“Maria” From Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC) Wins the 2017 PBS Online Film Festival’s “Most Popular” Award

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“You Can Go” from National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) Wins “Juried Prize”

Sixth Annual Event Amasses More Than One Million Views Across All Channels

Arlington, VA; August 16, 2017 – Two winners were announced today for the sixth annual PBS Online Film Festival. The film that took the “Most Popular” award was “Maria,” presented by Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC), in which an ailing Polynesian matriarch finds her strength tested. The National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) film “You Can Go,” a story that finds a high school administrator talking down a troubled student, received the “Juried Prize.”

From July 17 to July 28, viewers voted for their favorite film by logging onto their Facebook or YouTube account and sharing their favorite film titles using #PBSFilmFest. The films were available on PBS and station digital platforms, including PBS.org, YouTube and PBS social media channels, and via the PBS app on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku and FireTV devices. The films amassed more than one million views combined.

“PBS wishes to congratulate Pacific Islanders in Communications and The National Black Programming Consortium on their wins in this year’s Online Film Festival,” said Ira Rubenstein, Chief Digital and Marketing Officer, PBS. “PBS and its member stations are committed to showcasing the diverse perspectives and storytelling capabilities of filmmakers around the country, and ‘Maria’ and ‘You Can Go’ are excellent examples of the impact of stories well told. We are thrilled with the quality of the films we were able to showcase this year, and I’d like to acknowledge all of our producers on another outstanding showing.”

“Maria” is based on a true story about a family’s strength in the face of loss. Taofia Pelesasais wrote the script to honor the women of his “aiga,” or extended family. In keeping with this idea, he shot the film in Rotorua, his home community on New Zealand’s North Island. The score is based on a Samoan hymn called “Si’ou Alofa Maria,” which translates to “Ave Maria.” There are no subtitles for the hymn, which was a deliberate decision by director Jeremiah Tauamiti. This creates an effect of immersion in the music that does not require the viewer to understand the meaning, paralleling the experience of an outsider attending a Samoan church service.

“You Can Go” tells the story of an administrator talking to a student struggling with mental illness. In doing so, they forge a connection that transcends the roles of staff and student, moving into genuine human compassion. Director/producer Christine Turner explains her decision to reveal not just the emotional vulnerability of Billy, the teenager, but also Mrs. Bryant, the adult, saying, “We wanted to show how differently individuals may cope with similar thoughts or feelings. In the film, Mrs. Bryant lets Billy know that he is not alone – that she, too, relates to his experience and in the process gives him some hope.”

The films were nominated and presented to the festival by a number of media partners and member stations, including the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), Independent LensLatino Public Broadcasting (LPB), National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP)National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC), POVVision Maker Media and World Channel, as well as PBS local member stations Detroit Public TV, Reel South PBS, Wisconsin Public TelevisionKLRU-TV (Austin)WHROKTTZ (Texas Tech),Louisiana Public Broadcasting, Twin Cities Public Television, SDPB, Vermont PBS and WPBT (South Florida).

All 24 films from the festival are available for screening through the end of the year on PBS and station digital platforms, including PBS.org, YouTube and PBS social media channels. The films are also available via the PBS app on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku and FireTV devices. More information about the PBS Online Film Festival can be found at pbs.org/filmfestival. The festival is also on Twitter at #PBSFilmFest.

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Atiya Frederick, PBS, anfrederick@pbs.org, 703-739-5147
Catherine Lincoln, Goodman Media for PBS, pbsdigital@goodmanmedia.com, 212-576-2700