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What happens to a property after it’s been marred by tragedy? Can it be revived or will it be forever stigmatized? “Distressed real estate” expert Randall Bell shows us what has become of four infamous sites around the US steeped in trauma.
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Occupying the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the National Civil Rights Museum honors his legacy by continuing his work. But it’s more than a memorial; it’s a catalyst for ongoing change.
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In 2007, a gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. The majority of them were in Norris Hall. Today, the building has been transformed into a center for peace studies, which Randall Bell calls a “textbook” way to revive a tragedy site.
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The mere mention of Jeffrey Dahmer’s name sends chills, so imagine being his neighbors. In this case, the stigma was so strong that the building had to be destroyed. But according to Randall, that should have been just the beginning.
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The Flight 93 memorial site turned a common field into a national landmark, but not before the landowner demanded a hefty sum for the property increase. Was he profiting off of tragedy or just fighting for fair compensation? Randall Bell explores.
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To us they’re mundane objects, but to them they’re priceless. House on Fire asks individuals to save one thing if their house were ablaze. The items they choose tell entire stories about culture, identity, and the true value of material possessions.
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The writer and lyricist looks back on the creation of the musical in the wake of Columbine.
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One minute she was driving and the next, Jennifer Montano’s life was forever changed. But her terrible mistake has also given her a new purpose in life.
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After two years in prison, Evie Litwok, a Jewish lesbian and daughter to two Holocaust survivors, founded Witness to Mass Incarceration, which advocates for incarcerated women and LGBTQ people.
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Coss Marte recounts his old life as an NYC drug dealer and the day he was arrested. After doing seven years, he founded a gym that hires formerly incarcerated individuals to teach fitness.
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When a heroin addict describes withdrawal as “the flu times a million,” the last thing he needs is an arrest interrupting his doping routine.
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During journalist Daniel Genis’ 10-year stint in a maximum security prison, he was sent to solitary four times. His most noteworthy infraction? The unauthorized exchange of five human souls.
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Max was protesting police brutality when he was tackled to the ground by officers, but he was immortalized in the process. The moment was captured and became a widely used photo of resistance.
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How does an innocuous driving offense lead to having three encounters with the cops and your car being completely torn apart? Was it thorough policing or just plain harassment?
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This is the story of how almond milk led to one girl’s arrest. Hannah Laytner walked into a party with Silk and came out with Rolling Rock—guess which one is easier to spot by campus police?
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When his crush showed up to the party, Kevin Richards was already in handcuffs for trying to save it from aggressive cops. Being the party hero didn’t exactly make him look like Prince Charming.
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Graffiti artist Lee Trice was arrested when cops mistook him for notorious NYC tagger Dick Chicken. After Lee refused to snitch, officers told him “you’re about to go to hell,” aka central booking.
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When comedian and carpenter Jordan Jensen was pulled over, the cop found a mighty suspicious combo of items: an axe, wigs, red paint, and syringes. So how did she get off so easy? Laughter.
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Her boyfriend beat her up, but she went to jail. This is the story of one woman’s compassion and a broken system that failed to protect Shawnda Chapman Brown.
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When he was 17, El Sawyer shot someone who was trying to rob him and his brother. After being arrested, they were taken into interrogation and what happened there is a testament to brotherly love.
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Amir Ouazzani shows how being a gymnast can come in handy when you’re handcuffed, and why his arresting officer called him Houdini.
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In this short docu-series, a diverse group of everyday people recount their arrest stories and reveal the shocking range of encounters one can have with law enforcement.
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Seven billion people. One act. Infinite ways to do it. Everybody eats, but that’s where the similarities end. With the power to influence cultures, industries, and personal ambitions, eating is a direct entry point into understanding humanity.
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Jason Ward has been an avid birdwatcher since he was a kid growing up in the Bronx, where he spotted a peregrine falcon eating a pigeon on a ledge outside his bedroom window. In the first season of Topic's new series, the avian advocate and father of two travels around the Northeast, from Cape May, New Jersey, to Maine, delighting audiences with his contagious curiosity about the natural world—and the creatures within it.
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Migration isn’t for the faint of heart. In Cape May, New Jersey, Jason witnesses songbirds battling howling winds, meets a team of migration researchers who outfit birds with high-tech GPS trackers, and gets up close and personal with the highly secretive yellow-billed cuckoo.
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In this premiere episode, Bronx native and bird-lover Jason Ward visits Central Park—“the best place in North America to see migrating birds”—where he joins thousands of warblers and compares the unique sound of a rose-breasted grosbeak to the squeak of rubber soles on a basketball court.
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So. Many. Birds. Jason throws himself into the joyful mayhem of New Jersey Audubon’s Fall Festival at the Cape May Bird Observatory, where he meets birding legend Pete Dunne and a married couple who moved into a van to become full-time, mobile birders.
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Jason delivers a beginner’s course in using a birder’s most important tool.
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Jason’s younger brother, Jeffrey, is also a birder, and when they head to Central Park together, their competitive instincts get triggered. In the midst of spotting turkey vultures and cedar waxwings, the duo discuss their “spark” birds and compare notes on what it’s really like to bird while black.
