Independent Lens’ new season is here and so take a peek at the unforgettable, award-winning films that make up the first half of the 2017-2018 slate.
We open on Monday, November 6 with Chasing Trane, John Scheinfeld’s portrait of legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, featuring Denzel Washington speaking the words of Coltrane. Other highlights of the Fall 2017-Winter 2018 lineup include Raoul Peck’s Academy Award-nominated I Am Not Your Negro; Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges & Universities, the latest film from Stanley Nelson (The Black Panthers) and Marco Williams; Jennifer M. Kroot’s The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin, a fascinating look at the life and times of the groundbreaking creator of “Tales of the City”; Peter Nicks’ The Force, an inside look at Oakland’s troubled police department; and Peter Bratt’s Dolores, a moving portrait of pioneering labor and women’s rights activist Dolores Huerta.
“We are living in a Golden Age of social issue documentaries,” says series Executive Producer Lois Vossen. “Audiences want information they can trust, and human stories like the ones we showcase on Independent Lens help them make sense of local, national and international events. We’re coming into this season confident that audiences appreciate our films – our ratings have climbed steadily, rising 44% over the last five years, which highlights that public media is still the best home for outstanding documentaries.”
This year, three Independent Lens films made the Academy Award Documentary shortlist, including nominee I Am Not Your Negro, which will have its broadcast premiere on Monday, January 15, 2018. And, ITVS, the nonprofit organization that incubates and co-produces many of the films that air on Independent Lens, was honored with an Institutional Peabody Award in May.
Independent Lens continues to lead the way in innovation with the Independent Lens Documentary Desk that brings new audiences to its content through broadcasts and streaming, publishing short videos with local and national journalism outlets from the Washington Post and The Atlantic to the Texas Tribune and The Tennessean, and on public television station websites and Facebook feeds.
The broadcast schedule for November 2017-February 2018 follows; additional spring titles will be announced late fall:
Chasing Trane by John Scheinfeld (Monday, November 6, 10:00-11:30 p.m.)
From his childhood in the Jim Crow South to his hallowed tenure with Miles Davis — which pushed him to conquer his heroin addiction — to his triumphant run as leader of one of jazz’s most revered quartets, Chasing Trane digs deep, chronicling jazz great John Coltrane’s harrowing lows and interstellar highs. Featuring Carlos Santana, President Bill Clinton, Common, Wynton Marsalis, Cornel West, Sonny Rollins, and Denzel Washington speaking the words of John Coltrane.
Shadow World by Johan Grimonprez (Monday, November 20, 9:30-11:00 p.m.)
Shadow World reveals the shocking realities of the global arms trade — the only business that counts its profits in billions and its losses in human lives. The film features the insights of whistleblowers, investigators, prosecutors, military, and industry insiders to explore how the international trade in weapons fosters corruption, determines economic and foreign policies, undermines democracies and creates widespread suffering.
Supergirl by Jessie Auritt (Monday, December 18, 10:00-11:30 p.m.)
Naomi Kutin seems like a typical Orthodox Jewish preteen from New Jersey, until her extraordinary talent — breaking world powerlifting records — turns her into an international phenomenon and transforms her family. Supergirl follows Naomi’s unique coming-of-age as she fights to hold on to her title while navigating the perils of adolescence. Can she still be “Supergirl” if she can no longer break world records?
The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin by Jennifer M. Kroot (Monday, January 1, 10:30 p.m-12:00 a.m.)
This portrait of the creator of “Tales of the City” examines the life and work of the groundbreaking storyteller, following his evolution from a conservative son of the Old South into a gay rights pioneer whose novels have inspired millions. With help from his friends, including Neil Gaiman, Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Sir Ian McKellen, and Amy Tan, Maupin offers a disarmingly frank look at the journey that took him from the jungles of Vietnam to the bathhouses of ’70s San Francisco to the front lines of the American culture war.
Unrest by Jennifer Brea (Monday, January 8, 10:00-11:30 p.m.)
Jennifer Brea was studying for her PhD when, months before her wedding, she became progressively ill and finally bedridden. When told by her doctor it was “all in her head,” her response was to start filming other sufferers from her bed, gradually deploying crews globally to document the patients that medicine forgot. Unrest gives voice to the millions suffering from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) — commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome — telling the stories of people struggling to make a life of meaning when everything changes.
I Am Not Your Negro by Raoul Peck (Monday, January 15, 9:00-10:30 p.m.)
One of the most acclaimed films of the year and an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary, I Am Not Your Negro envisions the book James Baldwin never finished, a revolutionary and personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words (read by Samuel L. Jackson).
The Force by Peter Nicks (Monday, January 22, 9:00-10:30 p.m.)
The Force goes deep inside the long-troubled Oakland Police Department as it struggles to confront federal demands for reform, a popular uprising following events in Ferguson, Missouri, and an explosive scandal. Filmed over the course of several years, The Force is the second film in Nicks’ Oakland trilogy; Nicks won the Best Director Award, US Documentary, for the film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Winnie by Pascal Lamche (Monday, February 5, 10:00-11:30 p.m.)
Winnie Mandela is one of the most controversial, misunderstood, and intriguing contemporary political figures. Her rise and seeming fall from grace bear the hallmarks of epic tragedy. Winnie pieces together and considers her life and contribution to the struggle to bring down Apartheid from the inside, with intimate insight from those who were closest to her and testimony from the enemies who sought to extinguish her radical capacity to shake up the order of things.
Rat Film by Theo Anthony (Monday, February 26, 10:00-11:00 p.m.)
Across walls, fences, and alleys, rats not only expose our boundaries of separation but make homes in them. Rat Film is a provocative documentary that uses the rat — as well as the humans who love them, live with them, and kill them — to explore the history of Baltimore.
Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges & Universities by
Stanley Nelson and Marco Williams (Monday, February 19, 9:00 p.m.-10:30 p.m.)
This film and interactive project explores the pivotal role that historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have played in American history, culture, and national identity. Today, over half of all African American professionals are graduates of HBCUs. Tell Them We Are Rising explores the rich history of HBCUs and the power of higher education to transform lives and advance civil rights and equality in the face of injustice.
Dolores by Peter Bratt (Monday, March 27, 9:00-10:30 p.m.)
Dolores Huerta is among the most important, yet least-known, activists in American history. An equal partner in co-founding the first farmworkers union with Cesar Chavez, her enormous contributions have gone largely unrecognized. Dolores tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice alongside Chavez, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the 20th century — and she continues the fight to this day, at the age of 87. With intimate and unprecedented access to this intensely private mother of eleven, the film reveals the raw, personal stakes involved in committing one’s life to social change.