Independent Lens Episodes

1999, TV Show

Independent Lens Season 7 episodes

A Lion in the House Season 7, Episode 29

The conclusion of the compelling film “A Lion in the House,” which examines the physical and emotional struggles of children with cancer over a six-year period. The focus is on Jen, a 7-year-old who has leukemia; and Al, a young boy with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. There are also updates on the conditions of Tim, Alex and Justin, including difficult decisions for the parents of Alex and Justin. read more

A Lion in the House Season 7, Episode 28

Part 1 of a two-part season ender features the wrenching film “A Lion in the House,” which examines the physical and emotion struggles of children with cancer over a six-year period. The first half of the documentary focuses on Alex, a little girl with leukemia; Tim, a rebellious teen who has Hodgkin's lymphoma; and Justin, who has battled leukemia for more than a decade. The film includes comments from family members, who often struggle with decisions regarding treatment options. read more

The Real Dirt on Farmer John Season 7, Episode 27

The trials and tribulations of farming are explored in director Taggart Siegel's insightful documentary “The Real Dirt on Farmer John,” a profile of Illinois farmer John Peterson. The film details Peterson's youth, his financial struggles through the years, and his eventual success after converting to organic farming. Peterson narrates the film in a memoir style that displays his humor and his profound love of the land and the crops. read more

The Great Pink Scare Season 7, Episode 26

“The Great Pink Scare” recalls the 1960 arrests of three gay Smith College faculty members in Northampton, Mass. The instructors were among a group detained by police during a pornography investigation that focused on gay men. Included: comments from historians Barry Werth and Martin Duberman, and detainees Ned Spofford and Joel Dorius. “The house of cards I had built fell and smashed,” recalls Dorius, who died in 2006. “I had no job, no profession, nor any possibility of a return to one.” read more

The Devil's Miner Season 7, Episode 25

A mine worker's dangerous life is examined in the unsettling film, “The Devil's Miner,” by directors Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani. The program focuses on 14-year-old Basilio Vargas, who works in a silver mine in a Bolivian town to help care for his family. His younger brother, Bernardino, also works in the mines, and they attend school in hopes of finding better jobs. “The miner has no future,” says one mine worker, noting the dangers of accidents and health risks. “His life is short.” read more

Frozen Angels Season 7, Episode 24

Directors Eric Black and Frauke Sandig examine assisted human reproduction and ethical issues related to it in the film “Frozen Angels,” which focuses on the practice in the Los Angeles area. Included are interviews with gene researchers, surrogate mothers, egg donors and couples seeking fertility help. “I don't think I'm playing God,” says one egg donor. “It's more like I'm being someone's angel and giving them a gift that they can't provide for themselves.” read more

Fishbowl; American Made Season 7, Episode 23

Director Kayo Hatta's poignant film “Fishbowl” tells the story of a young Hawaiian girl trying to find her own identity and personal strength amid poverty and her classmates' social elitism. The short is adapted from author Lois-Ann Yamanaka's book “Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers.” Also: “American Made,” director Sharat Raju's compelling look at family, faith and racism as a Sikh family stranded on a desert road tries to flag down passing cars. read more

Music from the Inside Out Season 7, Episode 22

Director Daniel Anker's ambitious film, “Music from the Inside Out,” showcases performances of Philadelphia Orchestra members, who also discuss what music means to them. Included are comments from violist Judy Geist, cellist Udi Bar-David, trombonist Nitzan Haroz and violinist David Kim. “I feel like I'm the luckiest guy in the whole world,” says Kim, regarding his work with the orchestra. “I can play the greatest music ever written.” read more

A League of Ordinary Gentlemen Season 7, Episode 21

“A League of Ordinary Gentlemen” chronicles the 2003 Professional Bowlers Association season and efforts to increase interest in the game. The film also highlights the ups and downs of pro bowlers Pete Weber, Chris Barnes, Wayne Webb and Walter Ray Williams Jr. as they vie for the league championship and try to return respectability to the sport. “The reason that bowling gets no respect in this country is that bowlers get no respect in this country,” laments journalist Bernie Goldberg. read more

La Sierra Season 7, Episode 20

Directors Scott Dalton and Margarita Martinez's documentary “La Sierra” chronicles the violence in a Colombian barrio over the course of a year. Included are interviews with members of urban gangs aligned with guerrilla fighters and paramilitary groups battling for control of the nation's neighborhoods. Also: comments from residents who are caught in the middle of the struggle, including those who have lost loved ones to the violence. read more

