Update on the Twin Sisters from the California Mom

Twin sisters Alexandra and Mia, taken May 2014.

We have an exclusive update on the two twin girls featured in Twin Sisters (the film by Mona Friis Bertheussen premieres on PBS tonight, Monday, October 20, at 10 pm; check local listings), from someone who would know: the mother of one of the girls. Angela Hansen, who lives in Sacramento where she’s raising Mia, now aged 11, e-mailed us with some anecdotes about their lives more recently.  After you watch the film, come back here to read more about what Mia and her Norwegian-based twin sister Alexandra have been up to since the filming stopped. [Read more about the film and their story in The New York Times.]

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From Norway to California: Twin Sisters Filmmaker Captures Sibling Bond

Twin sisters Mia and Alexandra

Making its American television premiere on Independent Lens on PBS this Monday, October 20 [check local listings], Twin Sisters tells the story of the remarkable journey of identical twins, adopted by families from opposite ends of the world who discover their daughters are sisters. The film won the prestigious Audience Award at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, and it’s not hard to see why: it really is an audience-pleaser. We connected with Norwegian filmmaker Mona Friis Bertheussen to learn about her own journey from Fresvik, Norway to Sacramento, California, and back in making Twin Sisters see the light of day. Bertheussen started her career by working for both NRK (Norwegian Public Broadcasting) and TV2 Norway, the biggest commercial TV channel in Norway, and also worked as a news reporter for the national news, before branching off into independent filmmaking. She is based in Oslo, Norway.

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Bully: An Update on Alex

Alex Libby

Alex Libby

A common theme in the numerous comments we’ve received to-date on the film Bully, centers on one of the film’s most moving characters, Alex Libby, a sweet-natured Iowa teen who had been bullied for years. Since many viewers were worried about him and were understandably empathetic, we thought it might be good to give you an update on Alex.

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Kelby Speaks Out on Bullying

By Craig Phillips

Kelby, in the film Bully

Kelby, in the film Bully

Kelby Johnson was one of several students featured in Lee Hirsch’s powerful film Bully, which has its television premiere on Independent Lens tonight, Monday October 13 at 10pm [check local listings]. After coming out as a lesbian as a teenager, Kelby and Kelby’s family were treated as pariahs in their small town of Tuttle, Oklahoma. A one-time all-star athlete, Kelby faced an outpouring of hatred from some classmates as well as teachers, and was eventually forced to give up sports. As seen in the film, the gutsy teenager, bolstered by an adoring girlfriend and a few staunch friends, resolved to stay in Tuttle and change a few minds. Kelby, who has since come out as transgender and continues to be an outspoken advocate for anti-bullying campaigns, sees Bully as a tool to help end the forms of harassment that nearly drove him to suicide.

Kelby took the time out to speak with us over email about his amazing story (both in the film and after it), and the work he’s been doing since.

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Bully: Learn More and Do More about Bullying

Riding the school bus, where bullying is often an issue

Watching Lee Hirsch’s film Bully, which has its television premiere on Independent Lens this Monday October 13 at 10pm [check local listings], is meant to be both an emotional experience and an educational one. But Bully itself is only a start in working towards changing a culture of bullying inside and outside schools. The film’s Bully Project social action campaign is designed to continue the dialogue and further enlighten all of us — parents, educators, students — about what more we can do.

And now along with that, Independent Lens created a Resources page highlighting some of the best tools the Bully Project has to offer, as well as a few other useful places to go to learn more about bullying.

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Independent Lens Wins 3 News & Documentary Emmy Awards

14116_640x304_EMMY_WIN_FINALCover your ears, it’s horn tooting time here! Last night at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards ceremony, Independent Lens films won three Emmy Awards, for Editing; Investigative Journalism, Long-Form; and Best Documentary. Independent Lens had been nominated for 10 News & Doc Emmys overall. [Read more on RealScreen.]

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Independent Lens Announces New Fall Slate

Kelby and friends, Tuttle, Oklahoma, in Bully

From Bully

On the heels of receiving ten News and Documentary Emmy nominations, Independent Lens announced today that its new season will open with the critically-acclaimed documentary Bully. Directed by Sundance and Emmy Award-winner Lee Hirsch, the film brings human scale to this emotional issue, offering an intimate, unflinching look at how the most common form of violence experienced by young people in our nation has touched the lives of five kids and their families. Bully premieres on Monday, October 13, 10:00-11:30 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS.

This fall Independent Lens takes viewers around the globe to explore fascinating human stories, from a tale of twins growing up a world apart, to the role that Japanese cultural attitudes may have played in a devastating train crash, to what will happen in a remote Bhutanese village when television comes to town.
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From Playwright: Rest in peace, Robin Williams, you tiger.

We are as saddened as everyone about the sudden death of actor and comedian extraordinaire Robin Williams. He was one of a kind, and will truly be missed. We were reminded of his participation in last season’s Playwright: From Page to Stage, as a performer in the New York production of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. We give you this video extra featuring Williams rehearsing for the part of, yes, a tiger and tiger’s ghost, a role that now takes on quite a bit of added poignancy.

More viewing and reading:

Watch some of Robin’s best stand-up comedy moments and more (via LAist).

Thoughts from Noel Murray of The Dissolve.

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Around the World in Many Ways with Global Voices

From Here Comes Uncle Joe: Uncle Joe smiles in front of truck.

From Here Comes Uncle Joe

By Misa Oyama, ITVS Staff

Richard Linklater’s new film Boyhood has provoked a lot of interest in its intriguing premise and the background of its production: follow the growth of a character over twelve years, not with different actors, but with the same person as he ages in real time. This is the first time that a narrative film has had the patience to tackle the kind of project well-known in the documentary world. Most notably, Michael Apted’s Up series follows the same people over the course of a lifetime, beginning with a group of 7-year-old British schoolchildren in 1964 and revisiting them every seven years; the most recent installment explores their lives at the age of 56. Filming over a span of years gives audiences a true sense of the passing of time.

Like these films, three documentaries in this summer’s Global Voices series approach the subject of growth and aging, despite vastly different cultural contexts. Each one explores a significant period in a person’s life, from young adulthood to middle age to the final years. You can see a lifetime in My So-Called EnemyMy Perestroika [both available to watch online], and Here Comes Uncle Joe [airing on the WORLD Channel August 31st].

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Archival Treasures

Landing on the moon

We all know the internet is a treasure trove of information (some of it even accurate!), resources, and media. But increasingly it’s become an even more amazing educational tool which brings history alive.

In the age long before reality TV, and even before the term “cinéma vérité” was bandied about more commonly in documentary circles, newsreels and educational films were in large part how people were given glimpses of real life —including real life well outside of their own comfy circles.

Those wanting to learn more both about history, particularly the history of documentary film, will want to bookmark these invaluable resources, starting with “the nation’s record keeper”:

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