'Kind Hearted Woman' looks at Native American Robin Charboneau's life

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PASADENA, Calif. -- Viewers meet Robin Charboneau as she walks along a road on North Dakota's Spirit Lake Nation reservation, wind-whipped, shivering and dragging a suitcase. In voiceover narration she explains her Indian name means "Kind Hearted Woman," the title of director David Sutherland's latest PBS documentary, presented by "Frontline" and "Independent Lens" and airing 9-11 p.m. Monday and 9 p.m.-12 a.m. Tuesday on WQED-TV.

'Kind Hearted Woman'

When: 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, PBS.

As in his past films "The Farmer's Wife" and "Country Boys," Mr. Sutherland continues to turn his camera on scenes of rural poverty not often glimpsed in American media.

"Kind Hearted Woman" follows Robin, a divorced single mother with two children, over three years as she attempts to further her education and overcome wounds of childhood sexual abuse.

"I wanted to deal with someone that had been abused because I had missed it in my last two films," Mr. Sutherland said during a PBS press conference in January. "It was in the backdrop in 'The Farmer's Wife' and 'Country Boys.' It just wasn't there when I was filming."

Ms. Charboneau had not seen those earlier films, and she wasn't sure she wanted to agree to have Mr. Sutherland's camera in her life for many years.

"All I know is that I had a dream when I was deciding should I do this film," she said. "I woke up and I was cold and I was shivering and I was crying and I knew then that, you know what, I have to start speaking out. And here's somebody that's willing to listen."

In the film she speaks of her lack of self-confidence and the toll that can take. At the press conference, she started to cry describing the strides she's made in her life.

"When he first came, he was talking to a little girl. She didn't have a voice. She had a spirit, but it was gone. It was lost," Ms. Charboneau said. "And all of a sudden comes this crazy man who listened. ... I found my voice. I found my spirit. It's alive. And I give it all to everyone wherever I go. He listened to a little girl when nobody else would listen to a woman. That's what David did."

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