New York, N.Y. – May 23, 2023 – POV, America’s longest running non-fiction series, chronicles Annina van Neel's and Peggy King Jorde’s efforts to reclaim a burial site containing thousands of formerly enslaved Africans on the famed British territory, Saint Helena, in the captivating documentary, A Story of Bones, by first-time feature length film directors Joseph Curran and Dominic Aubrey de Vere, and produced by Yvonne Isimeme Ibazebo.
A Story of Bones makes its national broadcast premiere on POV Monday, July 3, 2023 at 10pmET/9C (check local listings) and will be available to stream without PBS Passport membership until October 3, 2023 at pbs.org, and thePBS App. In addition to standard closed captioning for the film, POV, in partnership with audio description service DiCapta, provides real time audio interpretations for audiences with sensory disabilities.
The island of Saint Helena is best known for being where the deposed emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled, died and originally buried. His beautifully maintained grave is one of the remote island’s biggest tourist’s attractions. To increase tourism, the island builds its first commercial airport, and hires Annina van Neel as its Construction Environmental Officer to assist with the project that was experiencing delays. During construction, van Neel learns about an unmarked mass burial ground of an estimated 9,000 formerly enslaved African men, women and children retrieved from slave ships during the Middle Passage, on the site. The discovery revealed one of the most significant physical traces of the transatlantic slave trade still on earth.
Haunted by this historical injustice, Annina sets out to hold the Government accountable. Feeling increasingly isolated on the island, Annina looked to the outside world for help. She found an ally in Peggy King Jorde, a renowned African American preservationist whose work – thirty years earlier –– was born of a similar struggle and produced New York’s African Burial Ground National Monument. Together they fight for the proper memorialization of these forgotten victims, exposing the UK’s disturbing colonial past and present.
Directors Joseph Curran and Dominic Aubrey de Vere follow the activists as they experience victories and setbacks while placing front and center the legacy of colonial rule on an island still governed by Britain. The narrative in A Story of Bones isn’t consigned to just Saint Helena. It emanates outward connecting the global consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Joseph Curran and Dominic Aubrey de Vere, directors, A Story of Bones said:
“In October 2015, we boarded the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) in Cape Town and set sail for the six-day voyage to Saint Helena to document the historical opening of the island's new $360M airport. Like many people, we were aware of Saint Helena as the remote island of Napoleon’s exile and death but knew nothing of its disturbing history connected to the transatlantic slave trade. It was through Annina that we learned of the unearthing of the remains of the 325 once enslaved Africans in 2008, to make way for the airport haul road. The discovery of Saint Helena as a little known, but crucial part of the Middle Passage narrative, reframed the focus of the film for us.
“Over the next six years, we closely followed Aninna’s tireless activism efforts and subsequently, the collaboration with Peggy King Jorde to engage the community and catalyze a movement for change. The way that the two stories were so intertwined felt deeply symbolic, and a truly unique expression of how the UK continues to peddle selective, and often false narratives about Britain’s colonial past and its role in the global slave trade. It is these realities that continue to define the lives of so many people deep into the 21st century. We hope that, through Annina sharing her story, other voices are empowered to question and challenge the oppressive power structures that continue to marginalize certain histories. In the words of Peggy King Jorde: ‘It matters how we choose to remember.’”
“A Story of Bones lays bare the history of enslavement and its connection to our world today,” said Erika Dilday, Executive Director, American Documentary and Executive Producer, POV and America ReFramed. “Amplifying independent filmmakers who take creative risks to tell stories about individuals who are doing important work around the issues that matter to them is what distinguishes American Documentary in the industry.”
A Story of Bones had its world premiere in competition at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. In 2022, the film received a special mention at the Movies That Matter Festival in the Hague, made the longlist for Best Feature Documentary and Best Debut Feature at the British Independent Film Awards and was shortlisted for Best Feature Documentary at the 38th IDA Documentary Awards. The documentary was also an official selection at the 2022 Sheffield DocFest, Human Rights Film Festival Berlin, Dokufest in Kosovo, and the 2023 Doc Edge Film Festival in New Zealand. A Story of Bones continues to play around the world, with upcoming premieres in 2023 at the Zanzibar Film Festival (June/July), Encounters SA International Doc Film Festival in Cape Town (June/July), and One World Slovakia (November).
