HBO’s Coma, PBS’ Standing Silent Nation documentaries air tonight

Two networks debut new documentaries tonight, one of which focuses on hemp and American Indians, and the other which focuses on people in comas.

Standing Silent Nation debuts at 10 p.m. ET on PBS and re-airs frequently; check local listings. It explores “one Lakota family’s struggle to retain tribal identity and sovereignty against the odds of history and current government policy,” according to PBS. Specifically, it looks at what happened after a tribe decided families could grow industrial hemp: “federal agents, armed with guns and weed whackers, chopped the plants down in the same manner they would use to eradicate marijuana.”

The documentary was “shot over four years” by Suree Towfighnia and Courtney Hermann, PBS says. The New York Times’ Virginia Heffernan says it is “a crusading documentary that frees you from the duty to be even-handed or hear out the other side.”

Coma airs at 9 p.m. on HBO, and reairs frequently on HBO and on HBO On Demand. It “chronicles the emotional stories of four families for one year, looking through the eyes of their renowned physicians and neuropsychologists,” according to HBO. It was produced by Oscar-nominated director Liz Garbus.

The Los Angeles Times’ Robert Lloyd says the film “resists easy sentiment. ‘Coma’ doesn’t baldly play on your emotions — the subject takes care of that for itself — or try to tell you what to feel or what to think about the patients, their families, their doctors, therapists or friends.”

Standing Silent Nation [PBS]
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Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 37, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.