In the midst of the historic coronavirus pandemic, economic hardship and a reckoning over racism, this November Americans will decide who leads the nation for the next four years: President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden. Ahead of the 2020 election, FRONTLINE’s critically acclaimed series “The Choice” returns with interwoven investigative biographies of both men, focusing on how they have responded in moments of crisis. In this 2-hour special from veteran FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk and his team, hear from friends, family, colleagues and adversaries about the challenges that shaped Trump and Biden’s lives and could inform how they confront the crises facing the nation at this pivotal juncture.
1 hr 51 min
George Floyd’s killing triggered mass demonstrations nationwide calling for racial justice and police accountability in the United States. In the wake of those protests, New Yorker writer and historian Jelani Cobb returns to a troubled police department he first visited four years ago (Policing the Police) to examine whether reform can work, and how police departments can be held accountable.
Their families were already struggling to make ends meet. Then came the coronavirus. Director Jezza Neumann, who made 2012’s Poor Kids, once again delves into how poverty impacts children. With the 2020 election approaching, Growing Up Poor in America follows three children and their families in the battleground state of Ohio as the COVID-19 pandemic amplifies their struggle to stay afloat. As the country also reckons with issues of race and racism, the children share their worries and hopes about their futures.
They’ve been keeping America fed throughout the pandemic — and they say they’ve had to choose between their health and their jobs. For the essential agriculture workers who pick and process the food we eat, many of them undocumented immigrants, COVID-19 is amplifying existing challenges. Journalists Daffodil Altan and Andrés Cediel discuss what their reporting for FRONTLINE shows about the virus’s toll on workers at farms and meatpacking plants, the lack of federally required COVID-19 protections for agriculture workers, and why workers who are undocumented have been fearful to speak out: “Even if you’re called essential, you can still potentially be deported.” For more, watch COVID’s Hidden Toll — the latest installment in FRONTLINE’s award-winning body of work exposing the hidden realities facing low-wage immigrant workers in the U.S. (Rape in the Fields, Rape on the Night Shift, Trafficked in America). The documentary is supported by Chasing the Dream.
As COVID-19 spread from Asia to the Middle East to Europe, why was the U.S. caught so unprepared? Despite repeated warnings of a potent contagion headed our way, America’s leaders failed to prepare and protect us. Why and who is accountable?
1 hr 26 min
How a drug company made millions pushing an opioid painkiller up to 100x stronger than heroin, as many on Wall Street looked the other way. FRONTLINE filmmaker Tom Jennings and Financial Times reporter Hannah Kuchler discuss their new investigation of Insys Therapeutics — from a jaw-dropping interview with a former sales director who admits to bribing doctors to prescribe the highly addictive drug Subsys, to how Wall Street propelled Insys’ success even as questions emerged about its practices, to what role drug companies’ pursuit of profits has played in the opioid crisis: “I think that it's really interesting just how people are able to disconnect their actions from the consequences, especially in business,” Kuchler says. With federal prosecutors using laws designed to catch mob bosses, Insys would ultimately become the first pharmaceutical company to have its top executives sentenced to prison time in connection with the opioid epidemic. For more on Insys’ spectacular rise and fall — and its consequences — watch the documentary Opioids, Inc. from FRONTLINE and the FT, and read our in-depth joint reporting — also available at ft.com/insys.
Days before an expected verdict in her trial, Philippine journalist Maria Ressa speaks out about reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal drug war — and then becoming a high-profile target of his government’s crackdown on the press. As she faces potential prison time on cyber libel charges, the co-founder and CEO of the independent Philippine news site Rappler tells FRONTLINE how she’s preparing, discusses her reporting on Duterte, and says that her conviction about what she does is undaunted: “All it has done is to make us stronger in our intent to continue to hold government to account…” For more on Duterte’s drug war, watch FRONTLINE’s On the President’s Orders. And for more from Ressa, read FRONTLINE’s interview with her for The Facebook Dilemma, in which she discusses her reporting on how Duterte weaponized the platform to target his critics and spread disinformation. Plus: Stay tuned for the forthcoming documentary A Thousand Cuts, featuring Ressa’s story, which will see a summer theatrical release and a fall FRONTLINE broadcast.
As streets across America erupt into clashes over racism during the coronavirus pandemic, Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker examines a connection between George Floyd’s death and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 deaths among African Americans: “the thing that ties them together is empirical evidence of a phenomenon that had been dismissed otherwise.” Cobb describes how the relationship between black Americans and the police has become a “barometer” for race relations in the country, drawing on his years of covering explosive tensions that he says are “overwhelmingly” in response to an issue of police use of force. “…Once you looked at the way that policing functioned, it was almost an indicator of the way lots of other institutions were functioning in those communities.” And yet, he says that this time — as the nation battles a highly infectious outbreak — the outrage is spreading in a way that seems different. For more from Jelani Cobb and FRONTLINE, watch 2016’s “Policing the Police”: now streaming on YouTube, on the PBS Video App and online.
As COVID-19 has spread, so, too, have misinformation and conspiracy theories about the virus — amplified by figures like Alex Jones, and proliferating on social media and even at the highest levels of government. Veteran FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk, who was already making a documentary about the rise of conspiracy theories in American politics when the pandemic hit, shares what he’s learned about how such theories have become central to understanding the nation’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. “There's been a concerted effort, now that everything is moved from the fringe to the center, to knock down knowledge-based information,” Michael says. “And all of a sudden, a large number of Americans simply do not believe what they're being told. And that's where we find ourselves now.”
In the Bronx, as the coronavirus is disproportionately killing black and Latino people, COVID-19 is swelling the ranks of the dead — and also upending how loved ones grieve. Reporter Anjali Tsui goes inside a family-owned funeral home in the NYC borough to discover the outbreak's toll on the community. As one grieving woman reflects, "When people die, they need to be celebrated and there is no celebration of life right now. It’s like people are just disappearing."