June 1, 2021

Screen Time: Week of May 31, 2021

From Dawn Porter's 'Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer,' which airs June 18 on National Geographic. Courtesy of National Geographic. Photo: Christopher Creese

Screen Time is your curated weekly guide to excellent documentaries and nonfiction programs that you can watch at home.


The Tulsa Massacre is one the most horrific episodes of racial violence in American history, and it continues to be overlooked by most textbooks and history syllabi in the country. This year marks a century since 35 blocks of thriving Black businesses in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District were burned to the ground by white supremacists, resulting in a massive loss of lives and Black-owned businesses. To commemorate the tragedy, and to honor the longstanding history of Black entrepreneurship and ingenuity, you can watch Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten (Dir.: Jonathan Silver) on PBS; Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street (Dir.: Salima Koroma; Prods.: Maverick Carter, Lebron James) on CNN; The Legacy of Black Wall Street (Dir.: Deborah Riley Draper; Prods.: Ashleigh Di Tonto and Jeff Lanter) on discovery+ and OWN; Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre (Dirs.: Stanley Nelson and Marco Williams; Exec. Prod.: Russell Westbrook) on History Channel; and, premiering June 18 on National Geographic and Hulu, Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer (Dir.: Dawn Porter). If documentaries are a means to unearth a history and build a memorial to it, the Tulsa Massacre, even 100 years later, deserves more memorials than we can possibly ever build. 

PBS’ One Voice: The Songs We Share is the perfect American soundtrack to those looking to extend the celebrations of the Memorial Day weekend. The American Pops Orchestra takes us through a historical tour of the country’s genre-bending music history, led by the music and vision of greats like Elvis, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, traveling across churches, theaters, Broadway, and beyond.  

Over at The New York Times Op-Docs, meet “Birding Bob” in Jake Sumner’s short film, Bob of the Park. Within 15 minutes or so, watch a drama unfold within the unlikeliest of contexts: among bird-watchers in New York City’s Central Park.  

If you, like some of us, are still processing this year’s scaled-down Oscars and have mixed feelings about My Octopus Teacher winning Best Documentary, may we suggest the caustic wit of Maggie Mae Fish? In MY OCTOPUS TEACHER & Environmental Horror, An Analysis, she argues against the documentary’s anthropocentrism with a sense of humor that’s missing in most essays and reviews of the film.

To get started on your Pride month viewings, head over to Criterion Channel and watch their fantastic curation of the trailblazing works of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, the filmmakers of the Oscar-winning AIDS documentary, Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. Apart from Common Threads, the program features some seminal works including Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives (1977), The Times of Harvey Milk (1984), and Howl (2010), a narrative retelling of Allen Ginsberg’s 1957 obscenity trial.

Premiering on Vice TV on June 2, Vice Versa: The Neglected Pandemic, 40 Years of HIV & AIDS looks at the lives of people living with HIV today, 40 years after the AIDS epidemic exposed the country’s homophobia and the refusal to deal with a health crisis that has claimed the lives of about 700,000 people with AIDS since the early-1980s. Voiced by Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness, the documentary Dr Anthony Fauci and Hamilton star Javier Muñoz, among others.