The Riot Report – Director Michelle Ferrari

Director Michelle Ferrari’s comprehensive documentary THE RIOT REPORT tracks a time in recent American history when Black neighborhoods in scores of cities erupted in violence during the summer of 1967. After four consecutive summers of urban violence, President Lyndon Johnson appointed the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders – informally known as the Kerner Commission, (named after its chair, Governor Otto Kerner Jr. of Illinois) – to answer three questions: What happened? Why did it happen? And what could be done to prevent it from happening again? The bi-partisan commission’s 708 page final report, -issued in March of 1968, just days before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., would offer a shockingly unvarnished assessment of American race relations – a verdict so politically explosive that Johnson not only refused to acknowledge it publicly, but even to thank the commissioners for their service. THE RIOT REPORT explores this pivotal moment – in the nation’s history and the fraught social -dynamics that simultaneously spurred the commission’s investigation and doomed its findings to political oblivion. Directed by Michelle Ferrari, joins us for a conversation on the reasons why and how the commission members and staff were able to break away from the bureaucratic norms and get closer to the root causes and closer to breaking thru the seemingly intractable barriers to a more equitable society. THE RIOT REPORT was co-written by Ferrari and New Yorker journalist Jelani Cobb, and executive produced by Cameo George.


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The Riot Report premieres on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, on AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, 9:00–11:00 p.m. ET (check local listings), on PBS, and the PBS App.

About the filmmaker – Michelle Ferrari has been creating innovative, critically acclaimed documentary narratives for more than two decades. Her work as a screenwriter and story editor has been seen on PBS, HBO, and at film festivals nationwide, and has garnered honors from the Writers Guild of America, the Western Writers Association, the Organization of American Historians, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The writer of numerous American Experience episodes including The Perfect Crime, Silicon Valley, Roads to Memphis, and Kit Carson, Ferrari is perhaps best known for the highly rated Seabiscuit, which earned her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing. She most recently wrote and directed American Experience’s Rachel Carson. Additional recent credits include the landmark PBS series Half the Sky and the Emmy-winning HBO documentary Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and holds an M.A. in American History from Columbia University.