UNSEEN – PBS POV Series and Independent Spirit Award Winner

POV’s Independent Spirit Award Winner unseen
a Powerful Story of Resilience and Healing Set in the Intersection of Disability and Migration, to Have National Broadcast Premiere

The Debut Feature by Set Hernandez Premieres
on POV March 18, 2024 on the PBS Television Channel and Streaming on PBS.org and the PBS App Until June 16, 2024

Multi Emmy® Award-winning series, POV, reimagines a cinema more accessible for audiences with vision loss in unseen, the debut film by Filipino-American director Set Hernandez, recent winner of the Truer than Fiction Award—presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features—at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Through experimental cinematography and sound, the documentary’s person-first approach centers the lived experiences of a queer filmmaker and blind protagonist whose undocumented status has impacted their choices. This powerful work explores the intersections of immigration, disability, mental health and belonging. unseen is produced by Hernandez, Day Al-Mohamed, and Félix Endara; co-produced by Dorian Gomez Pestaña; and POV alum and Academy Award® nominee Diane Quon (Minding the GapWuhan, Wuhan) is the executive producer.

unseen will have its national broadcast premiere on POVMonday, March 18 at 10pmET/9C (check local listings) on the PBS television channel, and will be available to stream until June 16, 2024 via pbs.org, and the PBS App

Made over the course of seven years of friendship, unseen begins as an observational journey of Pedro, an aspiring social worker who happens to be a blind undocumented immigrant, confronting political restrictions in order to get his college degree. Guided by a conversation between him and director Hernandez, unseen explores Pedro’s relationships to everyone around him: his family who supports him while he studies to become a mental health professional, and his triathlon coach who encourages him on long distance bike rides. The film is a jagged quest towards healing in a society that struggles to see those with these challenges as multi-dimensional.

To personalize this story, Hernandez chose to shoot the documentary at times without a lens and with handheld cameras in order to craft an audio-first cinematic experience. Inspired by the experience of watching a film with audio description, unseen’s often out-of-focus cinematography is not to simulate the experience of a blind viewer, but an invitation to watch a film by listening as opposed to seeing it visually. 

“I originally conceived of unseen for advocacy; to bring awareness to Pedro’s layered experience around disability and immigration,” said director, Set Hernandez. “But I soon realized that confining Pedro only within the parameters of his identities and struggles misses the fullness of his story. In the end, the film became about vulnerability and showing up as one’s fullest, most authentic self. I hope audiences can have that same experience when they watch unseen.

I am especially humbled to partner with POV, considering its commitment to social impact. Growing up in a working-class immigrant household, my family could never afford cable. I’ve been watching public television (PBS) since I was 12 years old. As POV pushes the envelope for broadcasting accessibility through its virtual platforms, public television provides the perfect home for unseen. It allows us to reach viewers at the heart of our film who are often overlooked as primary audiences for cinema; people who are undocumented and/or have disabilities.”

“Director Set Hernandez’s unseen is a profoundly moving story of one man’s quest to realize his dreams in spite of unimaginable obstacles,” said Chris White, executive producer, POV. “Set’s use of inventive cinematography and sound will deepen your understanding of Pedro’s experience and illuminate the unique challenges he faces within xenophobic and ableist social structures. More than anything you’ll be touched by Pedro’s kind and loving spirit.”

unseen made its world premiere at Hot Docs 2023 and made this year’s IDA Documentary Awards Features Shortlist. The film was celebrated at the 2023 Blackstar Film Festival, and won the Documentary Jury Award at CAAMFest 2023 and was a nominee for the Leon Gast Award for Best Documentary, at the 24th Annual Woodstock Film Festival.  At the 2023 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival unseen won the Emerging Filmmaker Award, Special Jury Mention and the Audience Award. 

unseen is a co-presentation with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) and POV. The director is Set Hernandez and the producers are Hernandez, Day Al-Mohamed, Diane Quon and Félix Endara. The co producer is Dorian Gomez Pestaña and executive producer is Diane Quon. The editor is Daniel Chávez-Ontiveros, music composer is DeAndre James Allen-Toole, Songwriter is Julie Yeeun Kim, and the impact producers are Qudsiya Naqui and Conchita Hernandez Legorreta.

Now in its historic 36th season, POV continues to share bold, visionary stories as America’s longest running non-fiction series on television. In addition to standard closed captioning for all films, POV, in partnership with audio description service DiCapta, provides real time audio interpretations for audiences with sensory disabilities.

unseen will be available for streaming concurrently with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. PBS station members can view many series, documentaries and specials via PBS Passport. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.

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