Thursday, October 09, 2014

Al Jazeera America Presents Behind-The-Scenes Look at U.S. Politics and Three Definitive Political Races in “Midterms”

New Three-Part Documentary from Director AJ Schnack (“Caucus”) Goes Inside Four Key Political Races in Three Swing States: Iowa, Colorado and North Carolina -- October 19, October 26 and November 2

NEW YORK– September 18, 2014 - Al Jazeera America today announced that Midterms, a three-episode documentary series focused on the upcoming American elections in 2014, will air Sunday, October 19th, Sunday, October 26th and Sunday, November 2nd at 9p ET/6p PT.

Chronicling four bellwether races in three swing states – Iowa, Colorado and North Carolina --Midterms is a portrait of the campaigns, issues and individuals in the year’s most heated political races. AJ Schnack, who directed the 2013 film “Caucus” about the 2011-12 Republican race in the Iowa Caucus, gained unprecedented access to the candidates and their staffs, going inside races that have the potential for political upsets that could predict the national mood come November 2014.  An up-close, unbiased examination of U.S. politics, Midterms shows the personal and human side of running for office and the issues that may define the 2014 national elections, including health care, immigration and government spending in Washington.

“Midterms is a fly-on-the-wall look at some of the most hotly contested political races in the country,” said Shannon High-Bassalik, senior vice-president, documentaries and programs. “AJ’s unique access to the campaigns gives us a sense of what the candidates are really facing, as they tackle issues like outside money, negative campaigning, controversial ads, and the changing demographics in their districts.”

“We want the audience to have a close-up, intimate portrait of these candidates and the issues that will define 2014,” says Midterms director AJ Schnack. “We're thrilled to be working with Al Jazeera America to bring viewers a truly unprecedented, bi-partisan look at these races as they are unfolding.”

In Iowa, where 40% of voters are neither Democrat nor Republican, Midterms follows two tightly contested races. Al Jazeera America goes inside the race for the first open Senate seat in Iowa in nearly 40 years between Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley and Republican State Senator Joni Ernst. There, Ernst’s TV ads have helped even up a race that many had thought was safely democratic.

Schnack follows the Iowa race for one of the most competitive seats in the country: the House race for retiring Republican Tom Latham’s seat between former Democratic Iowa State Senator Staci Appel and Republican David Young.

In swing state Colorado, Midterms tracks a race in the competitive 6th district in the eastern suburbs of Denver, with Republican incumbent Mike Coffman challenged by former Democratic Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. “Mike Coffman’s taking Spanish, Mike Coffman’s learning Korean,” Lynn Bartels, political reporter for The Denver Post, says about the candidates’ efforts to address the district’s changing demographics.
And in closely contested North Carolina, we follow what could be a $100 million Senate race between Democratic incumbent Senator Kay Hagan challenged by North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis.
Midterms is directed by AJ Schnack with producer Shirley Moyers and director of photography Nathan Truesdell. They are joined by series producer John Mernit, acclaimed filmmaker/editors Jeff Malmberg (Marwencol) and Jason Tippet (Only the Young), noted illustrator for the Des Moines Register, Mark Marturello and graphics designers Juan Cardarelli and Eric Levy (Undefeated).
Al Jazeera America’s documentary unit brings critically-acclaimed, long-form storytelling to audiences on Sunday evenings as part of the “Al Jazeera America Presents” strand.  Previously aired documentaries Borderland, a four-part documentary series on immigration; The System with Joe Berlinger, an eight-episode series by the Oscar-nominated filmmaker Joe Berlinger that explores the criminal justice system in the United States, and Edge of Eighteen by Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney.
Al Jazeera America is available in more than 60 million homes in the U.S. on Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV Channel 347, Dish Network Channel 215, Verizon FiOS Channel 614 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 1219. To find Al Jazeera America in your area, visit
About Al Jazeera America
Al Jazeera America is the new U.S. news channel that provides both domestic and international news for American audiences. It is headquartered in New York City with bureaus in 12 cities across the United States.
Visit Al Jazeera America online at for the latest updates.You can also like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @AJAM ( and join the conversation using #AlJazeeraAmerica.
About AJ Schnack
AJ Schnack is a nonfiction filmmaker and writer based in Los Angeles.  He is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a native of Southern Illinois.
His most recent film is Caucus (2013), a cinéma vérité portrait of the 2011-12 Republican race to first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucus. The film had its world premiere at the 2013 Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto and celebrated its US Premiere in June as the Closing Night Film at the inaugural AFI Docs in Washington, D.C.
Schnack also recently released We Always Lie to Strangers (2013), about four families dealing with change and economic challenges in the tourist town of Branson, Missouri. The film debuted at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, where it won the jury prize for Directing. His previous films include the ensemble documentary Convention (2009), which was released by IFC Films/Sundance Selects; Kurt Cobain About a Son (2006), which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was released theatrically in North America, France, Japan, Brazil, Australia and aired on More4 in the United Kingdom; and Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns (2002), which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and was released theatrically in North America by Cowboy Pictures.
In addition to the 2013 SXSW Directing Prize, Schnack won the award for Best Director at the 2013 Philadelphia Film Festival for Caucus. He was also nominated for a 2007 Independent Spirit Award for Kurt Cobain About a Son and was the first recipient of AFI Silverdocs' Cinematic Vision Award for that same film.  He was recently an editor on Michael Rapaport's Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics and won the Producers Guild Award for Best Documentary.
He is the Founding Director of the Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking, which held its 7th annual ceremony at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City in January 2014.  From 2005-2011, he wrote the popular nonfiction film blog, All these wonderful things.  He has served on juries at Sheffield Doc/Fest, CPH:DOX, DokuFest Kosovo, Los Angeles, AFI Silverdocs, Miami, Sarasota, Denver, Ashland and the Independent Spirit Awards & has curated panels at Sheffield Doc/Fest, AFI Silverdocs and True/False.

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