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Independent Lens

Independent Lens

Photo Credit:  PBS
  • Premiered: 
    August 9, 1999
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: PBS
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
  • Subject Matter: Anthology
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Plot Synopsis

This acclaimed anthology series features documentaries -- and a limited number of fiction films -- united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement and unflinching visions of their independent producers. INDEPENDENT LENS features unforgettable stories about a unique individual, community or moment in history.

On Monday, October 13, 2014 at 10pm (check local listings), INDEPENDENT LENS returned for its sixteenth season -- the show's thirteenth since its relaunch in February 2003. Lee Hirsch's BULLY, the first film of the new season, highlights the challenges faced by bullied kids, showing how teachers and parents address aggressive behaviors that defy dismissal with "kids will be kids" cliche. By revealing the effects of bullying on the lives of five kids and their families and by capturing a growing movement to change the ways to address bullying in schools, BULLY was the perfect choice to air on INDEPENDENT LENS in October, which is National Bullying Prevention Month.

Season 17 of INDEPENDENT LENS premiered on Monday, November 9, 2015 at 10pm on PBS (check local listings), with a special presentation of the 90-minute documentary "Stray Dog," which introduces Ronnie 'Stray Dog' Hall, a Vietnam vet trying to come to terms with his combat experience and help others like himself. Other films in Season 17 include: "India's Daughter," which reveals how the harrowing rape and murder of a young Indian woman sparked an international movement; "Mimi and Dona," which introduces an unforgettable, deeply connected mother-daughter duo facing tough choices as they both age; "East of Salinas," which chronicles the story of Jose, a bright third grader, and his dedicated teacher, both sons of migrant farm workers; and many more.

INDEPENDENT LENS returned for its 18th season on Monday, October 2, 2016 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings). The season opener, "Best of Enemies," documents the summer of 1968 when television news changed forever. Dead last in the ratings, ABC News hired two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions. William F. Buckley Jr. was a leading light of the new conservative movement. Gore Vidal, a Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, was a leftist novelist and polemicist. Armed with deep-seated distrust and enmity, Vidal and Buckley believed each other's political ideologies were dangerous for America. Like rounds in a heavyweight battle, they pummeled out policy and personal insult, their explosive exchanges devolving into vitriolic name-calling. Live and unscripted, they kept viewers riveted as Nixon became the Republican nominee in Miami and violence rocked the Democratic convention in Chicago. Ratings for ABC News skyrocketed and a new era in contentious public discourse was born. Directed by Robert Gordon and Academy Award-winning Sundance Film Festival alum Morgan Neville.

Season 20 of INDEPENDENT LENS premiered on Monday, October 29, 2018 at 10pm on PBS (check local listings). The new season opens with "Wildland," directed and produced by Alex Jablonski and Kahlil Hudson. Filmed during two recent wildfire seasons, thsi film is a sweeping yet deeply personal account of a single wildland firefighting crew as they struggle with fear, loyalty, dreams, and demons. What emerges is a rich story of working-class men -- their exterior world, their interior lives, and the fire that lies between. Every summer, the American West burns. As climate change has increased, average temperatures have risen, resulting in a sudden increase in both the frequency and intensity of wildfires. Inside each of these fires are small crews who work to contain them by hand, using shovels, pickaxes, and methods that haven't changed in sixty years. With a lifelong admiration for those who do this dangerous work, filmmakers and native Westerners Jablonski and Hudson went through firefighting training with the men in the film, in Grants Pass, Oregon, a sleepy mountain town. Here they toiled alongside and chronicled the lives of the men on their fire crew. Each of them has come to this work for personal reasons -- for some, it's a need to test themselves, or a desire for adventure and purpose; for others, it may be the job of last resort after time in prison or a lifetime of addiction. For 46-year-old John, it's a final chance to let go of a troubled past and be a better father; for Charlie and Aidan, both 23-year-old Bible college dropouts, the summer holds the promise of challenges that will transform them from boys to men. For their crew boss Tim, a sixth-grade dropout and former meth addict, the tough work of firefighting is salvation. Together these men are tasked with facing nature's most elemental force and finding their way through boredom, fear, and a job aptly described as "long hours of hard labor punctuated by moments of sheer terror." For each, it's a chance to discover a piece of themselves that they'll be able to carry forward forever.
INDEPENDENT LENS returned for its 21st season on Monday, October 28, 2019 at 10pm on PBS (check local listings). Episodes include:

"Made in Boise" (October 28): A surprising -- and booming -- industry has emerged in Boise, Idaho. In this idyllic, all-American city, nurses, nail technicians, and stay-at-home mothers are choosing to become paid reproductive surrogates for people from around the world. "Made in Boise" goes inside the lives of four women as they build relationships with intended parents, prepare for the rigors of pregnancy, and navigate the mixed feelings of their own families, who struggle to understand the surrogates' choice to risk the physical and emotional complications of carrying babies for another family.

"Decade of Fire" (November 4): In the 1970s, the Bronx was on fire. Left unprotected by the city government, nearly a quarter-million people were displaced as their close-knit, multi-ethnic neighborhood burned to the ground, reducing the community to rubble. While insidious government policies caused the devastation, it was the African American and Latino residents who bore the blame. Through rich archival and home movie footage, testimonials from retired FDNY firefighters and brass, as well as Bronx historians and community organizers, "Decade of Fire" reveals the real reasons for the devastation and shows what can happen when a community chooses to fight back and reclaim their neighborhood.

"The Interpreters" (November 11): More than 50,000 local interpreters helped protect U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, enabling soldiers to communicate with the local population. But those who took the job were often considered traitors. In the aftermath of war, some have been able to leave their home countries and reach safety, while others still languish in hiding and fear for their lives.

"Conscience Point" (November 18): Explore how the onslaught of development in Long Island's wealthy Hamptons has triggered a clash of values. Members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, farmers and fishing communities seek to stop the building boom and preserve the environment.

Additional episodes will debut in 2020.