Independent Lens Episodes

1999, TV Show

Independent Lens Season 8 episodes

La Lupe: Queen of Latin Soul Season 8, Episode 27

Season 8 ends with a look back at Afro-Cuban jazz singer La Lupe (1936-92), who is profiled in Ela Troyano's film “La Lupe: Queen of Latin Soul,” which includes segments shot in Miami; New York; La Habana, Cuba; and Puerto Rico, as well as interviews with those who knew her. read more

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill Season 8, Episode 26

“The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” profiles author-musician Mark Bittner, who looks after a flock of colorful birds in San Francisco. The film examines Bittner's relationship with the birds, which he names, feeds and studies. Directed by Judy Irving. read more

Knocking Season 8, Episode 25

The film “Knocking” examines the Jehovah's Witness religion through profiles of members, including Joseph Kempler, a Jewish WWII concentration camp survivor who converted after arriving in the United States. Kempler speaks to high-school students about his experiences and his religious background. Also: Seth Thomas, a young man with a liver condition who refuses to get a liver transplant for religious reasons. read more

Sentenced Home Season 8, Episode 24

"Sentenced Home" examines the U.S. deportation process as three Cambodian-Americans in Seattle face the prospect of being sent to Cambodia. read more

The Cats of Mirikitani Season 8, Episode 23

Linda Hattendorf's film “The Cats of Mirikitani” profiles New York City artist Jimmy Mirikitani, a once-homeless man who drew images of cats, internment camps and other pictures while sitting on a SoHo corner. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Hattendorf welcomed Mirikitani into her home and helped him seek out members of his family, and find his own living quarters. read more

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room Season 8, Episode 22

“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” chronicles the rise and fall of the Houston-based energy giant via interviews, news reports and the company's own in-house videos. Written and directed by Alex Gibney. Based on a book by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind. Narrated by Peter Coyote. read more

Black Gold Season 8, Episode 21

Mark and Nick Francis' “Black Gold”examines the global coffee industry and the challenges faced by small coffee growers. The film follows Tadesse Meskela, general manager of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union in Ethiopia, as he tries to get major coffee buyers to purchase the product from his growers at a fair price. read more

China Blue Season 8, Episode 20

Micha X. Peled's film “China Blue” looks at the challenges and hardships faced by workers at a Chinese blue-jeans factory. The documentary focuses on a worker named Jasmine, who gets a job there after leaving her family's farm. Included: comments from the factory owner, a former chief of police. read more

Race to Execution Season 8, Episode 19

Rachel Lyon's film “Race to Execution” examines the potential influence of race in deciding capital punishment for convicted felons. The documentary follows the cases of executed black inmate Robert Tarver of Alabama and Madison Hobley---also black---who was on death row for murder when he was pardoned on the basis of innocence by Illinois governor George Ryan in 2003. Harvard law professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr. narrates. read more

Stolen Season 8, Episode 18

Rebecca Dreyfus's film “Stolen” recalls the 1990 theft of artwork from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, including Jan Vermeer's painting “The Concert.” The film follows art detective Harold Smith as he reinvestigates the famous heist. Also: letters written by Gardner and her friend Bernard Berenson are read by actors Blythe Danner and Campbell Scott. read more

Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore? Season 8, Episode 17

Frank Popper's “Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?” follows the 2004 congressional campaign of Jeff Smith, a 29-year-old Washington University professor battling state representative Russ Carnahan in the Democratic primary for the seat vacated by Missouri Democrat Dick Gephardt. The documentary examines the political and financial challenges facing Smith's campaign, and includes appearances by Howard Dean and columnists Bill McClellan and Sylvester Brown. read more

Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes Season 8, Episode 16

“Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes,” by director Byron Hurt, examines musical portraits of sexism, masculinity and homophobia in hip-hop songs. The film includes interviews with hip-hop artists Mos Def and Busta Rhymes, and Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons. Host: Terrence Howard. read more

Motherland Afghanistan Season 8, Episode 15

Director Sedika Mojadidi's film “Motherland Afghanistan” examines the efforts of Dr. Qudrat Mojadidi as he treats patients in a Kabul hospital in 2003. Dr. Mojadidi also trains nurses and other doctors to help improve the quality of care for the patients. read more

Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life Season 8, Episode 14

A profile of composer Billy Strayhorn, whose songs include “Take the `A' Train” and “Lush Life.” Among those performing songs by Strayhorn: Elvis Costello, Dianne Reeves, Bill Charlap, Joe Lovano and Russell Malone. read more

