Independent Lens

Independent Lens is America’s home for independent documentary film.

Presented by the Independent Television Service (ITVS).

Episodes

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Season 25

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    Sansón and Me

    Filmmaker Rodrigo Reyes wants to document Sansón's story, an immigrant serving life in prison. Unable to film Sansón, the documentary creatively shares his narrative through reenactments of his letters, featuring his own family as actors.

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    El Equipo

    Legendary U.S. anthropologist Dr. Clyde Snow sets out to train a new group of Latin American students in the use of forensic anthropology. Their goal: to investigate disappearances in Argentina during the “dirty war”. The group expands its horizons, traveling to El Salvador, Bolivia and Mexico, doggedly working behind the scenes to establish the facts for the families of the victims.

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    Three Chaplains

    Muslim chaplains uphold the First Amendment and vow to protect service members' right to practice their faith freely, despite facing long-held prejudice and disapproval from their own communities. The Muslim chaplains work hard to ensure that all service members have access to religious materials, services, and resources regardless of the religious beliefs they hold.

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    A Town Called Victoria | Episode 1

    A south Texas town is thrown into the national spotlight when a local mosque is burned down in an apparent hate crime. After the media moves on, the community is left to reflect on its complex history with racism.

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    A Town Called Victoria | Episode 2

    With the arson trial near, the suspect’s family argues his innocence. Meanwhile, facets of Victoria reveal the ingredients that might have turned him to hate and support for the town’s Muslim community begins to wane.

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    A Town Called Victoria | Episode 3

    The prosecution presents shocking evidence. As the trial concludes, the engaged citizens of Victoria seek a way to build a more inclusive community.

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    Beyond Utopia

    They grew up believing their land was paradise. Now, they risk everything in escaping it. In an unforgettable documentary, follow families on a treacherous journey to defect from their homeland of North Korea, as the threat of severe punishment and possible execution looms over their passage, revealing a world many have never seen.

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    Racist Trees

    Were trees intentionally planted to exclude and segregate a Black neighborhood? Racial tensions ignite in this documentary, when a historically Black neighborhood in Palm Springs, California, fights to remove a towering wall of tamarisk trees. The trees form a barrier, believed by some to segregate the community, frustrating residents who regard them as an enduring symbol of racism.

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    Razing Liberty Square

    Liberty City, Miami, is home to one of the oldest segregated public housing projects in the U.S. Now with rising sea levels, the neighborhood’s higher ground has become something else: real estate gold. Wealthy property owners push inland to higher ground, creating a speculators’ market in the historically Black neighborhood previously ignored by developers and policy-makers alike.

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    Breaking The News

    Who decides which stories get told? A scrappy group of women and LGBTQ+ journalists buck the white male-dominated status quo, banding together to launch The 19th*, a digital news startup aiming to combat misinformation. A story of an America in flux, and the voices often left out of the narrative, the documentary Breaking the News shows change doesn’t come easy.

Season 24

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    Hazing

    Hazing is a widespread, far-reaching practice fueled by tradition, secrecy, groupthink, power, and the desire to belong in fraternities and sororities on college campuses across the U.S. Filmmaker Byron Hurt embarks on a deeply personal journey to understand the underground rituals of hazing, revealing the abuse and the lengths college students will go to fit in.

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    TikTok, Boom.

    What does it mean to be a digital native? TikTok, Boom. dissects the platform along myriad cross-sections—algorithmic, socio-political, economic, and cultural—to explore the impact of the history-making app. Balancing a genuine interest with healthy skepticism, delve into the security issues, global political challenges, and racial biases behind the platform.

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    Move Me

    At 27, Kelsey Peterson dove into Lake Superior as a dancer and emerged paralyzed. But within the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) community, she found allies in her quest to discover who she is now and to dance with disability. When a cutting-edge trial surfaces, it tests her expectations of a possible cure. She finds herself both scared it might not work—and scared that it might.

