrants, past and present.

The film, distributed by WETA in Washington DC and produced with Social Media Productions, is slated for prime-time national broadcast in 2015.

Finding Your Roots: Season 2

Season 2 of Finding your Roots aired in the Fall of 2014. With Senior Producer John Maggio at the helm, Season 2 will feature such guests as Anderson Cooper, Ben Affleck, Billie Jean King, Anthony Bourdain, Jessica Alba and many more. Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. will travel across America to trace the family histories of celebrity guests and tell the intertwined stories of race, class, place, and culture from across the globe that brought them here. In all, each episode is a journey through one branch of the American past leaving audiences all the more curious about their own past and eager to unearth their own family roots.   Film Website: Click here

Makers: Women Who Make America (2014)

Senior Producer: Rachel Dretzin
Produced: Leah Williams 
Director: Jamila Wignot.
Narrator: Julianna Margulies. 

MAKERS is a landmark television and digital-video initiative that aims to be the largest and most dynamic collection of women's stories ever assembled. Expanding on the critically acclaimed three-hour PBS documentary MAKERS: Women Who Make America, which premiered in February 2013, and told the story of the American women’s movement over the last half-century, Ark Media has produced two of the six new MAKERS hours to be broadcast this Fall. MAKERS: Women in Space traces the history of women pioneers in the U.S. space program. Produced by Michael Epstein and Sara Wolitzky. Directed by Michael Epstein. Narrated by Jodie Foster. The documentary is scheduled to air October 14 on PBS at 9pm. MAKERS: Women in Business tells the story of the exceptional women—past and present—who have taken the world of business by storm. Told by female business leaders themselves, this is a candid exploration of what it takes to make it and a celebration of the extraordinary individuals who, over the course of 50 years, have proven—on Wall Street, in corporate America or business empires of their own—that a woman’s place is wherever she believes it to be. 

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

Senior Producer: Rachel Dretzin 
Senior Story Producer: Leslie Asako Gladsjo
Directors/Producers: Phil Bertelsen, Leslie Asako Gladsjo, Sabin Streeter and Jamila Wignot
Co-Producers: Talleah Bridges McMahon, Hazel Gurland-Pooler and Leah R. Williams 
Edited by: Paula Heredia, Kim Miille, Nancy Novack, Howard Sharp and Bruce Shaw 
Original Music: Paul Brill

THE AFRICAN AMERICANS: MANY RIVERS TO CROSS (2013) is a six-part series scheduled for national, primetime broadcast on public television in the fall of 2013. It will be the first documentary film series to chronicle the full sweep of African American history, from the origins of slavery on the African continent over four centuries of remarkable historic events right up to today–when America has a black President, yet remains a nation deeply divided by race. Hosted by noted Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and drawing on some of America's top historians and heretofore untapped primary sources, the series will guide viewers on an engaging journey across four hundred years and two continents to shed new light on the experience of being an African American. Episodes include "The Black Atlantic" (1500-1800), "The Age of Slavery" (1800-1858), "Into the Fire" (1858-1896), "Making a Way Out of No Way" (1896-1940), "Rise!" (1940-1968), and "It's Nation Time" (1968-2013). The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross is a joint production of Kunhardt McGee Productions, WNET, and Inkwell Films in association with Ark Media.


Film Website: Click here

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

Written and Directed by: John Maggio 
Co-Producer: Josh Gleason 
Edited by: Ilya Chaiken
Narrated by: Michael Murphy

Long before Paul Newman and Robert Redford immortalized them on screen, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid captivated Americans from coast to coast. In the 1890s, their exploits robbing banks and trains in the West and then seemingly vanishing into thin air became national news and the basis of rumors and myth. But who were Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh? How did they come together to form the Wild Bunch gang? And how did they manage to pull off the longest string of successful holdups in history while eluding the Pinkertons, the nation's most feared detective force? Separating fact from fiction, the latest installment of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE's popular The Wild West series explores the last pair of outlaws to flee on horseback into a setting sun.

Makers: Women Who Make American (2013)

Hours 1 & 2 Written and Produced by: Barak Goodman
Hour 3 Written and Produced by: Pamela Mason Wagner
Co-Producer: Jamila Ephron
Edited by: Ilya Chaiken and Pamela Scott Arnold
Associate Producer: Jessie Beauchaine
Original Music: Joel Goodman

MAKERS: Women Who Make America tells the remarkable story of the most sweeping social revolution in American history, as women have asserted their rights to a full and fair share of political power, economic opportunity, and personal autonomy. It's a revolution that has unfolded in public and private, in courts and Congress, in the boardroom and the bedroom, changing not only what the world expects from women, but what women expect from themselves. MAKERS brings this story to life with priceless archival treasures and poignant, often funny interviews with those who led the fight, those who opposed it, and those first generations to benefit from its success. Trailblazing women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey share their memories, as do countless women who challenged the status quo in industries from coal-mining to medicine. Makers captures with music, humor, and the voices of the women who lived through these turbulent times the dizzying joy, aching frustration and ultimate triumph of a movement that turned America upside-down.

