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The PC(USA)’s ‘Trouble the Water’ docuseries to receive wider release

Millions of people will have access to the antiracism project from Counter Stories Productions, part of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — “Trouble the Water,” a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) docuseries that encourages constructive conversations about race and racism, has been selected for wider distribution and is being knitted together into a full-length feature film that will be available for home viewing early this year.

Upstream Flix plans to distribute the new version of “Trouble the Water” across major streaming platforms, such as Amazon, Apple and Tubi, and major cable TV providers, such as Spectrum and Comcast, said Director David Barnhart of Counter Stories Productions, a part of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

“The outreach of this wider distribution will be extensive, with on-demand cable television having the potential to reach 60 million households and Amazon, Apple, Roku, etc., having the potential to reach over 225 million people,” Barnhart said. “‘Trouble the Water’ will join the ‘Flint’ and ‘Trigger’ documentaries as another documentary resource from the PC(USA) being given a wider audience platform to amplify these voices and counter-stories.”

The series, produced jointly by the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly, challenges dominant narratives and colonial myths that continue to perpetuate systems of oppression and dehumanization, Barnhart has said.

“With all the ongoing national conversations around ‘anti-wokeness’ and the banning of books/racial history and the voices of LGTBQIA communities, we are excited about sharing ‘Trouble the Water’ with a wider audience as a resource, to both amplify these voices/stories in the film and be a resource for these conversations,” he said. “All of these conversations should only intensify with the November elections in 2024.”

“Trouble the Water” is an outgrowth of action from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly. The Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia, vice moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014), helped launch the idea for a video series to facilitate discussion about race, racism, ethnicity and ethnocentrism in the church. That came in response to an overture at the 221st General Assembly that was passed two years later at the 222nd General Assembly, calling for a churchwide conversation on race.

The public first got a peek at “Trouble the Water” in 2020 when the first episode was released as part of the Presbyterian Week of Action, then private viewings followed. The full series of episodes was then made available for download, along with a discussion guide, via an online form that individuals, churches and others can still use to request episodes.

“Trouble the Water” was directed by David Barnhart of Counter Stories Productions, part of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. (Photo by Rich Copley)

“The response has been awesome with a wide spectrum of over 500 groups registering to use this resource,” Barnhart said. That includes “colleges, high schools, seminaries, churches, community groups, presbyteries, universities, interfaith groups and nonprofit organizations as well.”

In addition to being a collaboration between OGA and PMA, the project has had input from several PC(USA) offices and community partners.

“At its core, documentary work is rooted in relationships and listening, and our PC(USA) staff and film crew have worked alongside community partners across the country to collectively amplify these voices and counter stories,” he said. “Personally, this co-creative process is what I love most about this work. We actually could fill an entire theatre with everyone who has worked on this project.”

For more information about “Trouble the Water,” go here.

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