Trudell Season 7, Episode 19

Director Heather Rae's poignant profile of Native American poet-activist John Trudell examines Trudell's efforts to gain equality for indigenous people. The film recalls Trudell's leadership in the American Indian Movement and his role in the 1969-71 occupation of Alcatraz Island. Included are comments from Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson (who has celebrated Trudell in song) and Robert Redford, who says, “the conversations I've had with [Trudell] were explosive in their insights.” read more

Taking the Heat: The First Women Firefighters of New York City Season 7, Episode 18

The challenges faced by female firefighters in the New York City Fire Department are examined in director Bann Roy's film, narrated by Susan Sarandon. Included are profiles of Brenda Berkman, an FDNY captain who founded the United Women Firefighters organization; and Patricia Fitzpatrick, a retired firefighter who was injured on the job. Also: remarks by Battalion Chief Rochelle Jones and author Terry Golway (“So Others Might Live”). read more

Troop 1500 Season 7, Episode 17

Ellen Spiro's documentary “Troop 1500” looks at the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program, which encourages prison inmates to maintain close relationships with their children. The film focuses on members of a Texas troop who visit loved ones at Hilltop Prison in Gatesville. Highlights of the visits are combined with footage of the girls' everyday challenges, including schoolwork, extracurricular activities and their relationships with family members. read more

The Loss of Nameless Things Season 7, Episode 16

A moving profile of playwright Oakley Hall III, a founder of the Lexington Conservatory Theater in New York, whose promising career was cut short when he suffered brain damage in a fall from a bridge. Director Bill Rose's film examines Hall's work and includes comments from Hall's friends, family members, and others who know him. “What happened to Oakley was almost a Greek drama,” says poet George Crane. “It was genius or nothing, and it seemed at the end, that it had to come to nothing.” read more

Almost Home Season 7, Episode 15

“Almost Home,” by directors Brad Lichtenstein and Lisa Gildehaus, is a somber look inside a Wisconsin nursing home. “We need to remember the spirit as well as the body,” says administrator John George. However, the residents' struggles with mental and physical challenges and staffers' occasional clashes with each other poignantly illustrate the difficulties of living in an assisted-care facility. read more

July '64 Season 7, Episode 14

Director Carvin Eison's gripping 2004 film “July '64” examines the Rochester race riots that broke out on July 24, 1964, after the police clashed with a man at a party. The National Guard was called in to help restore order and more than 900 people were arrested. The film combines archival footage with interviews with those who share their experiences, including journalist Warren Doremus, former Third Ward Supervisor Constance Mitchell, and Frank Lamb, the city's mayor in 1964. read more

Negroes With Guns: Rob Williams and Black Power Season 7, Episode 13

A powerful profile of civil-rights activist Robert F. Williams, author of “Negroes with Guns,” who challenged the concept of nonviolent protest through such acts as arming himself against the KKK. The film examines his struggle through archival news footage of his speeches and interviews with those who worked with him. Williams' widow, Mabel, recalls that her husband took up the cause even though he originally “never wanted to be a leader.” read more

Girl Trouble Season 7, Episode 12

The gritty “Girl Trouble” follows three young San Francisco women as they face various personal and legal challenges over four years. One woman has multiple drug arrests; another shot her brother during a drug binge; and the third, a teen mother, was convicted of selling drugs. “The way the system is set up, it doesn't give girls the opportunity to get out of it,” says the Center for Young Women's Development director, Lateefah Simon, who has aided the women. read more

Sheriff Season 7, Episode 11

A law-enforcement officer's duties (some that would make it into a TV cop series and some that wouldn't) are examined in director Daniel Kraus's “Sheriff,” a candid profile of Sheriff Ronald Hewett of Brunswick County, N.C. Hewett's work life is chronicled unobtrusively as he leads a murder investigation and an intense search for an escaped prisoner. He is also shown addressing students at an assembly and leading a search for a stolen truck and a raid on a video-gaming parlor. read more

Short Stack: Lost & Found Season 7, Episode 10

Friendship takes center stage in five short films that examine the bonds between pals, including Keith Bearden's clever film “The Raftman's Razor,” about two teens who become obsessed with a comic book; and Dong Hyeuk Hwang's sweet entry “Miracle Mile,” which tells the story of a Korean girl searching for her adopted brother, and the taxi driver who tries to help her. Also: Christopher Newberry's “Agora”; Shira Avni's “John and Michael”; and Angelique Midthunder's “Reservation Warparties.” read more

