Presented and written by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Faces of America provides an understanding of American identity and history. Filmed throughout Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Middle East, the series features Elizabeth Alexander, Mario Batali, Stephen Colbert, Louise Erdrich, Malcolm Gladwell, Eva Longoria, Yo-Yo Ma, Mike Nichols, Her Majesty Queen Noor, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Meryl Streep, and Kristi Yamaguchi.
Using the latest tools of genealogy and genetics, this documentary explores the family histories of 12 renowned Americans.
Looking beyond the African American experience to the wider immigrant story, Professor Gates unravels the American tapestry, following the threads of his guests’ lives back to their earliest origins around the globe. Along the way, the many stories he uncovers - of displacement and homecoming, of material success and dispossession, of assimilation and discrimination - illuminate the American experience.
Each guest underwent dense genotyping to trace his or her father and mother’s ancestry and admixture (their percentages of European, Asian, Native American and African ancestry). In the process, one guest learns of a relation to Albert Einstein, another of a link to Charlemagne, and two others will come to find that they are distant cousins.
To date, less than 10 people have had their entire genome sequenced. Working with genomics corporations Illumina and Knome and geneticists at the Broad Institute and the Harvard Medical School, the series makes medical history by documenting on film, for the very first time, the sequencing and interpretation of the full human genome.
In Faces of America, Professor Gates and his father, Henry Louis Gates, Sr., become the first African Americans and the first father/son pair to experience the process.
Acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns’ provocative documentary is a “devastating portrait of contemporary social inequality" - The New Yorker.
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