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Medill documentary to air on PBS

Award-winning documentary From Damascus to Chicago will air on the June 26 season premiere of POV on PBS

May 30, 2017
Cover Image for From Damascus to Chicago
Filming of From Damascus to Chicago

The award-winning documentary From Damascus to Chicago will air on the June 26 season premiere of POV on PBS, TV's longest-running and most popular showcase of independent nonfiction film. 

The film was directed, produced, shot and edited by Medill undergraduate students Colleen Cassingham and Alex Lederman as part of Medill Associate Professor Brent Huffman’s documentary journalism course. It follows two Syrian refugee children in a dance class as they prepare for a community performance, as well as their parents' transition to the city.

“Making this documentary in Brent’s class was the most profound experience I had in my time at Medill,” Lederman, a senior, said. “It allowed Colleen and me to tell a human-oriented story on a major global issue we care deeply about.”

The film was previously published as an “Editor’s Pick” on The Atlantic’s website, selected as a finalist for a Hearst Award for Multimedia Storytelling and screened at several film festivals across the country.

But airing on POV is a new high for the project. The premiere episode of the nation-wide broadcast is expected to attract an audience of over 5 million people. 

“POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS,” the show’s website says. “Since 1988, POV has presented over 400 films to public television audiences across the country.”

From Damascus to Chicago will premiere alongside two other films about the Syrian refugee crisis, including Academy Award-nominated 4.1 Miles. POV films have won 36 Emmys over the show’s 30-year run. 

“I am so incredibly proud of Alex and Colleen as first-time filmmakers premiering on both The Atlantic and the premiere episode of POV,” said Huffman. “This exposure will not only propel their documentary careers but will raise awareness of the plight of Syrian refugees. From Damascus to Chicago doesn’t play into easy stereotypes portraying refugees as victims, rather it changes the narrative by telling a larger story via a humanizing portrait of one Syrian family in Chicago.”

From Damascus to Chicago will air at the following times on Chicago PBS stations: 

  • June 26, 2017 at 9 p.m. (Ch. 11.1)
  • June 26, 2017 at 9 p.m. (Ch. 11)
  • June 28, 2017 at 2:30 a.m. (Ch. 11.1)
  • June 28, 2017 at 2:30 a.m. (Ch. 11)
  • June 28, 2017 at 6 p.m. (Ch. 11.3)

The film will also air at a number of POV Community Network screenings across the country, including at the West Belmont Branch of Chicago Public Library on June 20 and the Bezazian Branch of the Chicago Public Library on Sept. 23.

For more information, visit the POV website.

Learn more about Medill’s Documentary Journalism Program.