Independent Lens Episodes

1999, TV Show

Independent Lens Season 12 episodes

Two Spirits Season 12, Episode 25

The Season 12 finale features "Two Spirits," which explores the traditional Navajo belief that there are four genders (male, female, male with a feminine essence, and female with a masculine essence) via the 2001 murder of a transgender Navajo teenager, Fred Martinez, in Arizona. read more

Welcome to Shelbyville Season 12, Episode 24

Kim Snyder's "Welcome to Shelbyville" examines how a small Tennessee town reacts to its changing demographics, including a burgeoning Latino population and an influx of Somali refugees, many of whom are practicing Muslims. The documentary includes remarks from journalist Brian Mosely (Shelbyville Times-Gazette), who wrote several articles about the Somalis; former mayor Al Stephenson; and local pastors. read more

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo Season 12, Episode 23

"Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo" explores Japan's love of insects, which is at odds with how most cultures react to bugs. The documentary includes remarks from Japanese philosopher Takeshi Yoro; visits Zen temples, Buddhist shrines and nature preserves; and features historical Japanese poetry and art about beetles. read more

Bhutto Season 12, Episode 22

A remarkable profile of two-time Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto (1953 to 2007), who returned from an eight-year exile intending to run again only to be assassinated, that doubles as a history of Pakistan's short, troubled history. The documentary features archival interviews with Bhutto and remarks from family and friends, including husband (and current Pakistani president) Asif Ali Zardari and their children, former U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith, plus niece (and critic) Fatima Bhutto. read more

A Film Unfinished Season 12, Episode 21

The powerful "A Film Unfinished" unreels a never-completed Nazi propaganda film about the Warsaw Ghetto, where half a million Jews were forced to live in dire conditions prior to being shipped to the death camps, which began a few months later. Despite staged scenes, the film reveals the horrors that the inhabitants endured. Interspersed throughout: diary excerpts; the reactions of survivors as they watch the footage; and a cameraman's testimony in the trial of the Nazi who oversaw the Ghetto. read more

Marwencol Season 12, Episode 20

Jeff Malmberg's "Marwencol" tells the story of brain-damaged assault victim Mark Hogancamp, who creates a small-scale World War II town in his backyard as a unique form of therapy. He uses dolls to rebuild his hand-eye coordination; and heals his psychic wounds by developing an epic WWII tale in which his alter-ego, Capt. Hogancamp, is the hero. After his photos of the fictional engagements end up in an art magazine, however, he's forced to choose between the make-believe world and reality. read more

Waste Land Season 12, Episode 19

Renowned artist Vik Muniz travels from Brooklyn to Rio de Janeiro, where he collaborates with a band of catadores who collect recyclable materials from a massive garbage dump located on the outskirts of the city. read more

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child Season 12, Episode 18

Tamra Davis examines the mercurial life of Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960 to 1988), a Brooklyn-born artist who started with graffiti in the 1970s and became a rock star-like art figure by 1983, only to flame out from a heroin addiction at age 27. Centered on an archival interview with Basquiat, the film features remarks from his girlfriend Suzanne Mallouk; filmmaker Julian Schnabel, hip-hop artist Fab 5 Freddy; art dealers Diego Cortez, Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian; and writer Glenn O'Brien. read more

Desert of Forbidden Art Season 12, Episode 17

The story of Russian archaeologist (and frustrated artist) Igor Savitsky (1915 to 1984), who singlehandedly saved more than 40,000 priceless pieces of art by artists who had been banned by the Soviet government during the Stalin era. To do so, he founded an art museum in Uzbekistan that he used as a front, telling authorities he was purchasing state-approved art when, in reality, he was warehousing banned pieces. The film features the voices of Ben Kingsley, Sally Field and Ed Asner. read more

Pushing the Elephant Season 12, Episode 16

Congolese refugee Rose Mapendo, who settled in Phoenix in 2000 with nine of her 10 children and has since become an advocate for refugees, reunites with the child she left behind, Nangabire, after 13 years apart. It's a difficult transition for Nangabire, who speaks little English, as she joins her family and begins school. The remarkable doc also delves into Rose's work on behalf of refugees and her painful past in the Congo, where her husband was executed and she gave birth in a prison camp. read more

Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story Season 12, Episode 15

The thought-provoking story of Cyntoia Brown, a young woman serving a life sentence for a murder she committed at age 16. The documentary, which tracks her journey through the justice system, explores the role genetics may have played in shaping her, how her birth mother's alcohol abuse affected her prenatal development and her troubled life since. "This is a kid who had some horrible life experiences," says forensic psychiatrist William Bernet. "Many, many bad things happened to her." read more

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within Season 12, Episode 14

A profile of influential "Naked Lunch" author William S. Burroughs (1914-97), featuring archival footage and remarks from musicians Jello Biafra, Iggy Pop and Patti Smith; and filmmakers Gus Van Sant and John Waters. The film examines how being openly gay in a closeted age affected him; his use of drugs; and the events that shaped his life, including the accidental death of his wife Joan Vollmer during a drunken "William Tell" game in 1951 Mexico, which he said led him to take up writing. read more

