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PBS’s ‘Southern Storytellers’ documentary is now streaming, spotlights Louisiana artists Jericho Brown and Tarriona “Tank” Ball

Jul 21, 2023 | Louisiana Filmmakers

pbs southern storytellers

The last pillar of civilized society crumbles tomorrow and PBS would still be broadcasting from the rubble, doing what PBS does best: giving regional viewers rich, layered stories that speak to the culture and art of their communities. 

The Southern Storytellers series is a collage separated into three one-hour episodes, a vibrant palette of filmmakers, musicians, and writers all painted on the mural of the South. The first episode of Southern Storytellers aired on Tuesday, July 18th, after months of promotion that goes back to the spring of 2023 (an Instagram account just for Southern Storytellers was created in April). 

Of course, we’re going to highlight the Louisiana creators but the series is balanced with a diverse reflection of influential voices from all corners of the South.

The first episode explores artists’ ties to their Southern upbringings – Billy Bob Thornton, Mary Steenburgen, Adia Victoria, David Joy, and Jericho Brown all discuss how their Southern backgrounds influenced their music and writing. Episode Two follows another group of artists as they travel to their childhood homes and towns – Jason Isbell, Lyle Lovett, Qui Nguyen, Angie Thomas, Amanda Shires, and Michael Twitty all make appearances. 

The series will conclude with a powerful array of creators and their reflections on the land and history that has influenced their worldviews – Jesmyn Ward, Natasha Trethewey, Michael Waldron, Justin Moore, Tarriona “Tank” Ball, and Thao Nguyen all discuss the homes that enriched their artistry.   

Now based in Georgia as the Director of the Creative Writing program at Emory University, Jericho Brown grew up in Shreveport and earned an MFA at the University of New Orleans before winning a Pulitzer Prize in 2019 for his third poetry collection, The Tradition. Tarriona “Tank” Ball is a New Orleans-raised, Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter who debuted her first collection of poetry in 2021, called Vulnerable AF. In case you haven’t yet experienced joy today, here’s Tarriona’s Tiny Desk concert during the 2020 quarantine:

The talent behind the camera of Southern Storytellers is as rich as the talent in front. Iranian-American and Ozarks-raised filmmaker Andy Sarjahani contributed to Southern Storytellers as a Director of Photography. His short film, To the Bone, screened at the Documentary Shorts block of the 2022 New Orleans Film Fest, which would be followed by Sarjahani winning the 2022 South Pitch Documentary award for his feature documentary project Iranian Hillbilly.

Andy Sarjahani’s poetic short film To the Bone

Viewers can stream the first episode here on PBS and will be able to stream the remaining two parts at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 25th and Tuesday, August 1st via their local PBS station or through the PBS app. The full three-part series will then be available on PBS’s Southern Storytellers page.

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