Hannah Arendt: A Dangerous Mind

Spring 2024 | WNET’s American Masters

Hannah Arendt’s story, like so many, is the story of America, and the promise of American democracy. Forced to give up her successful academic career in Germany and flee Nazi Europe, Arendt made a home in New York City after emigrating through Ellis Island in the spring of 1941. She worked as a housekeeper, an editor, a columnist, and an adjunct professor, all while writing her first major work, The Origins of Totalitarianism, which was published in 1951. That same year she received American citizenship, and to mark the occasion as a new beginning, she legally changed her name from Johanna to Hannah. As a Jewish refugee, Arendt saw firsthand what happens when a nation-state collapses, when social order disintegrates, when “fake news” and lies dominate politics. In Nazi Europe, she experienced the horrors of prejudice, the melancholy of homelessness and the terror of isolation. But in the United States she found a country not defined by ethnonationalism or totalitarian power. She found the promise of democracy in action, the “freedom to be free,” and the spirit of American revolution. Through resilience, courage, hard work, and luck, Hannah Arendt became the most influential and provocative political thinker of the 20th century. A Dangerous Mind (working title), introduces this complex, controversial, flawed and irrefutably courageous woman and her work to a diverse and contemporary audience.


Academy Award® and Emmy Award® nominated filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal founded Elsewhere Films in 2007 to create documentary films of cultural relevance, social purpose and artistic integrity, and to strategically distribute these films to maximize their social and community impact. Tia and Carl directed and produced Trouble the Water, a film about survivors of Hurricane Katrina, which was nominated for an Oscar and won the Gotham Independent Film Award and Grand Jury Prizes at the Sundance Film Festival and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. Tia and Carl also produced Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, winner of the Palme d’Or, Academy Award-winning Bowling for Columbine, Capitalism: A Love Story, Where To Invade Next and Fahrenheit 11/9. Tia and Carl also directed and produced Citizen Koch, which documented the rise of the Tea Party in the Midwest that laid the foundation for the election of Donald Trump. Citizen Koch premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, won the Founders Prize at the Traverse City Film Festival, and was shortlisted for an Academy Award. Most recently, Tia directed The Janes, a cautionary tale about the pre-Roe v. Wade era for HBO Original Documentaries, which had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2022 and will be broadcast on HBO in June. Tia and Carl’s work has been recognized for their social and political impact and have played widely theatrically and on television and digital platforms.

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