About This Program
Independent Lens is television's largest showcase of independent documentary films made by some of the best independent filmmakers working today. The award-winning series introduces an incredible array of unique characters from in the United States and around the world, bringing their rich stories to even wider, more diverse audiences while engaging communities in conversations and providing an authentic space for many voices.
Independent Lens is produced by the Independent Television Service.
Episodes from Season 2017-2018
Independent Lens: Chasing Trane - The John Coltrane Documentary
Set against the social, political and cultural landscape of the times, Chasing Trane brings saxophone great John Coltrane to life, as a man and an artist. The film is the definitive look at the boundary-shattering musician whose influence continues to this day.
Independent Lens: Shadow World
Based on "The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade," Shadow World reveals the shocking realities of the global arms trade, the only business that counts its profits in billions and its losses in human lives. The film exposes how a defense industry that is supposed to enhance security instead gives us the opposite: a more dangerous world.
Independent Lens: Supergirl
Naomi Kutin seems like a typical Orthodox Jewish preteen, until her talent of breaking world powerlifting records turns her into an international phenomenon and transforms her family. Follow Naomi as she fights to hold on to her title while navigating the perils of adolescence. Can she still be “Supergirl” if she can no longer break world records?
Independent Lens: The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin
Examining the life and work of Armistead Maupin, one of the world's most beloved storytellers, following his evolution from a conservative son of the Old South into a gay rights pioneer whose novels have inspired millions to claim their own truth. Untold Tales is told in playful and poignant fashion, reflective of the author himself.
Independent Lens: Unrest
Filmmaker Jennifer Brea was a Harvard PhD student when she was struck down by a mysterious fever that left her bedridden. Eventually diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, she and her new husband, Omar, were left to grapple with how to shape a future together in the face of a lifelong illness. At its very core, Unrest is a love story.
Independent Lens: I Am Not Your Negro
I Am Not Your Negro envisions the book James Baldwin never finished, a radical narration about race in America, using the writer’s original words. The documentary is a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter, challenging the very definition of what America stands for.
Independent Lens: The Force
At a powder keg moment in American policing, The Force presents a fly-on-the-wall look deep inside the long-troubled Oakland Police Department as it struggles to confront federal demands for reform, a popular uprising following events in Ferguson, Missouri, and an explosive sex scandal.
Independent Lens: I Am Another You
Meet Dylan, a drifter who has left a comfortable home and loving family for a life of intentional homelessness and unfettered adventure. Fascinated by his choice and rejection, filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows Dylan in a portrait of an American quest for freedom that unfolds as a haunting and unforgettable story of family, illness, and love.
Independent Lens: Winnie
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is one of the most misunderstood and intriguing of contemporary female political figures. Winnie explores her life and contribution to the struggle to bring down apartheid, with insight from Winnie, those closest to her and the enemies who sought to extinguish her radical capacity to shake up the order of things.
Independent Lens: Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities
The rich history of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities began before the end of slavery, flourished in the 20th century, and profoundly influenced the course of the nation for over 150 years — yet remains largely unknown. With Tell Them We Are Rising, the powerful story of the rise, influence, and evolution of HBCUs comes to life.
Independent Lens: Rat Film
“There ain’t ever been a rat problem in Baltimore. It’s a people problem.” A unique blend of history, science and sci-fi, poetry and portraiture, Theo Anthony's directorial debut Rat Film explores how racial segregation, discriminatory lending practices known as “redlining,” and environmental racism built the Baltimore that exists today.
Independent Lens: Dolores
With unprecedented access, Peter Bratt's film Dolores chronicles Huerta’s life from her childhood in Stockton, California to her early years with the United Farm Workers, from her work with the headline-making grape boycott launched in 1965 to her role in the feminist movement of the '70s, to her continued work as a fearless activist.
Independent Lens: When God Sleeps
When God Sleeps is a rap-punk-rock documentary about Iranian musician Shahin Najafi, who is forced into hiding after hardline clerics issue a fatwa for his death, incensed by a rap song that focuses on the oppression of women and human rights abuses. Risking his life every time he steps on a stage, Shahin refuses to stop performing.
Independent Lens: The Art of the Shine
You might pass them at the mall or at the airport. They’re the shoe shiners, purveying an old school trade, out of step with our fast-paced, disposable consumer culture. But for the "shiners" in The Art of the Shine, shining shoes is a calling and a passion, a way to be one’s own boss and connect with other people from all walks of life.
Independent Lens: What Lies Upstream
In What Lies Upstream, Cullen Hoback travels to West Virginia to study the unprecedented loss of clean water for over 300,000 Americans in the Elk River chemical spill. The investigative filmmaker, whose interest was piqued by family ties to the state, embarks on an investigation that sends him down a rabbit hole of an unimaginable scale.
Independent Lens: Look & See: Wendell Berry's Kentucky
Look & See: Wendell Berry’s Kentucky is a portrait of the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America as seen through the mind’s eye of writer, farmer, and activist Wendell Berry, in his native Henry County, Kentucky, a place mourning the loss of a bygone way of life that was once the cornerstone of America.
Independent Lens: True Conviction
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” - Martin Luther King, Jr. There's a new detective agency in Dallas, run by three exonerated men who all spent decades in prison. Their mission: to free other innocent people still behind bars.
Independent Lens: No Man's Land
Documenting the 2016 occupation of Oregon’s Malheur Wildlife Refuge from inception to demise, and the attempts to uncover what draws Americans — the ideologues, the disenfranchised, and the dangerously quixotic — to the edge of revolution.
Independent Lens: ACORN and the Firestorm
In 2008, a scandal brought down the controversial community-organizing group ACORN when a video by amateur undercover journalists went viral. ACORN and the Firestorm goes beyond the 24-hour news cycle and cuts to the heart of the political divide this event represented.
Independent Lens: Served Like a Girl
Providing a candid look at a shared sisterhood to help the rising number of homeless women veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and suffer from PTSD, sexual abuse, and other traumas. By entering into the “Ms. Veteran America” competition, these amazing ladies unexpectedly come full circle in a quest for healing and hope.