May 17, 2011 14:03 ET

ITVS Announces Funding and Production of "Half the Sky" for Primetime PBS Broadcast

Based on the Bestselling Book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn; Production in Six Countries With Star Power From America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Lucy Liu, Marisa Tomei and More

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - May 17, 2011) - ITVS (Independent Television Service) announced today that it, along with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, has made a significant investment in Half the Sky, a primetime television special and multi-platform project based on New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's widely acclaimed book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

The two-part, four-hour broadcast will premiere as a special presentation of the Emmy® Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens in fall 2012 as a cornerstone of Women and Girls Lead, a multi-year engagement campaign led by ITVS to leverage the power of documentary storytelling to increase the leadership and development of women and girls worldwide.

"This is a project that means the world to Sheryl and me, and represents 20 years of travel, research and writing. We are proud to partner with public television to bring awareness to what we see as the greatest moral challenge of our time," said Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist and Pulitzer-prize winning author.

"More girls have been killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century -- we hope Half the Sky will be a call to conscience for anyone who reads the book, watches the documentaries, or engages with the online content and social media," said Pulitzer-prize winning author Sheryl WuDunn.

Half the Sky's television and online life will build on the success of the best-selling book, which has been through 37 printings with more than 430,000 copies sold and translated into more than 14 languages. The broadcast event will be accompanied by a groundbreaking game hosted on Facebook and mobile games for India and Africa created in partnership with Games for Change. The U.S. and international broadcast will be amplified by social media, interactive tools, and community engagement on the ground in 100 U.S. markets and selected cities worldwide. Additionally, over 40 educational short films are being created in partnership with more than 54 NGOs for wide-reaching use among targeted communities across the global south.

"Viewers turn to PBS for programs that enlarge their world and deepen their understanding," said Sally Jo Fifer, President and CEO of ITVS. "Half the Sky tells the extraordinary stories of women and girls on the front lines of the fight against poverty and gender inequality across the global south and here in the U.S. who have risen above these circumstances to better our world. It is a perfect match for the engagement-driven goals of public media."

Some of today's finest actors and spokespeople have been tapped to engage with the subjects on the ground and help viewers connect with the issues at hand, including Diane Lane, who recently traveled to Somaliland, America Ferrera who will soon travel to India, and in scheduling talks are -- Nicole Kidman, and others.

Each actor will accompany the production team and Kristof or WuDunn on location to one of six countries in the global south -- and WuDunn will spearhead the production of stories surrounding these issues here in the U.S. Acclaimed actor and humanitarian George Clooney will provide narration for the series.

Marisa Tomei and Lucy Liu have directed short films based on women profiled in Half the Sky, which will be part of a larger online content strategy to be released over the course of the campaign.

"I am so deeply moved and inspired by the work that Nick and Sheryl do on behalf of women all over the world," said actress America Ferrera. "ITVS and PBS are sure to save and inspire many lives by bringing these incredible stories to their audience. I'm honored to be a part of it."

"I feel a sense of honor and excitement to be part of a program that will bring these critical human rights issues to a larger television audience," said acclaimed actress Diane Lane. "Traveling with Nick was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I could not pass up. My experience with Edna Adan in Somaliland has been eye opening and awe-inspiring. In order to fully understand these issues, it is crucial to see them firsthand."

The multi-platform project is a Show of Force production with Fugitive Films. Show of Force is the award-winning company and talent behind recent PBS mini-series events Circus and Carrier. Half the Sky is executive produced by Maro Chermayeff, Mikaela Beardsley, and Jamie Gordon.

In addition to ITVS and Corporation for Public Broadcasting, supporters of Half the Sky to date include: IKEA Foundation, Ford Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Nike Foundation, NoVo Foundation, and USAID. Pro-bono support has been provided by Waggener Edstrom and the United Nations Foundation.

Contact Information

    Voleine Amilcar
    Phone: 415-356-8383, ext. 244
    Cell: 415-912-0631

    Susan McPherson
    Phone: 212-584-5000, ext. 331
    Cell: 917-859-2291