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    Children of Las Brisas

    In Venezuela, amidst a backdrop of poverty, murder, and corruption, the El Sistema youth orchestra offers children hope and the opportunity to pursue a life of art in spite of the harshness of the society around them. Yet the country’s spiraling collapse and political repression threatens the musicians’ dreams of a better life.

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    The Big Payback

    An Evanston, Illinois rookie alderwoman led the passage of the first tax-funded reparations bill for Black Americans. While she and her community struggle with the burden to make restitution for its citizens, a national racial crisis engulfs the country. Will the debt ever be addressed, or is it too late for a reparations movement to finally get the big payback?

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    No Straight Lines

    When Alison Bechdel received a coveted MacArthur Award for her best-selling graphic memoir Fun Home, it heralded the acceptance of LGBTQ+ comics in American culture. From DIY underground comix scene to mainstream acceptance, meet five smart and funny queer comics artists whose uncensored commentary left no topic untouched and explored art as a tool for social change.

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    The Picture Taker

    The vibrant life of Ernest Withers—civil rights photographer, and FBI informant—was anything but black and white. From his Memphis studio, Withers' nearly 2 million images were a treasured record of Black history but his legacy was complicated by decades of secret FBI service revealed only after his death. Was he a friend of the civil rights community, or enemy—or both?

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    Outta the Muck

    Wade into the rich soil of Pahokee, Florida, a town on the banks of Lake Okeechobee. Beyond its football legacy, including sending over a dozen players to the NFL (like Anquan Boldin, Fred Taylor, and Rickey Jackson), the fiercely self-determined community tells their stories of Black achievement and resilience in the face of tragic storms and personal trauma.

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    Love in the Time of Fentanyl

    As fentanyl overdose deaths in Vancouver, Canada reach an all-time high, the Overdose Prevention Society opens its doors—a renegade safe injection site that employs current or former drug users. Its staff and volunteers save lives and give hope to a marginalized community, doing whatever it takes to remain open in this intimate documentary that looks beyond the stigma of injection drug users.

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    Storming Caesars Palace

    After losing her job as a hotel worker in Las Vegas, Ruby Duncan joined a welfare rights group of mothers who defied notions of the “welfare queen.” In a fight for guaranteed income, Ruby and other equality activists took on the Nevada mob in organizing a massive protest that shut down Caesars Palace.

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    Hidden Letters

    The bonds of sisterhood, and the parallels of struggles among generations of women in China, are drawn together by the once-secret written language of Nüshu, the only script designed and used exclusively by women.

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    Free Chol Soo Lee

    Sentenced to life for a 1973 San Francisco murder, Korean immigrant Chol Soo Lee was set free after a pan-Asian solidarity movement, which included Korean, Japanese, and Chinese Americans, helped to overturn his conviction. After 10 years of fighting for his life inside California state prisons, Lee found himself in a new fight to rise to the expectations of the people who believed in him.

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    Matter of Mind: My ALS

    Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neuromuscular disease with an average survival time of 2-5 years from diagnosis. In this intimate exploration, three people with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, bravely face different paths as they live with this progressively debilitating illness.

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    Sam Now

    In this coming-of-age documentary about generational trauma, follow Sam Harkness from age 11 to 36 as his middle-class Seattle family is heartbroken and unsure of what to do after his mother suddenly leaves them. Woven together with home movies lovingly crafted by Sam’s half brother, director Reed Harkness, witness a boy grow up grappling with the ripple effects of a singular traumatic event.

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    Silent Beauty

    In this autobiographical exploration of survivorship, New Orleans journalist and filmmaker Jasmin Mara López unabashedly shares her process of healing from childhood sexual abuse. After Jasmin discloses to her family she'd been abused by her grandfather, she liberates others to come forward in a story of confronting a culture of silence over generational trauma.

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    Mama Bears

    They call one another “mama bears” because of the ferocity with which they fight for their children’s rights. Although they grew up as fundamentalist, evangelical Christians praying for the souls of LGBTQ+ people, these mothers are now willing to risk losing friends, family, and faith communities to champion their kids—even if it challenges their belief systems and rips apart their worlds.

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