Watch the trailer

Early each morning Nicholas Kristof would board the No. 6 bus and ride through the hills and valleys of Yamhill, Oregon to get to his local public school.  With him were some of his closest childhood friends and neighbors, people he had known all his life. But today, nearly a quarter of the kids who rode that bus with him have died.  Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn return to Nick’s hometown to find out what really happened?

They quickly find themselves at the heart of a much bigger story about those who fall through the cracks of America, destroyed by poverty,  addiction, suicide and homelessness. In this boots-on-the-ground, intensely personal journey across our country, they find inequality is killing millions of American every year. These “deaths of despair” prompt the crucial question—how do we recover as a country and lift ourselves from systemic poverty and the brutal policies that have persisted for decades in one of the richest countries on earth. What Nick and Sheryl ultimately discover is that the American Dream of self-reliance is a false narrative, and for most, the concept of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, is impossible to achieve.

As we head into one of the most consequential elections in our history – this searing and personal story reveals that despite this grim reality, human kindness and potential, when harnessed, can change the future.


Nicholas D. Kristof

Pulitzer Prize-winning best selling author

Sheryl WuDunn

Pulitzer Prize-winning best selling author

Viva Van Loock


Maro Chermayeff

Executive Producer / Producer / Co-director

Jeff Dupre

Executive Producer

Joshua Bennett

Executive Producer / Producer / Co-director


Viva Van Loock
Erin Crumpacker
Gina Nemirofsky

Director of Photography
Wolfgang Held

Howard Sharp
David Hoon Newman 

Music Composer
Nathan Halpern
Chris Ruggerio

Christina Avalos

Associate Producer
Paula Astorga

Technical Director and Post Production Supervisor
Dan Hacker

Production Manager
Rafael Estrella

Consulting Producer
Mira Chang

Archival Consultant
Amy Schewel

Archival Researcher
Paula Astorga
Sabeeh Jameel

Lizzy Coplin

Additional Camera
Rueben Pacheco
Neil Barrett
Robert Hanna
Axel Baumann
John Behrens

Drone Operator
Rueben Pacheco

Assistant Camera
Brandon Katcher
Charley Weston
Michael Potter
Shawn Lyles

Sound Recordists
Mark Roy
Mike Hurst
Joshua Neal
Joshua Isaac
Glen Piegari
Henry French
Neil Riha
Travis Groves

Lead Assistant Editor
David Scherker

Tim Ballard


VPM – Virginia Foundation for Public Media

The Hilton Foundation