From RealScreen: Archive masterclass on making “Let the Fire Burn”

The aftermath of the fire on Osage Avenue in May, 1985.  Let the Fire Burn.

Super piece by Adam Benzine on Let the Fire Burn‘s extensive, exhaustive archival process, with insight from filmmaker Jason Osder: “Archive masterclass: Making Let the Fire Burn.”  The film had its television premiere on Independent Lens in May.

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PBS Online Film Festival (Including Independent Lens Shorts)



For the third year running, the PBS Online Film Festival is happening as we speak. Two excellent short films are representing Independent Lens as part of the line-up: Tryouts, by Susana Casares [official site], and Border Bedazzlers, by Grace Jackson [official Facebook page].

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The Winner of 2013-2014 Independent Lens Audience Award Is…

Don't Stop Believin' Audience Award Winner

The votes are in and Independent Lens viewers have spoken! Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey is the winner of the Independent Lens 2013-2014 Audience Award. Congratulations to filmmaker Ramona S. Diaz and her team. The music-filled film [official site] about Journey’s new lead singer Arnel Pineda’s hard road to stardom charmed both fans of the band and those much less familiar with the story.

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POV Season Premiere!

When I Walk

When I Walk

While the 2013-2014 Independent Lens season has now wound down to a close (the final film of the season The New Black just had its broadcast premiere last week), we’re not going to hang our heads about it. Namely, because as we transition into a break, our friends at POV are just heating up for summer, with another fantastic season of acclaimed documentaries. The 27th season of POV begins today, Monday, June 23, 2014 at 10 pm (check local listings) on PBS and continues with regular broadcasts through September 2014. As always, (and to borrow from the POV blog), the “POV slate features films from around the globe that are a feast for the eyes as well as the mind.”

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Rest in Peace, Jimmy Scott

Jimmy Scott, at a jazz club in NYC, 2004

Jimmy Scott, at a jazz club in NYC, 2004

Jazz vocalist Jimmy Scott, the subject of the Independent Lens documentary (and 2004 IL Audience Award Winner) Jimmy Scott: If Only You Knew, passed away June 12 at the age of 88.  Scott’s life and career was a real rollercoaster, which started with him singing in the 1940s with Lionel Hampton’s band, falling out of sight until the ’60s, and then finding newfound popularity once again in the ’90s, including singing the song “Sycamore Trees” for David Lynch’s cult TV series Twin Peaks.

There have been quite a few wonderful obituaries written since his passing, including from David Ritz in Rolling Stone, who wrote the biography Faith in Time: The Life of Jimmy Scott:

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Vote for the 2013-2014 Independent Lens Audience Award!

Independent Lens Audience Award graphic

Now that the Independent Lens 2013-2014 season is officially concluded, voting for the Audience Award is heating up.

If you haven’t already, rate and vote for your favorite films from this past season by going to our Audience Awards page. In order to avoid ballot box stuffing, once your vote is recorded for a given film, you will not be able to vote for it again from the same ISP.

Deadline for voting is Thursday, June 26. We will close all voting at 4 pm PT/7 pm ET.

Last year’s Audience Award winner was The Revisionaries, and you can read more about that here.

We hope you enjoyed the incredibly diverse slate of films that comprised this season and thank you for watching! Now’s the time to share the love for your favorites.

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The New Black: Yoruba Richen Expands the Conversation on Marriage Equality

Filmmaker Yoruba Richen

Filmmaker Yoruba Richen

Yoruba Richen brings to her films a diverse perspective coming from a multifaceted background, all of which came into play when making her new documentary The New Black. The film has the honor of concluding Independent Lens’s 2013-2014 season with a broadcast television premiere this coming Sunday, June 15 at 10:30 pm [note the special day and time; check your local listings]. “As The New Black shows repeatedly and so compellingly,” wrote Cynthia Fuchs of PopMatters, “the intersections of faith and identity, community and individuality, are constantly changing, over time and across places.” The film is “essential viewing,” adds Martin Tsai in The L.A. Times.

Richen spoke with us over the phone about the path she traversed to get to The New Black. [See also her very recent TED talk, "What the Gay Rights Movement Learned from the Civil Rights Movement."]

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LGBT Pride: Movies That Rocked Their World


June is LGBT Pride Month, and traditionally it’s been both a time for reflection on gay history and struggles (originally created to commemorate the Stonewall riots of June 1969), along with a colorful, pride-ful celebration of many important achievements and milestones. Since Independent Lens is naturally a film-centric space, we decided to honor the occasion by reaching out to a few filmmakers who’ve made documentaries for Independent Lens, asking them to contribute their own picks for the gay-themed films (features or documentaries) that affected them most profoundly. While one important film deservedly gets mentioned twice, it’s an appropriately diverse list.

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Independent Lens Statement on Somaly Mam

Due to the questions that have recently been raised regarding Somaly Mam, one of the women featured in Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, PBS has stopped offering to public television stations episode one of Half the Sky, which included Ms. Mam.

As Newsweek reported on May 21, 2014, elements of Mam’s personal history are under investigation.

On June 7, Nicholas Kristof, who co-wrote the book Half the Sky, fully responded to the news developments surrounding Mam here.

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Filmmaker Roger Ross Williams on God Loves Uganda

street preacher in Uganda

Roger Ross Williams won an Academy Award for his short documentary Music by Prudence, which told the moving story of 21-year-old Zimbabwean singer-songwriter Prudence Mabhena, who was born severely disabled and has struggled to overcome poverty and discrimination. For his first feature-length documentary God Loves Uganda, which itself was on the short list for an Academy Award this year, and premieres on PBS May 19th at 10pm (check local listings), Williams returned to Africa to tell another powerful, if far more chilling, story.

The film is “a searing look at the role of American evangelical missionaries in the persecution of gay Africans,” wrote Jeanette Catsoulis in The New York Times. Adds Andrew Lapin in The Dissolve, “one effective sequence after another carries the alarming sensation of ideological chaos without resorting to technical trickery.” We spoke to the filmmaker about the challenges of making God Loves Uganda and getting it to a wide audience.

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