Film Website: Click here

Finding Your Roots

Senior Producer: Rachel Dretzin
Senior Story Producer: Leslie Asako Gladsjo
Producers: John Maggio, Julie Marchesi, Jesse Sweet, Caitlin McNally

Finding Your Roots focuses on the diversity of the American experience, uncovering the many ways in which our identities are forged by culture, race, and history. Presented by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., each hour of this 10 episode series features a different pair of celebrity guests, who are bound together by an intimate, sometimes hidden, link - whether it be as old friends, through long lost relatives, or a common past. Celebrity guests include Barbara Walters, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Bacon, Robert Downey, Jr., John Legend, Cory Booker, and Martha Stewart, among others. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and his production team work closely with the country's leading genealogists (including the New England Genealogical Historical Society and Johni Cerny) as well as a host of ancestry experts around the world, to uncover lost family stories from that the guests never knew existed. When the paper trail runs out, Gates and his research team turn to top geneticists and DNA companies such as 23 & Me to analyze each participant's DNA, digging deeper into their family trees -- sometimes even debunking family secrets. Gates shares his findings with each guest, and in many cases, travels with them behind the scenes as they process what they've learned, accompanying John Legend to a rock concert, talking to Samuel Jackson backstage at his Broadway play, joining Cory Booker as he reveals the results of his family history to his parents, and trailing Sanjay Gupta and Geoffrey Canada to memorable family reunions. Gates also reaches beyond these celebrity stories to seek out everyday individuals wrestling with similar questions of identity. He visits with barbers at his favorite barber shop in Cambridge and engages students in Harlem curious about their genetic makeup. In all, each episode is a journey through one branch of the American past leaving audiences all the more curious about their own past and eager to unearth their own family roots.

Film Website: Click here


Written and Directed by: Barak Goodman
Produced by: Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance
Co-Producer: Jamila Ephron
Edited by: George O'Donnell and Nancy Novack
Director of Photography: Stephen McCarthy
Original Music: Joel Goodman

A biography of a president who rose from a broken childhood in Arkansas to become one of the most successful politicians in modern American history, and one of the most complex and conflicted characters to ever stride across the public stage. The biography of a president who rose from a broken childhood in Arkansas to become one of the most successful politicians in modern American history, and one of the most complex and conflicted characters to ever stride across the public stage. From draft dodging to the Dayton Accords, from Monica Lewinsky to a balanced budget, the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton veered between sordid scandal and grand achievement. Clinton had a career full of accomplishment and rife with scandal, a marriage that would make history and create controversy, and a presidency that would define the crucial and transformative period between the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9-11. The latest installment in the critically acclaimed and successful series of presidential biographies, Clinton follows the president across his two terms as he confronted some of the key forces that would shape the future, including partisan political warfare and domestic and international terrorism, and as he struggled with uneven success to define the role of American power in a post-Cold War world. Most memorably, it explores how Clinton's conflicted character made history, even as it enraged his enemies and confounded his friends.

Film Website: Click here

Billy The Kid

Written, Produced and Directed by: John Maggio
Associate Producer: Julia Marchesi
Edited by: George O'Donnell
Director of Photography: Stephen McCarthy
Original Music: Gary Lionelli

Billy The Kid is a fascinating look at the myth and the man behind it. An outlaw with a deadly reputation, Billy the Kid was gunned down by an ambitious sheriff on July 14, 1881. The felling of one of the most notorious criminals of the age was instantly national news. First demonized by the lawman who killed him, the Kid was soon mythologized by a never-ending stream of dime store romances and big-screen dramas. Billy the Kid features interviews with a wide variety of Western historians and writers, and puts a human face on the legend who in just a few short years transformed himself from a skinny orphan boy to the most feared man in the West to an enduring icon. 

Film Website: Click here

Film Trailer:Click here

Football High

Written and Directed by: Rachel Dretzin
Produced by: Rachel Dretzin and Caitlin McNally
Co-Produced and Edited by: Seth Bomse
Camera: Samuel Russell
Original Music: Gary Lionelli

Corporate sponsorships, nationally televised games, minute-by-minute coverage on sports websites -- for players, parents and coaches, high school football has never been bigger. But is enough being done to ensure players' safety as the intensity of the sport grows? In Football High, FRONTLINE investigates the new face of high school football. Football observers and sports journalists alike agree that on average, high school players' size, speed and strength have increased dramatically over the past five to 10 years. At Euless Trinity in Texas, which has been ranked the No. 1 high school team in the country, 18 of the 89 varsity players weigh over 250 pounds. "The ramping up of pressure on high school kids ... and the increase of media attention on high school football, my God, in the last 10 years, it's become like a little NFL," says Gregg Easterbrook, a writer and columnist for ESPN. "If you look at it position by position, you can only compare it to NFL teams," says trainer Kelvin Williams. "It's just crazy. They are huge." FRONTLINE centers its investigation in Arkansas, where two players collapsed from heatstroke last year while practicing during one of the hottest summers on record. The players were placed in the same intensive care unit in Little Rock, both having suffered extensive damage to their internal organs. One boy survived, but the other boy died in the hospital three months after his collapse. "There should never, ever be a person [dying] from exertional heatstroke, because it's 100 percent preventable," says Dr. Doug Casa, a leading expert on heatstroke. In the wake of the tragedy in Arkansas, FRONTLINE investigates the differences in the two boys' fates. Only one of the boys' teams had an athletic trainer on staff, which reflects the reality in most of Arkansas: Only 15 percent of the schools in the state have a certified medical professional at games and practices, slightly below the national average. The program also investigates the estimated 60,000 concussions suffered each year by high school football players. In 2010, researchers discovered a degenerative mental disease in the brain of 21-year-old Owen Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania football player who committed suicide last year -- and had never reported a concussion throughout his football career. Thomas' brain showed evidence of CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the same mental degenerative disease rampant in the brains of NFL players with serious mental problems. "It has totally changed what I thought about this game," says VA researcher Dr. Ann McKee. "Anybody who's playing the game, this could happen; this could be the result."

Film Website: Click here

Film Trailer:Click here