January 17, 2018
PBS Confirms Episode Rollout for April – May
A PBS and BBC Co-Production, New Series Examines Human Creativity Across Cultures
PASADENA, CA, January 17, 2018 – Today at the Television Critics Association Press Tour, PBS announced that acclaimed film, theater and television actor Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan, Spotlight, The Manchurian Candidate) will narrate its series, which tells the story of art from the dawn of human history to the present day — for the first time on a global scale.
CIVILIZATIONS will premiere on PBS on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, 8:00 pm, with the next four episodes airing Tuesdays through May 15. Four more episodes will air in June.
The five episodes airing in April and May are:
- The Second Moment of Creation (Tuesday, April 17) – Seventy thousand years ago, the first known examples of humans expressing themselves creatively were simple, abstract etchings. Over tens of thousands of years, this impulse evolved into painted and sculpted depictions of the animal world…and eventually of the human form itself.
- How Do We Look? (Tuesday, April 24) – From the Terracotta Army of China to the Colossi of Ramses II in Egypt, the human form has been a dominant subject for artists throughout history. Each civilization and era, however, sees the meaning of this art differently.
- God and Art (Tuesday, May 1) – Spiritual devotion has inspired some of the most spectacular works of art the world has ever seen, raising challenging questions about the relationship between humans, the divine and the act of creating.
- Encounters (Tuesday, May 8) – As the technological advances of the late 15th century sent human beings around the planet further and faster than ever before, distant and disparate cultures began to meet for the first time. As a result, art became the great interface by which civilizations judged and understood each other, and continues to be a potent force in shaping our increasingly globalized world.
- Renaissances (Tuesday, May 15) – The burst of artistic advancement known as the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries was not confined to Italy and Europe; at this same time, the Islamic Empires were experiencing their own explosion of creativity, with artists in the east and west competing with and influencing each other.
Inspired by Civilisation, Kenneth Clark’s acclaimed landmark 1969 series about Western art, this bold new series from Nutopia broadens the canvas to reveal the role art and the creative imagination have played across multiple cultures and civilizations, introducing a new generation to works of beauty, ingenuity and illumination created across continents. From the landscape scrolls of classical China and the sculpture of the Olmecs to African bronzes, Japanese prints and French Impressionist paintings, CIVILIZATIONS explores the wealth of treasures created through the entirety of the human experience. The principal contributors to the films are Simon Schama, art historian and Professor of History and Art History at Columbia University New York; Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge; and British-Nigerian historian and writer David Olusoga. Joining them will be international artists and experts including Jamal J. Elias, Religious Studies Professor at the University of Pennsylvania; Rebecca Gonzalez-Lauck, National Institute for Anthropology, Mexico; art critic and historian Jonathan Jones; Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo; Jay Xu, Director of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco; and Maya Jasanoff, Professor of History at Harvard University.
In nine episodes, CIVILIZATIONS travels across the globe, visiting such cultural landmarks as the great mosques of Istanbul, the ancient cities of Mesoamerica, the Buddhist caves of Ajanta in India, the Aztecs’ Templo Mayor in modern Mexico City and the funeral site of China’s first emperor. CIVILIZATIONS explores a sweeping range of topics, including the earliest human cultural artifacts and the representation of the body in art, what happens when different civilizations encounter each other, and the nature of “renaissances” around the world. Underlying the series is an exploration of the premise that it is through the creative imagination that humanity expresses its most essential self and looks for the fundamental meaning of life. Artists such as Kehinde Wiley, Michal Rovner and Anselm Kiefer, Kara Walker, Richard Misrach, Antony Gormley, Bill Viola, Kira Perov, Cai Guo-Qiang and Damien Hirst add additional commentary and context to this creative exploration.
“CIVILIZATIONS is an awe-inspiring, gorgeously conceived examination of how humans are intimately connected through time, space and culture by a deep, instinctual drive to create,” said Bill Gardner, Vice President, Programming and Development, PBS. “In a time when we often seem distant from each other, the series is an inspiring reminder that we share deeper emotional, cultural and spiritual bonds than we often realize. Art is the index of our humanity, and PBS is extremely proud to present CIVILIZATIONS as the cornerstone of its arts programming this spring.”
Using the latest film technology, CIVILIZATIONS is filmed on six continents: Africa, Asia, Australasia (Australia, New Zealand, and neighboring islands in the South Pacific Ocean), Europe, and North and South America. State-of-the-art drone and camera movement technology, as well as macro-photography, allow viewers to immerse themselves in the extraordinary locations and see the world’s treasures in new ways, bringing remote objects up close in order to celebrate detail, craftsmanship and artistry as never before.
From the stained glass windows of Chartres cathedral to Matisse’s cardboard cut-outs, from the great dome of the Suleymaniye mosque to the paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, from Hokusai’s Wave to Monet’s Rouen cathedral series, CIVILIZATIONS goes inside some of the world’s greatest museums, historic locations, cathedrals and mosques to provide viewers special access to priceless works of art and architecture.
Jonty Claypole, Director of Arts for BBC said: “The BBC is delighted to be working with Nutopia and PBS on this truly landmark series. Inspired by Kenneth Clark’s series 50 years ago, Civilizations shows that the story of art and culture is that of civilization itself – and that through art and culture we find more than beauty but the very essence of what it means to be human.”
Jane Root, CEO Nutopia said: “Civilizations is a truly epic series, filmed across six continents. It combines stunning cinematography with high-end, informative documentary and a real sense of drama. It’s been a labour of love for more than five years for Nutopia and we couldn’t be more delighted with the partnership with the BBC and PBS.”
CIVILIZATIONS is a Nutopia production for PBS and BBC in association with the Open University. Executive producers are Jonty Claypole and Mark Bell for the BBC; and Jane Root, Michael Jackson and Denys Blakeway for Nutopia. Bill Gardner, VP of Programming and Development, oversees the project for PBS. The series producers are Melanie Fall and Shaun Trevisick. CIVILIZATIONS is distributed by BBC Worldwide North America.
Nutopia is a leading television production company creating innovative, award-winning, premium content on a global scale. Founded in 2008 by Jane Root, former President of Discovery Channel US, Controller of BBC2 and co-founder of Wall to Wall TV, Nutopia created the “mega doc” model, blending huge-scale history series and high-profile talent from the worlds of documentary and drama. In 2017, the company entered into a creative partnership with Academy Award®-nominated feature film producers Roast Beef. Nutopia has become synonymous with creating high-quality content that stands out from the crowd, working with some of the most prominent global broadcasters including Netflix, CNN, National Geographic, the BBC, PBS and A+E Networks. Critical successes include the Emmy Award-winning series HOW WE GOT TO NOW; two seasons of ratings smash FINDING JESUS. FAITH. FACT. FORGERY; and Emmy Award-winning series AMERICA THE STORY OF US and MANKIND THE STORY OF ALL OF US. Upcoming projects include National Geographic’s 10-hour flagship factual event ONE STRANGE ROCK, a collaboration with Academy Award-nominated Darren Aronofsky’s production company Protozoa Pictures, landmark art-history series CIVILIZATIONS for BBC and PBS, and BABIES for Netflix.
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