Jose and Mr. Ramos

In East of Salinas we met a bright boy and his dedicated teacher, both sons of migrant farm workers. With parents who are busy working long hours in the fields, third grader Jose Ansaldo often turns to his teacher, Oscar Ramos, for guidance. But Jose is undocumented. While he worries more for his parents than … READ MORE

They Call Us Monsters

They Call Us Monsters goes behind the walls of the Compound, a high-security facility where Los Angeles houses its most violent juvenile criminals, to follow three young offenders who sign up to take a screenwriting class with producer Gabe Cowan as they await their respective trials. Arrested at 16, Jarad faces 200 years-to-life for four … READ MORE

Teachers Beat the “Macho Culture” in Prisons through Art Programs

In the early 2000s, Hollywood invested in the urban fairy tale where a teacher is called into the principal’s office of a school in a low-income, broken part of town and is requested to help “build character and morale.” (Think Samuel L. Jackson in Coach Carter, Antonio Banderas in Take the Lead and Hilary Swank … READ MORE

They Call Us Monsters – Juan’s Unrequited Crush – Clip

In this excerpt from the Independent Lens film They Call Us Monsters, teenager Juan, who is incarcerated for 90 years-to-life for first degree murder, talks about the girl he’s had a crush on since kindergarten and may never have a chance to tell her how he really feels given his situation. Juan, who is learning … READ MORE

They Call Us Monsters – Juvenile Prisoners Write Film – Clip

In this scene from the Independent Lens film They Call Us Monsters, filmmaker Gabe Cowan (producer of Cheap Thrills and Just Before I Go) introduces us to the screenwriting class he teaches to a group of incarcerated teen boys housed at a Los Angeles facility for juveniles tried as adults. While they can’t physically leave, … READ MORE

The Last Laugh

The Last Laugh proceeds from the premise that the Holocaust would seem to be an absolutely off-limits topic for comedy. But is it? History shows that even the victims of the Nazi concentration camps themselves used humor as a means of survival and resistance. The Last Laugh weaves together an intimate portrait of Auschwitz survivor … READ MORE

The Last Laugh – From the Holocaust to Rwanda – Clip

In this excerpt from the Independent Lens film The Last Laugh, Holocaust survivor Renee Firestone talks about how her late husband missed some terrible things happening in the modern world, like 9/11, and Rwanda, which she had just visited. “The stories I heard there, also, just unimaginable.” In Rwanda, she notes, 1 million Tutsis were … READ MORE

The Last Laugh – Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Comedy and Darkness – Clip

In this excerpt from the Independent Lens film The Last Laugh, writer/director/comedian Mel Brooks (who does his Hitler impression), director Rob Reiner and his dad Carl Reiner, actor and Holocaust survivor Robert Klary, and comedians Sarah Silverman and Judy Gold all talk about the importance of humor on taboo topics like the Holocaust. Gold says … READ MORE

The Last Laugh – My Revenge Against Hitler – Clip

In this excerpt from the Independent Lens film The Last Laugh, Holocaust survivors Elly Gross and Renee Firestone take an indoor gondola ride at Las Vegas’ Venetian Hotel serenaded by “Volare,” but Elly admits she cannot enjoy it because she feels guilt for all those who did not survive Auschwitz and cannot be there to … READ MORE

The Last Laugh – Trailer

The Last Laugh proceeds from the premise that the Holocaust would seem to be an absolutely off-limits topic for comedy. But is it? History shows that even the victims of the Nazi concentration camps themselves used humor as a means of survival and resistance. The Last Laugh weaves together an intimate portrait of Auschwitz survivor … READ MORE

Newtown – Nicole Hockley Remembers Dylan – Clip

In this excerpt from the Independent Lens film Newtown, Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was one of the schoolchildren killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, recalls the painful process of denial and acceptance after Dylan’s death. “Something’s gotta be wrong,” she recalls saying, “this can’t be.” Even after seeing her son’s body she … READ MORE

Newtown Full Film

Newtown explores the aftermath of the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 first-graders and six of their educators were killed on December 14, 2012.