Hillary Atkin

TCM Gets Real With a Month of Documentaries

Nov 2, 2016

The outcome of next Tuesday’s presidential election determines not only the future direction of the United States, but how often we’ll see Alec Baldwin performing his bombastic, satirical spoof of Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live.”

Regardless of what happens on Election Day, Baldwin, best known as the powerful boss on “30 Rock” and for a number of roles in films going back to the late ’80s, already has another regular TV gig lined up.

The Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award-winning actor will host Turner Classic Movies’ month of documentaries beginning Nov. 2 in a programming arc the cable network is dubbing “TCM Spotlight: To Tell the Truth.”

It encompasses 53 docs that will air on Monday and Wednesday nights throughout the month, grouped into genres including politics, history, sports and music.

The diverse range of titles includes “Woodstock,” “The Sorrow and the Pity,” “Hoop Dreams,” “Grey Gardens,” “Koyaanisqatsi” and “Nanook of the North.”

What, you might ask, is Baldwin’s connection to documentary film? We posed that question to Charlie Tabesh, TCM’s senior VP of programming. But first he gave us a little history lesson, noting that in 1999,TCM did a month-long programming special devoted to the history of documentary filmmaking called “A Century of Reality.”

“It was one of our most successful programming events, earning critical praise and fan buzz,” Tabesh said. “About a year ago, a director in the TCM programming department suggested that we do something similar again and I agreed. At the same time that we began discussing this new documentary programming spotlight, we received a call from Alec Baldwin’s team and, by coincidence, Alec was hoping TCM would be open to doing a documentary festival that he could host since he has a passion for both classic films and documentary filmmaking and has been a friend of the network for years.”

Talk about synchronicity — and perfect timing.

“Documentaries are a vital component of our cinematic history, and non-fiction films have been with us in one form or another since the inception of the movies, helping to showcase and explore the world around us,” Baldwin said in a release announcing this series of documentaries. “I’m honored to host the ‘To Tell the Truth’ programming spotlight and share with audiences this celebrated art form.”

Baldwin also played an integral part in the curation process, suggesting titles he felt were key to include, adding to the list the network’s programming department had already developed.

“There was a lot of overlap between our two lists but there were some films we hadn’t considered that were great additions to the overall programming event,” Tabesh said. “From a curatorial perspective, the programming is broken down based on various themes, balancing various eras and categories, and we strive to include the best and most important films that are available for us to license.”

About one third of the films that will be shown are TCM premieres, and the network has high hopes for audience engagement with the entire series.

“We’ve found that fans appreciate the innovative opportunities we offer them to explore film history through a new lens,” said Tabesh. “Over the past 10 to 20 years, there’s been an explosion in documentary filmmaking and we’re excited to share these movies with fans.”

Here is the complete schedule:

Wednesday, Nov. 2

8:00 p.m. — To Tell the Truth: Episode 1 – Working for Change (2016)

9:15 p.m. — America Today / The World in Review (1933)

9:45 p.m. — The Plow That Broke the Plains (1936)

10:30 p.m. — The River (1937)

11:15 p.m. — Night Mail (1936)

11:45 p.m. — Native Land (1942)

1:15 a.m. — To Tell the Truth: Episode 1 – Working for Change (2016)

Monday, Nov. 7

Election Documentaries

8:00 p.m. — Primary (1960)

9:00 p.m. — A Perfect Candidate (1996)

Covering Controversy

11:00 p.m. — Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

12:45 a.m. — Roger & Me (1989)

Wednesday, Nov. 9

8:00 p.m. — To Tell the Truth: Episode 2 – Strategy of Truth (2016)

9:15 p.m. — Prelude to War (1943)

10:15 p.m. — The Autobiography of a Jeep (1943)

10:30 p.m. — The Negro Soldier (1944)

WWII Documentaries

11:30 p.m. — December 7th (1943)

1:00 a.m. — Battle of Midway (1942)

1:30 a.m. — To Tell the Truth: Episode 2 – Strategy of Truth (2016)

2:45 a.m. — The Combat Camera — Pacific (2001)

Monday, Nov. 14

The Holocaust

8:00 p.m. — The Sorrow and the Pity (1969)

12:30 a.m. — Night and Fog (1955)

Silent Classics

1:15 a.m. — Nanook of the North (1922)

2:45 a.m. — Grass (1925)

Wednesday, Nov. 16


8:00 p.m. — The Endless Summer (1966)

9:45 p.m. — Hoop Dreams (1994)


12:45 a.m. — Woodstock (1970)

4:00 a.m. — Elvis: That’s the Way It Is (1970)

Monday, Nov. 21

Changing Times

8:00 p.m. — Harlan County, USA (1976)

10:00 p.m. — God’s Country (1985)

Political Upheaval

11:45 p.m. — Battle of Chile – Part 1 (1975)

1:30 a.m. — Battle of Chile – Part 2 (1976)

3:15 a.m. — Spanish Earth (1937)

Wednesday, Nov. 23

Science & Nature

8:00 p.m. — For All Mankind (1989)

9:30 p.m. — The Sea Around Us (1953)


10:45 p.m. — Salesman (1968)

12:30 a.m. — Routine Pleasures (1985)

Monday, Nov. 28

Portraits of a Community

8:00 p.m. — Always for Pleasure (1978)

9:15 p.m. — Bombay Beach (2011)

Quirky Characters

11:00 p.m. — Grey Gardens (1975)

1:00 a.m. — Crumb (1994)

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Personal Journeys

8:00 p.m. — Best Boy (1979)

10:00 p.m. — Sherman’s March (1985)

Mood Pieces

12:45 a.m. — Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

2:30 a.m. — Sans Soleil (1982)

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