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Jason visits New York’s AMNH, where collections manager Paul Sweet gives him a special, behind-the-scenes look at one of the largest avian assortments in the world, which includes specimens of the extinct passenger pigeon, as well as parrots, owls, and Jason’s favorites, peregrine falcons.
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On-Topic Shorts is a seasonal collection of short films carefully hand-picked from festival favorites, originally-produced world debuts, award-winning classics and early works by eminent filmmakers. Some of the biggest stories come in small packages.
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New Orleans lore collides with dark magic in this horror anthology series. Created by Coodie & Chike and starring Chad Coleman, PJ Morton and Omar Dorsey, these “Twilight Zone”-style tales expose chilling corners of the Big Easy.
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Get a glimpse at the future of health and rehab through five individuals testing out groundbreaking new technology and programs. Judging by their stories, the future is bright.
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This intimate portrait of a tennis instructor is like a meditation on finding strength and peace through the ritual that is bringing ball to racket. She’s tough as nails when she’s training her students, but in her personal life, she’s grieving her mother’s health and old age. The only thing that recenters her is practicing her serve. When she’s on the court, she finds her breath again and transforms into the formidable athlete and instructor that most people see.
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After an accident left him wheelchair-bound, Robert turned his life around with the help of ReWalk, a cutting-edge robotic exoskeleton. A revealing look at how much our bodies rely on walking.
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Like many seniors in the US, Betsy has chronic health issues but not the finances to treat them, until she found TIPS (Telehealth Intervention Program for Seniors). Now she has help, and a new family.
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After an accident left him wheelchair-bound, Robert turned his life around with the help of ReWalk, a cutting-edge robotic exoskeleton. A revealing look at how much our bodies rely on walking.
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The era of relying on opioids is over. Virtual reality technology is enabling individuals with injury-induced paralysis like Woody to reduce chronic pain through simulating movements with VR limbs.
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Technology is enabling paralyzed individuals to have more options than ever. Sergio, a quadriplegic, trades his mouthstick for an app that allows him to paint using simple facial movements.
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Cascade Locks, OR is a scenic town that was narrowly saved from a forest fire in 2017. This episode explores how almost losing everything changes one’s relationship to property and possessions.
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Dignity Village and Kenton Women's Village, OR are self-run communities for previously homeless people. Being homeless has given some residents a uniquely profound perspective on material possessions.
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Woodburn, OR is an agricultural town with a large Latinx population. In this episode, residents choose items that tell their immigrant stories and seemingly banal objects that they can’t live without.
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Happy Valley, OR is a storybook upper middle-class suburb known for being safe. Here residents reflect on the importance of maintaining that sense of safety through their material possessions.
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As a young man, James made a deal that left his filthy rich, but meant he could never know his son. Ten years later, James has become accustomed to the high life and taken to frequenting a local jazz club, dropping big tips for the kid who plays keys, Terrence. However, when the time on his deal runs out, James is tormented by the fact that he has to make a final delivery to the dark spirit or else sacrifice his own soul. He sends Terrence, who learns a secret from his own past and is forced to pay for James’s sins, unless, he too can make a deal...
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Recent transplants to New Orleans, Andrew and his wife Sarah are struggling with his insomnia. When a local cab driver recommends a Pillow Shop, a desperate Andrew will do anything to get a wink of shut eye. The shop owner promises good dreams, and Andrew is thrilled when it delivers, curing Andrew’s sleepless woes. But when Sarah snuggles her head on his pillow and gets a glimpse of his dreams herself, she sees that there is a more sinister side to what the pillow is offering.
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New Orleans, 1968. After the death of her mother, eight-year-old Althea is left in the care of her devoutly religious yet verbally abusive godmother, Grace. When the abuse heightens, Althea turns to drawing to release her pain. Unbeknownst to her, Althea's thoughts expressed through her art manifest far beyond the paper. After Grace suffers an untimely death, Althea is taken in by Grace's friend, a kind, fellow church-member. Years pass, and Althea moves with her own family into a new home. While unpacking, Althea’s daughter stumbles upon her mother's old drawings and unearths more than just memories of Althea's past.
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Feature
An interview with Robin Cloud, creator of the series Passing, about connecting with a branch of her family that had become completely disconnected—both from their relatives and their own history.
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Photography
The producer and director describe how they came across the story of the Symphony for a Broken Orchestra project, and the men and women who championed it.
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Illustration
Why journalist Dani McClain wrote a book about the politics of black motherhood—and what it means to both raise your own children and connect with the needs of other families.
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Interview
Laura Lippman’s journey from journalist to novelist has made her think about why women make the best detectives.
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Interview
An interview with Krista Tippett, the famous and wise host of public radio’s On Being show.
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A chat with the author of the groundbreaking work.
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Photography
A conversation with the animator who reimagined Ta-Nehisi Coates’s interview with Topic.
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Photography
The director of Topic’s August centerpiece opens up about Mayor John Fetterman and what it was like to shoot in an industrial town.
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Photography
A look at what it took to make the documentary series The View from Here, about what it’s really like to be terminally ill.
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The creator of Losers explains how he brought his stories of failure, disappointment, and redemption to life.
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Telling the story of the NYPD 12.
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