Still from Blood Brother
Blood Brother

By Elisabeth Copper, Independent Lens Social Media Manager

2014 was a great year for Independent Lens, and we owe it all to our incredible community of viewers and fans. People across the country tuned in to play music alongside the Swampers, investigate the 1985 MOVE bomb tragedy, visit an orphanage in India, and witness the tearful reunion of twin sisters raised apart. Many of you took to social media to share your thoughts about what you saw, and we thought it would be fun to highlight some of the conversations that unfolded.

Without further ado, here are a few of the most buzzed about Independent Lens films on social media this past year.

Blood Brother (Premiered January 20th)

Blood Brother is a portrait of a young man named Rocky Braat traveled to India as a disillusioned tourist. When he met a group of HIV-positive children living in an orphanage, a place of unspeakable hardship, he decided to stay and devote his life to them.

From the moment we started promoting the broadcast, it was clear filmmakers Danny Yourd and Steve Hoover had tapped into something special. Fans who had seen the film in theatres couldn’t stop talking about how powerful it was, and those who hadn’t seen it were eager to see for themselves. Judging by Twitter and Facebook comments, there didn’t seem to be a dry eye in the house the night the film aired on PBS. From grief and sadness to hope and inspiration, Rocky’s story seemed to have a raw, emotional impact on its viewers.

Gregg Allman, in Muscle Shoals
Gregg Allman, in Muscle Shoals

 Muscle Shoals (Premiered April 21st)

Muscle Shoals celebrates Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and the signature sound he developed in seminal songs like “I’ll Take You There,” “Brown Sugar,” and “When a Man Loves a Woman.” He brought white and black musicians together amidst a cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations. Muscle Shoals proved that documentaries can be uplifting — even downright fun.

Audiences tuned in to see their favorite artists in action and because the film featured everyone from The Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin to Bono and Alicia Keys, there was something for everyone to enjoy. The Spotify playlist we created was one of our most popular interactive features of the year, further proving our fans could not get enough of that “Muscle Shoals Sound.” One of our fans described the mood of the film best when she said, “If you’re watching Muscle Shoals and your toes aren’t tapping… Check your pulse!”

Let the Fire Burn (Premiered May 12th)

Using archival news coverage and interviews, Let the Fire Burn brings to life one of the most tumultuous but largely forgotten clashes between government and citizens in modern U.S. history, as a longtime feud between Philadelphia police and the controversial urban group MOVE came to a tragic climax in 1985.

Let the Fire Burn is the perfect example of truth being stranger than fiction. Those who were unfamiliar with the deadly confrontation couldn’t believe what was unfolding. They went online to encourage their networks to watch and see for themselves events overlooked by many history books. Those who recall the story as it originally unfolded had it all vividly brought back to life by the film as it played out on screen, and shared their own experiences and perspectives with us:


Twin Sisters (Premiered October 20th)

Twin Sisters is the story of two girls from China adopted as infants by two separate sets of parents — one from California, the other from a remote fishing village in Norway — who grow up knowing they have a twin living on the other side of the world. Despite the distance and language barrier, the sisters share an unmistakable bond. Mia and Alexandra’s story has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster: a twist of fate, exotic locale, emotional goodbyes, and tearful reunions.

#TwinSistersPBS trended nationally the day the film premiered and thanks to the extended availability of the film online, heartfelt fan comments continue to roll in. Here are just a few of the tweets that pulled at our heartstrings: