The Audience Award

"It was such an honor when Independent Lens chose our film to open the inaugural PBS Indies Showcase last fall. And now — some ten months later — to be awarded this Audience Award truly takes our breath away. It is so humbling to hear from audiences across the country who have been inspired, awed, and reinvigorated by Arnel Pineda’s enduring story."
— Ramona S. Diaz, filmmaker, Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey

At film festivals, the award that often matters most to filmmakers and their subjects alike is the Audience Award. They know they’ve struck a chord when the audience applauds their efforts.

The Independent Lens audience has the opportunity to stand up and be counted by rating each film throughout the season. At the end of the season, the highest rated film is honored.

Rate the films as you see them, and help us identify this season’s audience favorite!

  • Spring Films

    Andrew, from Rich Hill

    Rich Hill follows three teenage boys as they struggle with isolation, broken families, and lack of opportunity in their small Missouri town, providing an immersive and realistic picture of growing up poor in America.

  • Two men with masks sit in a car

    Filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe explores what led him to become a bank robber as a teenager in Texas, through interviews with family, friends, and mentors involved in his story as well as by returning to the scene of the crime.

  • Spc Adam Winfield looking out window while in prison

    The Kill Team goes behind closed doors for the story of Specialist Adam Winfield, a 21-year-old infantryman in Afghanistan who attempted to alert the military to heinous war crimes his platoon was committing but was then charged with murder.

  • Savannah with her mother, Sara, at their home outside of Boston, MA.

    From the team behind Half the Sky, A Path Appears goes to Colombia, Haiti, Kenya, and the USA to uncover the harshest forms of gender-based oppression and human rights violations, and solutions being implemented to combat them.

  • Football player and a man picking cotton in artistic image from Through a Lens Darkly

    An artist-filmmaker takes a deeply personal look back through the parallel histories of how African Americans have been depicted in commercial photography, contrasted with how they were captured in family photos.

  • Black and white image of a young African American boy being shown both white and black baby dolls
    Photograph by Gordon Parks /
    Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

    Using the story of Gunnar Myrdal’s 1944 investigation of Jim Crow racism as a springboard, American Denial explores the power of unconscious biases and how the ideals of liberty, equality, and justice still impact notions of race and class today.

  • Lacey Schwartz as a girl with her mother and father at the seashore

    Filmmaker Lacey Schwartz, who grew up in a typical upper-middle class Jewish household in Woodstock, NY, begins to piece together the mystery of how a white girl could have such dark skin as she learns the truth about her biological father.

  • An East Texas church burns after arson

    A plague of arson in East Texas that saw 10 churches burn to the ground in 2010 ignited the largest criminal investigation in the area’s history, involving local law enforcement, Texas Rangers, and the ATF.

  • Young African American man looks across the lake at the Chicago skyline

    Three homeless teens brave Chicago winters, high school pressures, and life on the streets to build a brighter future. Against the odds, they recover from a life of abandonment to create new, surprising definitions of home.

  • Tugboat captain Latham Smith, who was hired to assist with oil spill, looks off to the Gulf at night

    Crew members, families, fishermen, and others still haunted by the Deepwater Horizon explosion provide gripping first-hand accounts of their experience in a disaster that had tragic repercussions up and down the Gulf Coast and beyond.

  • Kumu Hina herself looking at camera while participating in ritual hula dance

    A native Hawaiian māhū, or transgender woman, uses traditional culture to create a place in the middle where every student is accepted. Despite the respect and admiration she’s achieved in her community, Hina still longs for true love.

  • Elizabeth Streb’s Extreme Action Company  performs in London

    Not just a choreographer, Elizabeth Streb is a wildly extreme action architect. Born to Fly traces the evolution of Streb’s movement philosophy as she pushes herself and her dancers from the ground, to the wall, and to the sky.

  • Keith Forsyth (played by Daniel S. Taylor)

    A group of ordinary citizens broke into a small FBI office in Pennsylvania in 1971 and shared with the world their findings on COINTELPRO, the FBI’s illegal surveillance program. Now, they tell their story publicly for the first time.

  • Title treatment for the film depicting two male figures holding hands to form the M in the word Limited

    After falling in love, a Filipino American and an Australian in 1975 became one of the world’s first same-sex couples to legally marry. The pioneering couple’s fight for justice raged on for 40 years, paving the way for the eventual defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act.

  • Fall Films

    Alex Libby sits on front steps with his parents.

    Highlighting the challenges faced by bullied kids, Bully shows parents and teachers addressing aggressive behaviors beyond “kids will be kids” clichés, and captures a growing movement to change how bullying is handled.

  • Twin sisters Mia and Alexandra are reunited in Norway, sit on dock with sea behind them.

    Two sisters adopted in China as infants by Californian and Norwegian parents grow up knowing they have a twin living on the other side of the world. Although language is a barrier, their bond grows deeper and they arrange to finally meet.

  • The aftermath of the Amagasaki commuter train crash.

    What led the driver of a Japanese commuter train to accelerate perilously, causing a deadly crash? Piecing together personal accounts of those affected by the tragedy, Brakeless poses a question for a society that equates speed with progress: have what were once national virtues, punctuality and compliance, become dangerous?

  • Outlaw electrician Loha strips the insulation from a wire with his bare teeth

    In Kanpur, India, a city with 15-hour power outages, an outlaw electrician provides Robin Hood-style services to the poor. Meanwhile, the first female chief of the electricity utility company is on a mission to dismantle the illegal connections for good.

  • Pyangki, the boy monk, looks at the lights of the city.

    A 9-year-old monk has never before left his Bhutanese village perched high in the Himalayas, where the nearest road is a three-day walk. When connected to electricity for the first time, he treks to the nearest city in search of a television, in a story of the bittersweet seduction of technology and progress.