When I Rise Season 12, Episode 13

"When I Rise" relates the story of mezzo-soprano Barbara Smith Conrad, who entered the University of Texas in 1957 as part of its first racially integrated undergraduate class only to be removed from the lead of a university opera because of her color. She went on to become a celebrated opera singer, starring in productions all over the world. The inspirational documentary features remarks from the charismatic diva; Harry Belafonte; and New York City Opera conductor Julius Rudel. read more

For Once in My Life Season 12, Episode 12

"For Once in My Life" tracks South Florida's Spirit of Goodwill Band, a music group of persons with mental and physical disabilities, as it progresses from small appearances to larger public performances, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Miami. The documentary won the audience awards at South by Southwest, Nashville, Sarasota and Heartland film festivals. read more

Children of Haiti Season 12, Episode 11

Alexandria Hammond's "Children of Haiti" tells the story of Haiti's abandoned and orphaned children through the experiences of three teen boys in the northern city of Cap-Haitien. One, who doesn't know his age, abuses paint thinner; another has been on and off the street since he was 8; and the third sometimes stays with his impoverished mother and stepfather, but as often tries to survive on his own. read more

Men Who Swim Season 12, Episode 10

"Men Who Swim," about documentarian Dylan Williams' all-male synchronized swimming team in Sweden. The men take part in the sport's unofficial championship in Milan in 2009, a pivotal year for many of them for another reason: They're turning 40. The members, including train drivers, meat buyers and teachers, have to overcome their initial hesitations in order to hone their routines, which are inspired by legendary swimmer Esther Williams. They also take stock of their middle-aged lives. read more

The Calling Season 12, Episode 9

The conclusion of "The Calling," about America's next generation of religious leaders in the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths. The documentary chronicles their transformation from students to ordained religious professionals; and explores the factors that are drawing young people to serve their communities and their faiths. read more

The Calling Season 12, Episode 8

Part 1 of 2 of "The Calling," about America's next generation of religious leaders in the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths. The documentary chronicles their transformation from students to ordained religious professionals; and explores the factors that are drawing young people to serve their communities and their faiths. read more

45365 Season 12, Episode 7

"45365" presents a cinema vérité look at everyday life in Sidney, Ohio. Directed by Sidney residents (and brothers) Bill and Turner Ross, the film was honored at the 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival and the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards. read more

Deep Down Season 12, Episode 6

"Deep Down" examines how a coal company's decision to mine in the Appalachian mountain community of Maytown, Ky., divides two lifelong friends and neighbors. While one campaigns to stop the company, the other contemplates making a deal. The documentary also delves into the practice of mountaintop removal mining, in which coal seams are exposed by blowing up mountaintops. read more

Lost Sparrow Season 12, Episode 5

Journalist Chris Billing turns the focus on his own family in "Lost Sparrow," which investigates why his adopted Crow Indian brothers Bobby and Tyler, 13 and 11, ran away from home in 1978, only to die when they were struck by a freight train. Included: home movies; family photographs; newspaper articles; adoption records; police reports; interviews with family members and other people involved in the boys' lives. read more

The Longoria Affair Season 12, Episode 4

"The Longoria Affair" examines the ramifications of a Three Rivers, Texas, funeral home's refusal to host the funeral for WWII Pvt. Felix Longoria because of his Hispanic heritage (it helped spur the national Mexican American civil rights movement.) Longoria was eventually buried in Arlington National Cemetery thanks to the intervention of future president Lyndon B. Johnson, who was a freshman senator from Texas at the time. read more

Reel Injun Season 12, Episode 3

Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond examines Hollywood's depiction of Native Americans in "Reel Injun" via movie clips and comments from actors and filmmakers, including Adam Beach, Clint Eastwood, Graham Greene, Jim Jarmusch, Chris Eyre and Wes Studi, as well as musician Robbie Robertson, Native American activists Russell Means and Sacheen Littlefeather, and CBC film critic Jesse Wente. read more

Art & Copy Season 12, Episode 2

"Art & Copy" recalls memorable advertising campaigns and commercials via interviews with the men and women responsible for them, including Nike's "Just Do It," the milk industry's "Got Milk?" and Crocker Bank's "We've Only Just Begun" (the jingle of which went on to become a hit song), as well as "Where's the Beef?" (Wendy's), "I Love New York," the "1984" Apple commercial, Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" reelection spot and a colorful campaign for Braniff airlines during the 1960s. read more

The Parking Lot Movie Season 12, Episode 1

Season 12 opens with new host America Ferrera introducing Meghan Eckman's quirky and acclaimed "Parking Lot Movie," which focuses on the world of parking-lot attendants at one Charlottesville, Va., parking lot. The attendants are a mix of University of Virginia undergraduate and grad students, musicians, philosophers and assorted oddballs, and the subjects they broach include anger, capitalism, class struggle, drunkenness, entitlement, the service sector and spiritual awareness. read more

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Premiered: August 09, 1999, on PBS
Rating: TV-PG
User Rating: (21 ratings)
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Premise: Independent filmmakers are spotlighted in this anthology, which concentrates on documentaries, but occasionally features artist profiles and offbeat fictional films.



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