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Press Releases | American Love Stories
 
Contact: Kathryn Perry, Web Lab (kperry@weblab.org)
Kevin Dando, PBS (kdando@pbs.org)

AMBITIOUS NEW SITE HIGHLIGHTS HOW AMERICAN COUPLES BRIDGE DIFFERENCES

POWERFUL STORIES AND INNOVATIVE ONLINE DIALOGUES FEATURED ON PBS SITE CREATED BY WEB LAB; INSPIRED BY THE PBS SERIES AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY

New York, New York What happens when two people who seem very different from each other fall in love? What challenges do they face? What joys do they discover? An ambitious new site on PBS ONLINE explores how Americans bridge differences in relationships -- and in our polyglot society -- by combining a "quilt" of moving first person stories contributed by visitors to the site with online discussions of unusual intimacy and depth.

The site, American Love Stories was inspired by Jennifer Fox's 10-part documentary series, An American Love Story, which chronicles a 30 year interracial relationship, and premieres on PBS from September 12 to 16.

Expanding on a theme from the series, the site provides a glimpse into the lives of couples who are "negotiating differences" like race, ethnicity, religion, age, culture, or economic background. The stories, told by one partner -- and sometimes both -- reveal how people met and realized they wanted to be together, how they've dealt with disapproval from friends and family, and how their relationships have not only survived despite their differences, but in many cases been enriched by them.

Produced by Web Lab, a New York based non profit that has gained a reputation as an innovator in public interest uses of the Web, in association with Zohe Film Productions,American Love Stories will also take advantage of the Web as a participatory medium which can be enriched by people who "visit" a site and leave something of themselves behind, and tap into its powerful potential to foster new relationships between people.

The love stories already on the site -- selected from hundreds submitted over the few months -- not only touch on a wide range of topics, from children and communication to extended families, love and death, and role-breaking, but also evoke a remarkable range of emotions. In a story entitled "Navigating by Sign," one woman humorously reveals the oft-amusing techniques of communication when your spouse is deaf. In "Enchanted Blue Dancer," another woman simply but movingly explains how differences in race, age and cultural upbringing create tolerance in her marriage. She says that despite the differences with her husband, "we frequently say we're the same person, in wildly different packages." Dom and Tina each proudly describe the faith and sense of advocacy they feel for their partnership. "White man and black woman. Unrepentant atheist and devout Christian. Italian and American. The differences were obvious," says Dom. "But....in forging a strong and nurturing relationship we pretty much are what America is all about." And in a moving tribute, "Love at the Edge of Life" portrays a short-lived relationship, begun and ended with cancer, but blessed by incredible bonding, gratitude and joy. Stories continue to pour in, and more will be added to the site on a regular basis.

Because both the series and the stories are expected to inspire a range of emotional and thoughtful responses from a cross-section of the American public, the site will also encourage "dialogues across differences" -- in-depth exchanges between people with varying backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Using a new technique that The New York Times recently called "one of the most innovative ideas for creating value and relevance in online conversation," Web Lab will invite participants to join one of dozens of simultaneous small discussion groups. Three types of groups will be available: some will discuss the topic of bridging differences within relationships, some will talk about the unfolding events and issues in the series, and some will be reserved for people twenty-five and under. Group members are free to create new topics and take their discussions wherever they lead.

The dialogue groups -- launching on the site September 12 -- will each be composed of approximately 60 people who commit to participate for three weeks, so that group members start their discussion together and end together, giving them a chance to come to closure. While they can opt to maintain anonymity by using a "screen name," participants will be encouraged to introduce themselves to each other and think about how their personal experiences have shaped their views on whatever is under discussion. Web Lab will neither facilitate nor participate in the dialogues, but will put each group in charge of itself, encouraging members to shape the direction of their conversation and develop a sense of ownership that is both powerful and unique among the Web's standard asynchronous dialogue practices. A "Featured Posts" section will highlight some of the most interesting exchanges from a range of groups. The dialogues will continue through the end of October.

Produced by Zohe Film Productions and co-presented by American Playhouse and ITVS, An American Love Story chronicles a year and a half in the lives of a Queens, New York, interracial couple corporate manager Karen Wilson and blues musician Bill Sims. Hailed by Variety as a "landmark television event, " the series has already received extraordinary accolades in showcases at three major film festivals -- Sundance, Berlin and Edinburgh. Through a unique blend of cinema verite -- culled from more than 1000 hours of original footage, as well as on-screen interviews, music and media images, the series reveals the individual and collective experiences of three generations of both sides of this American family, including the couple's bi-racial daughters. Web Lab is a non profit that develops and promotes innovative ways to use the Web as a transformative force in people's lives and in society, and catalyzes others to experiment with the medium's potential to serve the public interest. Web Lab was founded by Marc Weiss, the creator and former executive producer of P.O.V., PBS's award-winning showcase of independent, non-fiction films.

PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, non-profit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 349 public television stations. A trusted community resource, PBS uses the power of noncommercial television, the Internet and other media to enrich the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services that inform, inspire and delight. Available to 99 percent of American homes with televisions and to an increasing number of digital multimedia households, PBS serves nearly 100 million people each week. Additional information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org/pressroom.

The site is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.

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