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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.