Twisted Season 8, Episode 13

Laurel Chiten's “Twisted” profiles three people who have dystonia, a neurological disorder that causes muscles to contract involuntarily. The film focuses on Pat Brogan, who developed the condition after an accident, and who decides to try a risky operation. Also included are segments on Shari Tritt, whose dystonia affects her entire body, and Remy Campbell, whose condition forced her to walk at an odd angle until surgery helped her. read more

Beyond the Call Season 8, Episode 12

Adrian Belic's film “Beyond the Call” looks at the humanitarian efforts of Knightsbridge International members Ed Artis, Jim Laws and Walt Ratterman in Afghanistan, Albania, Chechnya, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand and Rwanda. read more

Shadya Season 8, Episode 11

Roy Westler's film “Shadya” profiles 2003 shotokan-karate world champion Shadya Zoabi, a young Muslim woman living in Israel. Included: how Zoabi balances her karate dreams with societal pressures regarding how Muslim women are expected to live. read more

A Fish Story Season 8, Episode 10

“A Fish Story” examines the efforts of two women to improve the lives of New England fishermen and their families. Angela Sanfilippo (Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association) and Shareen Davis (Chatham Fishermen's Wives Coalition) share their experiences dealing with politicians and environmentalists as they try to resolve economic and environmental issues. read more

Short Stack 2006 Season 8, Episode 9

Four short films, including “My Life...Disoriented,” about two Asian sisters whose lives are disrupted after their family moves to another city; “Paris, 1951,” a documentary about a middle-aged woman who learns that her dad isn't her biological father; “Someday Flowers Bloom,” about a Japanese woman's challenges after she moves to Montana with her American husband; and “The Zit,” an animated tale about a boy trying to get rid of a pesky skin blemish. read more

Revolucion: Five Visions Season 8, Episode 8

Director Nicole Cattel's film “Revolucion: Five Visions” examines the work of photographers who've chronicled life in Cuba under Fidel Castro. Included Raúl Corrales, José Figueroa, Manuel Piña, René Peña and Rogelio López Marin. read more

A Sad Flower in the Sand Season 8, Episode 7

A profile of writer John Fante (1909-83), whose credits include the 1939 novel “Ask the Dust” and the screenplay for “Walk on the Wild Side” (1962). read more

Two Square Miles Season 8, Episode 6

“Two Square Miles” follows residents of Hudson, N.Y., over a two-year period. Included: a mayoral race and efforts to build a cement plant in the city. Also: clips from civic meetings, where issues regarding historic preservation, zoning laws, tax assessments and affordable housing are discussed. Directed by Barbara Ettinger. read more

Democracy on Deadline Season 8, Episode 5

Director Cal Skaggs' “Democracy on Deadline” looks at challenges faced by reporters on the job in Mexico, Israel, Russia, Afghanistan and the U.S. read more

Paul Conrad: Drawing Fire Season 8, Episode 4

The power of a cartoonist's pen is examined in “Paul Conrad: Drawing Fire,” a profile of the Pulitzer winner, who has worked for the Denver Post and Los Angeles Times. Narrated by Tom Brokaw, the film traces the political cartoonist's career and features samples of his work, including lampoons of Presidents Nixon and Clinton, along with both Bushes; plus Conrad's recipe for success: “You have to know your subject. That requires reading, not listening to the radio or watching television.” read more

Muskrat Lovely Season 8, Episode 3

A beauty pageant and a muskrat-skinning contest share the spotlight in director Amy Nicholson's offbeat film “Muskrat Lovely,” which documents preparations for both events in Golden Hill, Md. The pageant, which precedes the skinning match, features eight young women vying for the title of Miss Outdoors. The film includes comments from organizers and entrants. “If you win, that's great,” says pageant contestant Jessica Howell. “If not, you get to make a lot of friends.” read more

Still Life With Animated Dogs Season 8, Episode 2

In “Still Life With Animated Dogs,” animator Paul Fierlinger reflects on the positive impact the dogs he has owned over the years have had on him. Included: Fierlinger relates how, as a young man in Communist Czechoslovakia, he learned a lesson in civil disobedience from his dog Roosevelt. read more

The World According to Sesame Street Season 8, Episode 1

“The World According to Sesame Street.” The documentary examines efforts to produce international versions of the series. The delightful film follows Sesame Workshop staffers as they travel to various countries and meet with producers to begin creating the new programs. “I think this will open up a window to a new world where there is more harmony,” says Bangladesh producer Fuad Chowdhury. “And where learning is fun.” 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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