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TOPIC: Identity

Following the Journey of Interpreters We Left Behind

Filmmakers Andrés Caballero and Sofian Khan‘s previous feature-length collaboration Gaucho del Norte, which made its broadcast premiere on public television’s America ReFramed series, followed the journey of a Patagonian immigrant sheepherder recruited to work in the American West. With The Interpreters, the duo took a different journey to capture a riskier immigration experience, the story of how Afghan and Iraqi … READ MORE

How the Burning of the Bronx Led to the Birth of Hip-Hop

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, a geographer and writer who co-edited, with Rebecca Solnit, the remarkable, fascinating book Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, helped us create a playlist to accompany both Decade of Fire and a key map in his book: “Burning Down and Rising Up: The Bronx in the 1970s.” That map puts a geographic spin on … READ MORE

Decade of Fire Filmmakers Change the Narrative About the South Bronx

The three-headed team as it were, of co-directors Vivian Vázquez Irizarry and Gretchen Hildebran, and producer Julia Steele Allen, each brought something different and special to the table in the making of the film Decade of Fire, which tells the shocking but untold piece of American urban history, when the South Bronx was on fire … READ MORE

Space Scientists of Color, and the “Afronauts”

What drives humankind to explore? There are several factors that can embolden a person to “seek out new civilizations” or “boldly go where no one has gone before,” to borrow from Star Trek’s famous opener. History has taught us that famine, war, strife, and persecution can drive people away from their home country, yet positive things like opportunity or hope for a better life can draw us towards the unknown. READ MORE

Motherhood: The Universal Story, in Films


Motherhood is universal – none of us would be here without our moms. For some, that relationship is loving and supportive; for others, it’s fraught with complications. Especially if Mom is famous or trying to change the world. Or both.

These filmmakers examine what it means to be a mother, a daughter, and a woman in a not always kind world. READ MORE

Harvest Season’s Historical Roots: Latinos in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys

Harvest Season serves as a reminder that agriculture is notoriously sensitive to the ebb and flow of external forces — natural disasters, economic movements, and political change. Filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz artfully depicts the Sonoma and Napa wine industry as a modern microcosm for this ever-changing delicate balance. But the small-scale cycles presented in Harvest Season naturally beg a historical question. What past iterations of turmoil brought the winemaking industry in Sonoma and Napa to where it is today?

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Bernardo Ruiz Tells Story of the Central Role Latinos Play in California Wine Industry

Two-time Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz, who was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and grew up in Brooklyn, made his directorial feature debut with the PBS film Reportero, about attacks on the press in Mexico, which New York Magazine called “a powerful reminder of how journalism often requires immense amounts of physical and psychological bravery.” He’s followed that up with … READ MORE

Filmmaker Follows Incarcerated Native Hawaiians Discovering Their Indigenous Traditions

Native Hawaiian filmmaker Ciara Lacy has had her work aired on PBS, ABC, TLC, Discovery, Bravo and A&E, and was an inaugural Sundance Institute Merata Mita Fellow for Indigenous Artists. A graduate of Yale and Hawai’i’s Kamehameha Schools, Lacy’s first documentary short, shot for the Guardian Online, chronicled a unique homeless encampment in Hawai’i and yielded over … READ MORE

Native Hawaiian Prisoners Learn Their Culture While Far From Home

By Christine Hitt The Independent Lens documentary Out of State follows Native Hawaiian exiting inmates, who were sent out of Hawai‘i to a private prison in Arizona, and how they struggle to transition into society again once their term is done. For close to 25 years, Hawai‘i has been sending prisoners to the continental U.S. … READ MORE

Stepping Up for Homeless Black People in Oakland

By Pendarvis Harshaw The Independent Lens documentary Charm City brings to mind the long list of urban American cities that fall into the same category as the Baltimore seen in that film: Detroit, Newark, Compton, and Oakland, to name a few. They’re all post-industrial towns, where the closure of factories, underfunding of public education and … READ MORE

Filmmaker Spotlights Unsung Neighbors Lifting Up Baltimore

Marilyn Ness is a two-time Emmy, Peabody, and DuPont Award-winning filmmaker, who has produced films like the acclaimed Cameraperson (dir. Kirsten Johnson), which was released by the Criterion Collection and shortlisted for an Oscar; Trapped (dir. Dawn Porter; Independent Lens), which won a Peabody; and the Independent Lens film 1971, which was nominated for an Emmy. … READ MORE