Al Jazeera America Seeks Out 'Immersive and Experiential' Documentaries

The nascent network presents multiple facets in lieu of a POV.
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This month, Al Jazeera America will celebrate its first year anniversary as a network. In that time, it has become a home for several documentary series that SVP Shannon High-Bassalik calls “immersive and experiential.”

“Documentaries are in the DNA of Al Jazeera Networks as a company, so when they created Al Jazeera America, it just made sense to them to have a very high and prominent role for documentaries in the US,” she tells “Our philosophy is telling rich, compelling stories from regular people's point of view. We're not into the politician's or the pundit's spin; we really are about immersive storytelling—stories where you learn something but also feel something, and walk away at the end feeling that you know more and understand more because you've seen it from that person's perspective.”

One of these series is Borderland which deals with issues of immigration from several key perspectives. “This documentary doesn't have a point of view, which is important because we don't come to things with a point of view at Al Jazeera,” says High-Bassalik. “We let you see things from the ranchers' point of view and the problems they face, to immigration and border patrol officers, to the immigrants themselves. So by having viewers walk in the shoes of the ranchers, border patrol and immigrants, you come out of the four-part series really understanding it, no matter your point of view; whether you are pro- or anti-immigration, you understand why we have the problems we have.”

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