The Sun Queen – Director Amanda Pollak & Gene Tempest

From the filmmaking team of Amanda Pollak and Gene Tempest comes the illuminating documentary film, THE SUN QUEEN. For nearly 50 years, chemical engineer and inventor Mária Telkes applied her prodigious intellect to harnessing the power of the sun. She designed and built the world’s first successfully solar-heated modern residence and identified a promising new chemical that, for the first time, could store solar heat like a battery. And yet, along the way, she was undercut and thwarted by her boss and colleagues — all men — at MIT. Despite these obstacles, Telkes persevered and, upon her death in 1995, held more than 20 patents. She is now recognized as a visionary pioneer in the field of sustainable energy. An unexpected and largely forgotten heroine, Telkes was remarkable in her vision and tenacity — a scientist and a woman in every way ahead of her time. Her research and innovations from the 1930s through the ‘70s continue to shape how we power our lives today. Director / Producer Amanda Pollak and Writer / Producer Gene Tempest stop by to talk abut the life and times of Maria Telkas, her scientific and engineering acumen, the battles with institutional sexism, the enthusiasm she brought to the implementation of solar technology and the immense power of the fossil fuel companies to strangle the nascent solar power movement before it could gain public acceptance.


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THE SUN QUEEN premieres as a Special Presentation of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE on Tuesday, April 4, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS, and the PBS App. The Movement and the “Madman” will stream simultaneously with broadcast and be available on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS App, available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. The film will also be available for streaming with closed captioning in English and Spanish. THE SUN QUEEN is distributed internationally byPBS International. Visit and follow us on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and YouTubeto learn more.

About the filmmaker -Senior Partner / Executive in Charge of Production / Executive Producer / Director Amanda Pollak has been directing and producing highly acclaimed documentaries for over two decades, including over a dozen films for the national PBS series, American Experience. Most recently, she produced and co-directed The Great War, an epic six-hour series on America’s role in World War 1, which was seen by more than 10 million people nationwide, she produced Into the Grand Canyon, an environmental adventure story that premiered on National Geographic and is now streaming worldwide on Disney+, and executive produced Ailey, an immersive portrait of the renowned choreographer, which premiered at Sundance, has been released theatrically by NEON, and will be broadcast on PBS’s American Masters. Pollak was part of the founding team for Retro Report, an online series of investigative pieces featured on the front page of The New York Times digital edition. Her work has been recognized with three Emmy Awards, a Cine Golden Eagle Award, and the George Foster Peabody Award. She holds an MBA from Brown University, where she focused on documentary film finance and

About the filmmaker – Writer / Producer Gene Tempest is an award-winning American filmmaker and historian. Her work has appeared in The Boston Globe and The New York Times, and her screenwriting has been recognized by the Writers Guild of America. A co-editor of Une Histoire De La Guerre (2018) and a former contributor to the French magazine L’histoire, her projects include the PBS documentaries The Great War (co-producer; 2017), American Veteran (co-writer; 2021), Citizen Hearst (writer/producer; 2021), and Sun Queen (writer/producer; 2023). She received her BA from the University of California at Berkeley, and her PhD from Yale University, where she won the Hans Gatzke Prize for her work in military history. She has taught at SUNY Cortland and Boston University, and from 2016-2017 served as the first ever Historian in Residence for American Experience at WGBH-Boston, where she helped fund and develop new history programming for public television.