The program deals with the intertwined themes of genealogy, American history, and the immigrant experience. Where WDYTYA is a plodding narrative, FACES is a symphony that weaves the guests' genealogies into a search for what it means to be American, and for what it means to be descended from ancestors who left family and country, often forever, for life in a new land.
Yes, the subjects whose genealogies are traced on FACES are famous people. But they are not all famous actors, some are well-known in other fields (you may not recognize all of the guests, I did not). Their reactions and emotions seem genuine (well, perhaps some more than others--I have a hard time trusting the reactions of actors on these genealogy programs). Some very startling family secrets are revealed, and some poignant family stories are recounted.
My unanticipated reaction to the DNA segment illustrates how expertly Gates evokes emotion from the viewer. In the segment, Gates and his father are subjects of extensive DNA testing. If you are a family historian, you know how confusing and intricate explanations about DNA testing can be. If you are like me, your eyes glaze over and your head spins when shown a chart of T's and Eves and Y's and what-nots.Well, FACES has the most understandable explanation of DNA testing I have heard, but that is not what is remarkable about the segment. What is remarkable is the emotion evoked when Gates and his father view their DNA analysis. Yes, emotion! When they are shown a chart which reveals the DNA of Gate's late mother, the reaction of the men is so intense that I felt tears welling in my own eyes.
C'mon--I was almost crying over a DNA analysis! Can a genealogy program be any better crafted than that?
LINKS AND INFORMATIONFirst, I want to make clear that I am not associated with FACES OF AMERICA or PBS in any way.
The PBS website has information on buying the DVD. Other sources also carry the DVD. The PBS site has short videos and some of the episodes you can view free: