Independent Lens Episodes

1999, TV Show

Independent Lens Season 15 episodes

The New Black Season 15, Episode 21

The struggle over gay rights within the African-American community is examined via the fight for and against a 2012 referendum on same-sex marriage in Maryland, where blacks make up almost a third of the electorate. The documentary also delves into the split within the black church on the issue, as some pastors supported the referendum while others opposed it; and details the historical role and importance of the church to the black community. It also shares the stories of gay African-Americans. read more

God Loves Uganda Season 15, Episode 20

The acclaimed "God Loves Uganda" examines the impact that American evangelicals have had in Uganda, where missionaries have created schools and hospitals while also fostering a virulent anti-gay atmosphere that culminated, in February 2014, with the adoption of an anti-homosexuality law that mandates a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for engaging in homosexual activity. read more

Let the Fire Burn Season 15, Episode 19

Recalling a 1985 confrontation between Philadelphia police and the radical MOVE organization, which espoused black power and back-to-nature philosophies. The police dropped an incendiary device on the roof of the group's fortified house, resulting in a fire that killed 11 people (including five children) and destroyed 61 homes. The documentary relies solely on found materials, including archival news coverage; televised public hearings; and documentary footage and interviews. read more

A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at The New York Times Season 15, Episode 18

The story of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, whose serial plagiarism and fabrications were uncovered in 2003. The documentary includes how the Times dealt with the scandal; and features remarks from Blair, former executive editor Howell Raines and reporter Jerry Gray, who acted as Blair's mentor; and media reporters Howard Kurtz and Seth Mnookin. read more

Muscle Shoals Season 15, Episode 17

The story of Muscle Shoals, Ala., and how it midwifed classic songs and albums from such artists and acts as Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Wilson Pickett and Lynyrd Skynyrd; and became, in the words of Keith Richards, "rock and roll heaven." Others sharing their insights and memories: Gregg Allman, Bono, Clarence Carter, Mick Jagger, Alicia Keys, Percy Sledge and record producer Rick Hall, who founded FAME Studios there in 1961. read more

The Trials of Muhammad Ali Season 15, Episode 16

Recalling a formative period in Muhammad Ali's life, the mid-1960s, when he embraced the Nation of Islam, changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali and refused induction into the Army (and possibly being sent to Vietnam). The latter led to the toughest bout of his life: fighting to overturn a prison sentence he received for draft evasion. Included: remarks from his brother Rahman; ex-wife Khalilah Camacho-Ali; journalist Robert Lipsyte; and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. read more

Brothers Hypnotic Season 15, Episode 15

This documentary about the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, a Chicago-based group of eight brothers, charts the siblings' rise from playing on the streets of Manhattan to jamming with the likes of Mos Def and Prince. The sons of avant-garde jazz trumpeter Phil Cohran, they've been taught from a young age to eschew pop stardom and, instead, "create sounds to fuse with the body and heal the soul." read more

Medora Season 15, Episode 14

The struggles of a small-town high-school basketball team are chronicled. The Medora Hornets of Medora, Ind., have seen better days; as the film opens, they're mired in a brutal losing streak. Yet, despite the odds, the players refuse to give up hope. read more

All of Me: A Story of Love, Loss, and Last Resorts Season 15, Episode 13

The experiences of three obese women who undergo weight-loss surgery are chronicled. Included: the misunderstandings and prejudices that surround obesity; the psychological struggle many have with food. read more

Las Marthas Season 15, Episode 12

A look at the traditional, month-long débutante season in Laredo, Texas, and its sister city, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, which coincides with and celebrates George Washington's birthday. It's capped by the invitation-only Colonial Ball hosted by the Society of Martha Washington; young women, most of them Mexican-American, debut in elaborate colonial-styled gowns that can cost up to $30,000. read more

Spies of Mississippi Season 15, Episode 11

The story of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, a secret agency created by the state during the 1950s to spy on its citizens and maintain segregation. Included: remarks from author Rick Bowers ("Spies of Mississippi"); civil rights activists Margaret Block, Lawrence Guyot, Bob Moses and Hollis Watkins; Rev. Ed King, author Neil R. McMillen ("Dark Journey"); journalist Jerry Mitchell; Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.); and former Mississippi governor William Winter. read more

The State of Arizona Season 15, Episode 10

A vérité look at the support for and opposition to Arizona Senate Bill 1070, known by some as the "show me your papers" law due to a provision requiring police officers to determine the immigration status of detainees, as the controversial state immigration law winds its way through the courts to the U.S. Supreme Court. read more

Blood Brother Season 15, Episode 9

The story of graphic designer Rocky Braat, who was so moved by the plight of young AIDS patients in India that he moved to the country to care for HIV-positive orphans. read more

At Berkeley Season 15, Episode 8

Frederick Wiseman's "At Berkeley" examines University of California at Berkeley, its intellectual and social mission, and day-to-day life on campus, including faculty meetings, classes and financial-aid seminars. The documentary also details the difficulties it faces due to reductions in public funding, which has fallen from 54 percent of the university's operating budget in 1987 to 12 percent in 2012. read more

How to Survive a Plague Season 15, Episode 7

This documentary profiles an unlikely group of activists who helped identify and distribute promising treatments for HIV and AIDS in order to save those suffering from the disease. read more

Jiro Dreams of Sushi Season 15, Episode 6

This profile of acclaimed sushi chef Jiro Ono delves into the octogenarian's life, including his difficult childhood and his early days in the restaurant business, and examines the techniques and philosophies he employs in putting together a dish. read more

Playwright: From Page to Stage Season 15, Episode 5

"Playwright: From Page to Stage" follows young playwrights Rajiv Joseph and Tarell Alvin McCraney from the initial development funding they receive for their plays until one of the productions makes it to Broadway with Robin Williams in a leading role. read more

Young Lakota Season 15, Episode 4

"Young Lakota" chronicles the political awakening of Sunny Clifford, her twin sister Serena and their neighbor Brandon Ferguson on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota when Cecilia Fire Thunder, the first female president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, announces plans to open a Planned Parenthood clinic on the reservation after the South Dakota legislature passes a law outlawing all abortions. The move proves controversial, and ultimately leads the tribal council to impeach Fire Thunder. read more

Indian Relay Season 15, Episode 3

"Indian Relay" chronicles a season of Indian relay-horse races, which are popular within Native American communities across the Rocky Mountain West. Teams from the Shoshone-Bannock, Crow and Blackfeet nations in Idaho and Montana are featured. The races feature riders leaping from horse to horse after the first two laps of a three-lap race around a track, with each team's handlers catching the dismounted horse or risk being disqualified. read more

The Graduates/Los Graduados Season 15, Episode 2

Conclusion. The Latino dropout crisis is seen through the eyes of three young men. One, whose parents moved from Mexico to San Diego so that he and his siblings could have a better education, fell into gang life before turning his life around, due in large part to the Reality Changers organization; another, the son of undocumented workers, overcame barriers in order to attend college; and the third may well have quit school except for the performing arts, which helped boost his confidence. read more

The Graduates/Los Graduados Season 15, Episode 1

Part 1 of 2. The Latino dropout crisis is examined through the eyes of six students from across the U.S., beginning with three young women. One left school after becoming pregnant, but has since enrolled in a Tulsa program for at-risk students; another has enjoyed better grades and become more active in school activities since joining the innovative Voices of Youth in Chicago Education program; and the third was helped by the staff at her South Bronx high school after her family became homeless. 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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