Arguably one of the most fateful and resonant events of the last half millennium, the Pilgrims’ journey west across the Atlantic in the early 17th century is a seminal, if often misunderstood episode of American and world history. The Pilgrims explores the forces, circumstances, personalities and events that converged to propel their crossing, a story universally familiar in broad outline, but almost entirely unfamiliar to a general audience in its rich and compelling historical actuality, and rarely presented in the broad global context required. Produced by Steeplechase Films and WETA, in association with the BBC and CTVC, this feature length documentary broadcast as part of PBS’ renowned American Experience series on November 24th, 2015.
The Pilgrims brings to life the story of the men and women of the Mayflower: both the ardently evangelical English Protestants who led the mission, as well as the less fervently evangelical “Strangers” who went with them. With distinct and often riveting personal histories, passionate religious beliefs, and the will to survive even through violent means, this Pilgrims narrative reveals the real history of our nation’s beginnings. Embedded in the deep social, political, cultural, economic and religious currents of their own world, from the first decade of the reign of Elizabeth I through the first decade of the Thirty Years’ War, the film uncovers the challenges the Pilgrims faced in making new lives for themselves, challenges concerning the tension of faith and freedom in American society, the separation of Church and State, and cultural encounters resulting from immigration that even today, remain relevant and vital.
The film features unique performances, including late actor Roger Rees as William Bradford, performing eloquent monologues culled from Bradford’s own seminal history of the colony: Of Plimoth Plantation. Rees’ performance was his last on film before he passed away in July 2015.