American Documentary, Inc., (AmDoc; sometimes styled American Documentary | POV) presents left-of-center documentary films in association with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and its local affiliates. It has premiered more than 400 documentaries since 1988. Philanthropies with a history of funding left-wing policy advocacy organizations, such as the MacArthur Foundation, are donors to AmDoc. MacArthur provided a $1 million grant in 2013, citing a film project aimed at advancing the living wage issue as one justification for the support.
American Documentary (styled American Documentary | POV) is a nonprofit film company premiering and sometimes producing left-of-center documentary films, frequently in association with public broadcasters. Since its beginning in 1988 it has presented more than 400 films. As of 2018 it claims its POV series (“documentaries with a point of view”) is television’s longest-running independent non-fiction film program, launching 14-16 films per season for PBS.
AmDoc has received funding from numerous philanthropies with a history of grant-giving to left-of-center advocacy organizations, such as the MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Chicago Media Project, the Schumann Media Center, and the Fledgling Fund.
As one example of donor priorities, in announcing a $1 million grant to AmDoc for 2013, the MacArthur Foundation specifically cited the public relations campaigns that are built around some of the films. MacArthur believes these films and campaigns are “critical to making progress on the most pressing challenges we face as a society.” MacArthur singled out Waging a Living, a 2006 AmDoc-backed film which supported union-backed minimum wage hikes, for special praise.
Left-of-Center Social Policy
AmDoc films consistently give favorable portrayals of left-of-center policy ideas and criticisms of right-0f-center positions. Some examples include:
Waging a Living (2006), according to the AmDoc profile, “offers a sobering view of the elusive American Dream.” It profiles the lives of adults who work full-time, low-wage jobs. The film is promoted by AmDoc as a high school teaching tool to encourage increasing the minimum wage. In addition to AmDoc, other financial sponsors to the film’s educational project include large foundations with a history of giving to left-wing policy causes: the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.
Instructions and information from the teaching tools include: 
Invite students to use what they have seen in Waging a Living to assess the minimum wage. Does the current minimum wage meet its intended goal of helping workers avoid poverty? Who benefits the most from keeping the current level where it is?
Tell students that in recent years, many people have begun to campaign for a “living wage” guarantee rather than a “minimum wage” guarantee. Invite students to speculate on what the differences might be. As a class, brainstorm a list of items that would need to be factored in when determining a living wage.
[Henry] Ford’s [$5 daily wage] policy was also likely motivated by a desire to discourage workers from organizing a union and to fend off government regulation (which Ford adamantly opposed).
Take it From Me (2001): Directed by a former New York City welfare caseworker, Take it From Me is described as her attempt to “share their stories.” It is also an implicit criticism of what the early years of the 1996 federal welfare reform law and the five-year limit it placed on how long an individual recipient may receive federal cash welfare assistance. The AmDoc website’s take on the film’s message is that “the new welfare system, with its recent controversial reforms, may make it easier to ignore rather than confront the complexities of poverty amidst plentitude.”
Whose Streets? (2018) examines the August 2014 fatal police shooting of African-American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the ensuing community disturbances and protests that occurred in response to the incident. Two investigations – one local and one federal – declined to prosecute the officer for excessive use of force, with the U.S. Department of Justice ruling in 2015 there was evidence the officer had shot Michael Brown in self defense.
The film’s directors disagree:
The dehumanization of Mike Brown was perpetrated by his murderer, perpetuated by the media, and reinforced by violent police repression of his community. This was a modern day lynching.
Sympathetic portrayals of families and workers from foreign countries residing illegally in the U.S. are a common theme of the work supported by AmDoc. Some examples include:
Farmingville (2004) is portrayed as “more than a story about illegal immigration” that “challenges viewers to ask what the ‘American dream’ really means.”
A recurring theme of the films promoted through AmDoc is that American businesses have harmed consumers and employees. Some examples include:
Dark Money: A Political Thriller (2018) is a criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision, which struck down government regulations that violated the U.S. Constitution’s 1st Amendment guarantee of political free speech rights for labor unions, businesses, and nonprofit agencies. The AmDoc website states the film’s purpose is to expose “one of the greatest present threats to American democracy,” which is that “elections are bought and sold” because of the “influence of untraceable corporate money on our elections and elected officials.”
The Hand that Feeds (2016) is a sympathetic portrayal of Manhattan restaurant workers (some of whom are not working in the U.S. legally) who – along with an assist from the leftist Occupy Wall Street movement – attempted to unionize against a local bakery business.
Taken for a Ride (1996) promotes a mostly debunked conspiracy theory which holds that it wasn’t market forces and wild consumer demand for private automobile ownership that led to the demise of urban streetcars in the early 20th century, but instead a deliberate anti-streetcar plot created and executed by General Motors so as to promote car sales. The modern day personal automobile-based transportation system is portrayed as “a dystopian nightmare that didn’t have to happen” and “a chilling commentary on GM’s infamous slogan: What’s good for General Motors is good for America.”
Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint (1992), from left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore, is his sequel to Roger & Me (1989). Like its predecessor, it argues that unrestrained corporate greed during the late 1980s, rather than the era’s sharp rise in global automotive industry competition, is the reason General Motors closed auto production facilities in Flint, Michigan. It begins with a satirical advisory: “The following program contains scenes of explicit corporate behavior which may be offensive to young children, vegetarians and General Motors shareholders. Viewer discretion is advised.” Within the first five minutes it includes scenes wherein Moore blames Republican policies for destroying the town, and wishes he could have produced a Roger & Me revenge fantasy follow-up in which superhero Batman saves Flint, captures GM CEO Roger Smith, and then dangles him from the local water tower.
Profiles of Left-wing Domestic Terrorists
On a page titled “Protest or Terrorism? Stories from Post-9/11 America,” AmDoc promotes two films featuring portrayals of the perspectives of left-wing domestic terrorists.
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011) profiles Daniel McGowan, an environmentalist extremist then facing up to life imprisonment for charges relating to two arsons against Oregon logging companies while he was a member of the Earth Liberation Front – an eco-terrorist movement. The filmmakers have a personal connection to the subject that predates his arrest, and he permits them to interview him regarding his motives and follow him as the prosecution moves forward. McGowan pleaded guilty to conspiracy and arson, and received a 7 year federal prison sentence.
Better this World (2011) profiles David McKay and Bradley Crowder, two far-left extremists the who were arrested while in possession of Molotov cocktails federal prosecutors alleged the men intended to use against the 2008 Republican National Convention. Both were sent to prison after pleading guilty to federal charges relating to the incident. AmDoc promotes the film as a “dramatic tale of idealism, loyalty, crime and betrayal” that “goes to the heart of the war on terror and its impact on civil liberties and political dissent in post-9/11 America.”