Magic in the Modern Age: Do You (Still) Believe in Magic?

Legendary stage magician and escapologist James “The Amazing” Randi broke out of 22 jails during his career, going so far as to break Harry Houdini’s record of time spent inside a coffin submerged in water (104 minutes to Houdini’s 93). As seen in the film An Honest Liar (which premieres on Independent Lens on PBS Monday, … READ MORE

Independent Lens Film “Tower” Wins 2016 SXSW Grand Jury Prize

Austin was an extremely appropriate place to premiere the film Tower, which revisits the 1966 sniper shootings at the University of Texas at Austin, considered the first mass shooting on a college campus in the United States. Many of the survivors and heroes from that devastating day fifty years ago were on hand to witness the … READ MORE

The Unmaking of: Stories of the Greatest Films Never Made

The “making of” documentary has become a lively subgenre of nonfiction filmmaking, thanks in large part to the explosion of home video and the proliferation of cable channels in the past few decades. Once a purely promotional creation to run in theaters or on entertainment TV shows, the mix of behind-the-scene peeks, production footage, and … READ MORE

Documentaries for Movie Geeks: Films About Films

Once you’ve watched a beloved movie two or three times, you start to crave a little more information about the film’s conception, production, and cultural impact, among other things. So you hit the internet to read a few articles or (hey!) check out the DVD audio commentary that you’d totally forgotten about. And then there … READ MORE

Update on Fihi from In Football We Trust

Those who saw the Independent Lens film In Football We Trust will remember one of the four student-athletes featured in the film, “Fihi” Kaufusi, who was trying to fight through a rough upbringing to make it as a football player. We wanted to update you on a awful, dramatic, tragic turn to Fihi’s story, as the former Weber State … READ MORE

June Cross Tells the Story of a Family Fighting HIV in South Carolina

June Cross, who has two national Emmys and two duPont-Columbia Journalism Awards to her credit and is the founder of the Documentary Program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, has always been interested in documenting families and issues of public health. Both converge in the most moving of ways for her new film Wilhemina’s … READ MORE

African Americans Hit Hardest by HIV in the South

While HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence to the same extent it was 20 years ago, 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with HIV each year, and the disparities are startling when broken down by race, gender, and region. As reflected in June Cross’s film Wilhemina’s War [premieres February 29; check local listings], which puts a human … READ MORE

Lyric Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe Capture an FBI Informant

To do a film about an undercover FBI anti-terror sting is already tricky territory to navigate, but filmmakers Lyric Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe infiltrated even deeper. In (T)ERROR, they gained unprecedented access to an FBI informant, for a documentary Brian Tallerico (on RogerEbert.com) called “a fascinating piece of work that approaches CITIZENFOUR in its deconstruction of governmental failure and … READ MORE

Take this Quiz on the War on Terror

Everything changed in the United States on September 11, 2001. While in the aftermath of those attacks much of the focus in what President George W. Bush called the “War on Terror” was on the Middle East, the efforts to thwart terrorism on American soil were obviously stepped up to a great degree. From the controversial USA PATRIOT … READ MORE

A Former FBI Agent Talks About Handling Informants

Since 2009, paid FBI informants have played a central role in nearly 50% of all domestic terrorism cases. Informants, who can earn up to $100,000 per case, are instructed to build relationships with persons of interest. The film (T)ERROR [premiering on PBS February 22; check local listings] focuses on one of these informants, operating under the pseudonym Shariff, who … READ MORE

Black Panthers and Black Lives Matter Quiz

It was 50 years ago that the Black Panther Party, originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was formed in Oakland, California by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. The Black Panther Party organized armed citizens’ patrols to monitor the behavior of local police and to challenge police brutality in Oakland. As detailed in Stanley Nelson’s film The Black … READ MORE