Sisters: Portrait of a Benedictine Community Season 7, Episode 9

“Sisters: Portrait of a Benedictine Community” is an earnest look at monastic life that profiles the women of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minn. In candid interviews, the sisters discuss such issues as aging, finding balance in their lives and how they chose their path. “I truly got a call one day, just an idea in my head,” says Sister Mary Ann Koth, a former environmental-resource manager. “And here I am in something that is a journey of the heart.” read more

Seoul Train Season 7, Episode 8

“Seoul Train” movingly examines the plight of North Koreans who flee in hopes of a better life elsewhere, despite the possibility of forced return if they're caught living in China. The film follows two families who try to leave, and includes comments from those aiding their flight. Also: interviews with Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Marine Buissonniere of Doctors Without Borders. read more

Maid in America Season 7, Episode 7

“Maid in America” features poignant profiles of three Latina immigrants who work as nannies and housekeepers in Los Angeles, and includes interviews with the women and their employers. The women include Telma, a nanny for a couple's son; Eva, a housekeeper working toward an accounting degree; and Judith, who left her daughters in Guatemala to work in the U.S. Directed by Anayansi Prado. read more

Race Is the Place Season 7, Episode 6

“Race Is the Place” is a provocative and unsettling look at racism in America, featuring insightful commentary---both angry and humorous---from artists, poets, rappers and comedians. The film includes footage of racist depictions of minorities in cartoons and commercials. Included are comments from comic Ahmed Ahmed, performance artist Kate Rigg, and poets Mayda Del Valle and Haunani-Kay Trask. read more

Mirror Dance Season 7, Episode 5

“Mirror Dance” puts a human face on the impact of Cold War politics with a touching profile of Cuban ballerinas Margarita and Ramona de Saá, twin sisters who became estranged after Margarita left her home permanently for the U.S. in 1964. Margarita, who joined the Pennsylvania Ballet Company before opening her own company, is shown in a heart-wrenching reunion with her sister in Havana's airport, her first trip back to Cuba in nearly 40 years. read more

A Family at War Season 7, Episode 4

“A Family at War” follows the parents and widow of a soldier killed in Iraq as they come to grips with their loss, each in a different way. Mike McKay, a retired lieutenant colonel, is sad but proud of his son, Jeffrey, an Army lieutenant who died in April 2003. So is Jeff's widow, Jenna, an Army lieutenant herself. But she comes to question her own future in the military. And for Jeff's mother, Roxanne, grief is soon tinged with anger as she comes to believe that “my son's death was in vain.” read more

The Last Cowboy Season 7, Episode 3

“The Last Cowboy” follows South Dakota cattle rancher Vern Sager from 1980 to 2004---through frigid winters, dry summers and prices that are never high enough. Perhaps that's why Vern's six siblings are all in other lines of work. His son, Mark, doesn't stay on the ranch, either---he's a rodeo rider. And, in 2003, Vern's wife, Carol, also leaves the ranch. “Carol rode off into the sunset, but I haven't yet,” says Vern ruefully. “[She said] I cared more about my cows than I did her.” read more

En Route to Baghdad Season 7, Episode 2

“En Route to Baghdad” profiles Sergio Vieira de Mello, a charismatic and dedicated UN diplomat from Brazil who was killed in an explosion at the UN mission in Iraq in August 2003. Filmmaker Simone Duarte, a onetime Brazilian TV journalist, chronicles Vieira de Mello's postings in Mozambique, Cambodia and East Timor, and elicits testimonials from more than 30 observers, including Secretary General Kofi Annan. Recalls one colleague: “You wanted to stay near Sergio. He made us all look good.” read more

Parliament Funkadelic: One Nation Under a Groove Season 7, Episode 1

“One Nation Under a Groove,” a profile of Parliament Funkadelic that features animation (including an “Afronaut” character voiced by Eddie Griffin) to explore P-Funk's unique mix of rock and R&B, and its rebellious vibe---tightly controlled by mastermind George Clinton, whose 50-year career links doo-wop and hip-hop. “It was just a party,” says singer Nona Hendryx. read more

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Premiered: August 09, 1999, on PBS
Rating: TV-PG
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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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