A Story of Bones is produced by Archer’s Mark in association with PT Film, Turnover Films, BFI Doc Society (awarding funds from the National Lottery), and American Documentary | POV. Joseph Curran and Dominic Aubrey de Vere are the directors and cinematographers. Yvonne Isimeme Ibazebo is the producer, Peggy King Jorde is the consulting producer and Jo-Jo Ellison is the co-producer. Annina van Neel and Peggy King Jorde are the impact producers. The executive producers are Lisa Marie Russo for Doc Society, Mike Brett and Steve Jamison for Archer’s Mark and Erika Dilday and Chris White for American Documentary I POV.
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A Story of Bones
Directors/Cinematographers: Joseph Curran, Dominic Aubrey de Vere
Producer: Yvonne Isimeme Ibazebo
Co-Producer: Jo-Jo Ellison
Editor: James Scott
Original Music By: Bankey Ojo
Consulting Editor: Ricardo Acosta
Executive Producers: Lisa Marie Russo, Mike Brett, Steve Jamison, Erika Dilday and Chris White
Consulting Producers: Annina van Neel, Peggy King Jorde
Impact Producers: Annina van Neel, Peggy King Jorde
About the Filmmakers
Joseph Curran & Dominic Aubrey de Vere, Directors/Cinematographers, A Story of Bones
Joseph Curran & Dominic Aubrey de Vere met while working at an independent cinema, where they quickly bonded over their mutual love of storytelling. After getting their hands on a camera, they set out to ﬁnd stories that were underrepresented in the mainstream media - vital stories in urgent need of a spotlight. It is this mission statement that led the directing duo to Saint Helena - where the pair have now spent more than a year living on the island.
A Story of Bones is funded by BFI/Doc Society and Archers Mark, and premiered in competition at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2022. The film was longlisted at the 2022 British Independent Film Awards and was nominated for Best Feature Documentary at the 38th IDA Documentary Awards.
Yvonne Isimeme Ibazebo, Producer, A Story of Bones
Yvonne Isimeme Ibazebo has worked on a wide variety of film & tv projects with an array of talented directors and actors. From Artist / filmmaker John Maybury’s debut feature,Love is the Devil, starring Daniel Craig (Un Certain Regard nominee, Best British Feature Edinburgh International Film Festival) to Top Boy, a ten-part TV series for Netflix with award-winning directors Yann Demange, Reinaldo Marcus Green, Nia DaCosta and Aneil Karia. Through her company Turnover Films, Yvonne is developing a feature film set in Burkina Faso with DNA/Film4/MGM; a TV series with 101 Studios; and two debut features with Film4. Completed projects include Two Single Beds, a short film written and starring Daniel Kaluuya for Film 4; A Story of Bones, Best Documentary feature nominee at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival; and Rye Lane, Raine Allen Miller’s critically acclaimed feature film which premiered at Sundance.
Peggy King Jorde, Consulting/Impact Producer, A Story of Bones
Principal of KING JORDE Culturals Consulting, Peggy is no stranger to activism—a native of Albany, Georgia, and daughter of Civil Rights legend C.B. King, Esq., Peggy’s childhood was steeped in the Albany Movement and the American apartheid, a profound catalyst for her work in cultural heritage protection. In 1991 Peggy gained the respect of her community and peers as a leading pivotal figure in the movement to save an African Burial Ground threatened by federal construction in New York City. As Director of Memorialization, she implemented national design competitions resulting in a memorial and interpretive center honoring enslaved and free African people in New York. A Harvard Loeb Fellow and a practitioner with global reach, Peggy works with descendant and marginalized communities, developers, design professionals, and other key stakeholders in reclaiming the cultural and historical integrity of African burial grounds and other sites of conscience in the United States, Saint Helena, UK, the Dutch Caribbean, St. Eustatius and beyond.
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