A Huge Year for Independent Lens Films

Ai Weiwei and Alison Klayman

Ai Weiwei with filmmaker Alison Klayman. Her film, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, just won a duPont Award, and is shortlisted for an Oscar. The film premieres on Independent Lens in February.

It’s been a banner year for Independent Lens. Our films have scored some of the most highly coveted film awards, honors, and accolades in 2012 – including five of the 15 features on the Academy Awards documentary short list.

“It’s a pinnacle so far for us, and we’re so proud of everyone involved,” says Lois Vossen, Independent Lens senior series producer. “All of this speaks to the extraordinary quality of work being done.”

Lois Vossen

Lois Vossen

Great films don’t just drop out of the sky. The staff of Independent Lens, led by Vossen, sorts through hundreds of films a year to winnow out the chosen few that will eventually be broadcast.

“To find 23 great films, the team watches over 700, and that’s just a small part of the work,” she says. It’s a complicated process that involves dozens of staff members doing everything from setting up initial contracts to dealing with distributors to working with filmmakers so the films will be ready for broadcast.

This intensive and seemingly never-ending process is worth every bit of the energy staff and filmmakers put into it, says Vossen. The films address important issues in a meaningful and in-depth way – something sorely lacking these days, with the painful decrease in investigative journalism in traditional media.

“The films are putting faces on issues and creating a huge public awareness in a way that’s all too rare,” Vossen says.

In the end, that’s really why these awards are so important. It’s not so much the statuette or plaque or mention in a Top-10 list. “It’s about the filmmakers being recognized for their hard work, and about more people being aware of the films and the significant issues they address.”

Here’s a partial list of some of the recognition Independent Lens films received in the past year:

• Academy Awards
One-third of the short list for Best Documentary Feature of 2012 are from Independent Lens. Here’s the complete list, including links to our films:

• Independent Spirit Awards
Five nominees for Best Documentary include two Independent Lens films: The Invisible War and The Waiting Room; Truer-Than-Fiction Award to Peter Nicks, director of The Waiting Room

• duPont Awards
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry won a 2013 duPont Award

• International Documentary Association (IDA) Awards
Five nominees for Best Documentary of 2012 include The Invisible War; Pare Lorentz Award to The Island President; Independent Lens nominated for “Best Continuing Series”

• Sundance Film Festival Awards
Grand Jury Prize: The House I Live In
Audience Award: The Invisible War
Best Editing: Detropia
Special Jury Prize: Love Free or Die

• Gotham Awards
Five nominees for Best Documentary include Detropia and The Waiting Room

• Time magazine
Top 10 Films of 2012” includes just one documentary: The Invisible War

• NPR
Top 10 Documentaries of 2012” includes three Independent Lens films: Seeking Asian Female, The Revisionaries, and The Waiting Room

• The New York Times
Top 11 Films of 2012” includes The Invisible War (one of only two documentaries on the list)

• National Board of Review
Top 5 Documentaries of 2012” includes three Independent Lens films: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Detropia, and The Invisible War

• Washington Post
Top 10 Films of 2012” includes one documentary: The Waiting Room

• Chicago Film Critics Association
Best Documentary of 2012: The Invisible War

• Cinema Eye Awards
Six Best Documentary nominees include Detropia; Best Debut Feature nominees include The Waiting Room; Audience Choice Prize nominees include Beauty is Embarrassing

It’s been a great year. Here’s to 2013!

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