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Filmmaker of Three Award-winning POV Feature Documentaries Is Among 23 Fellows Announced by MacArthur Foundation

New York, NY, Oct. 3, 2012 – The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation named its new MacArthur Fellows for 2012 yesterday, and filmmaker Laura Poitras, whose three feature-length documentaries have premiered on PBS’ POV (Point of View) series, is among the 23 individuals to earn the honor, alongside POV documentary filmmaker Natalia Almada. All recipients of what is sometimes referred to as the “genius grant” were selected for their creativity, originality and potential to make important contributions in the future.

Through phone calls out of the blue from the MacArthur Foundation, recipients learned that they will each receive $500,000 in no-strings-attached support over the next five years. MacArthur Fellowships come without stipulations or reporting requirements and offer Fellows the opportunity to reflect, create and explore. More information about the program is available at

Laura Poitras’s documentaries explore the moral and human consequences of the war on terror both at home and abroad. Poitras has persevered in her work despite being placed on a government “watch list” and being detained at the U.S. border numerous times. Her films My Country, My Country (POV 2006) and The Oath (POV 2010) are the first two installments of a trilogy of films on the post-9/11 world. The Academy Award®-nominated My Country, My Country is an intimate portrait of Iraq under U.S. occupation. The Oath documents the experiences of a prisoner at Guantánamo and of Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard. The untitled third film in the trilogy will look at how the war on terror is being fought at home by focusing on domestic surveillance, WikiLeaks, Internet anonymity and the government response to whistle-blowers.

Poitras’s first film broadcast on POV, Flag Wars (2003), co-produced and directed by Linda Goode Bryant, turns a local lens on the social tensions accompanying gentrification in a community in Columbus, Ohio. Poitras’s other works include the 2011 video installation “O’Say Can You See,” composed of images filmed at Ground Zero set to a recording of the national anthem.

“Laura’s passion and fearlessness as a documentarian are unsurpassed,” said Simon Kilmurry, POV executive producer. “Her films delve into the most important issues of our time–war, democracy, liberty–and illuminate the compelling human stories often overlooked in political discourse. We are proud to showcase her exceptional work on our series.”

“The MacArthur Foundation is a stalwart supporter of the independent documentary field, providing crucial support for filmmakers who sacrifice so much to bring important stories to the public,” said Cynthia López, POV’s co-executive producer. “We are honored to have Laura recognized by such an esteemed institution.”

About Laura Poitras:
Laura Poitras is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship and a Media Arts Fellowship from the Tribeca Film Institute. She has attended the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Story Lab as both a Fellow and a creative advisor.

Her work has received support from the Independent Television Service (ITVS), the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, Creative Capital, the Vital Projects Fund, the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, Chicken and Egg Pictures, Anonymous Was a Woman (AWAW) and the MacDowell Colony. Before making films, she worked as a professional chef. For more information about Poitras’s work, visit

Poitras will be discussing her work at the POV 25th anniversary event “Documenting Power: 25 Years of Political Films on POV,” presented at The Paley Center for Media on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012. The panel will be hosted by film and television critic Caryn James and will feature POV filmmakers Marshall Curry, Shola Lynch and Marco Williams. For more information, visit; contact for press passes.

About Laura Poitras’s films:

Flag Wars – Premiered on POV on June 17, 2003
What happens when gay white homebuyers move into a working-class black neighborhood? Shot over a four-year period, Linda Goode Bryant and Laura Poitras’s Flag Wars is a poignant and personal look at a community in Columbus, Ohio, undergoing gentrification. As the new residents restore the beautiful but run-down homes, black homeowners must fight to hold on to their community and heritage. Winner of the2003 Peabody Award and the Jury Award at the SXSW Film Festival. An ITVS and National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) co-presentation. A Diverse Voices Project (DVP) Selection.

My Country, My Country – Premiered on POV Oct. 25, 2006
Working alone in Iraq over eight months, Poitras creates an intimate portrait of Iraqis living under U.S. occupation. Her principal focus is Dr. Riyadh, an Iraqi doctor, father of six and Sunni political candidate. An outspoken critic of the occupation, he is equally passionate about the need to establish democracy in Iraq, arguing that Sunni participation in the January 2005 elections is essential. Yet all around him, Dr. Riyadh sees only chaos, as his waiting room fills each day with patients suffering the physical and mental effects of ever-increasing violence. A co-production with ITVS, produced in association with American Documentary | POV.

The Oath – Premiered on POV on Sept. 21, 2010
Filmed in Yemen and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, The Oath interweaves the stories of Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard, and Salim Hamdan, a prisoner at Guantánamo facing war crimes charges. The Oath unfolds via a narrative rife with plot reversals and betrayals that ultimately leads to Osama bin Laden, 9/11, Guantánamo and the U.S. Supreme Court. Winner of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival Excellence in Cinematography Award: Documentary and Gotham Award for Best Documentary. A co-production of ITVS in association with American Documentary | POV.

About POV:
Produced by American Documentary, Inc., the award-winning POV is the longest-running showcase on American television to feature the work of today’s best independent documentary filmmakers. POV has brought more than 325 acclaimed documentaries to millions nationwide and has a Webby Award-winning online series, POV’s Borders. Since 1988, POV has pioneered the art of presentation and outreach using independent nonfiction media to build new communities in conversation about today’s most pressing social issues. Visit

Major funding for POV is provided by PBS, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the desJardins/Blachman Fund and public television viewers. Funding for POV’s Diverse Voices Project is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Special support provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. POV is presented by a consortium of public television stations, including KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston and THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG.

POV Communications: 212-989-7425. Emergency contact: 646-729-4748; Amanda Nguyen,
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POV Pressroom
Produced by American Documentary, Inc., POV is public television’s premier showcase for nonfiction films. Since 1988, POV has been the home for the world’s boldest contemporary filmmakers, celebrating intriguing personal stories that spark conversation and inspire action. Always an innovator, POV discovers fresh new voices and creates interactive experiences that shine a light on social issues and elevate the art of storytelling. With our documentary broadcasts, original online programming and dynamic community engagement campaigns, we are committed to supporting films that capture the imagination and present diverse perspectives.