As the world continues to react to the ongoing pandemic and as the United States wrestles with issues of racial and social justice, many are eager for TV programming that challenges them to learn about the systemic discrimination that has been inherent in many societies across the world. National Geographic has been long been committed to telling the story of not just the planet Earth, but of the people who call it home, their cultural differences, and the struggles and discrimination that marginalized groups face every day. So when National Geographic announced its new lineup earlier this month at the annual Television Critics Association press tour, its mission was evident in each new announcement. No stranger to using media to draw attention to vital global issues, National Geographic continues to take a critical and curious eye to documenting the human experience. And that perspective has particular resonance in the year 2021.
Take for example the newly announced short-form documentary series National Geographic Presents: Impact with Gal Gadot. The project profiles various women around the world as they fight against the odds to make their communities better, safer places. Executive Producer & Director Vanessa Roth said it was important the stories of each woman stay at the core of the project. “When we go into any place that we film, we really rely on the expertise and knowledge of the women that we're with and we have local crews. And everything we do is really a true collaboration with the people that we're doing films about. So, we're not coming in and saying, ‘This is where we want to be and this is what makes for a good story.” She added, “the women are the experts in their own lives and in their own locations.” The film’s subjects run the gambit from a ballet teacher in Brazil to a figure skating coach in Detroit, and more in between. By focusing on regular women doing often unsung work, the series hopes to change how viewers see their own impacts on the world. Audiences can catch special series starting April 19.
The TV network also announced the latest installment of its Emmy Award winning anthology series Genius, which profiles the life and career of Aretha Franklin, played by Tony and Grammy winning actress Cynthia Erivo. This season will address the unique challenges and hardships that Aretha Franklin faced as a Black woman trying to make it in a world that was not built for her to succeed. Genius: Aretha premieres on March 21.
In addition, to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre in June, Red Summer is a special documentary project that focuses on the work being done to uncover, record, and teach a story that often gets omitted from history lessons. From acclaimed director Dawn Porter, Red Summer not only explores the forces that led to the infamous 1921 Tulsa massacre—in which mobs of white residents murdered an estimated 300 Black Tulsans and razed an affluent Black neighborhood—but also brings audiences along to see how many are still fighting for justice a century later, both for the victims of the 1921 massacre as well as the fight for racial justice a century later.
This spring, audiences can look forward to these premieres and the rest of what National Geographic has on tap for the season. The past year has demonstrated the powerful role that media plays in our life, and the network’s commitment to entertaining while informing is a prime example of how that power can be used to better the world we all share.