Airing weekly on PBS, the five-time Emmy Award-winning series Independent Lens is an independent film festival in your living room. The acclaimed anthology series features documentaries united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement, and unflinching visions of independent filmmakers.

“In our first 10 years, Independent Lens has brought more than 275 films to PBS,” said Lois Vossen, Independent Lens series producer. “The stories and storytellers we continue to champion make the series the most diverse on television. We feature films that look at the most important issues of our time, as well as audience favorites from film festivals across the country. Our goal is to help viewers better understand today’s complex world by taking them to places they wouldn’t otherwise see, and encounter people they wouldn’t otherwise meet.”

On this page: The Island President | Deep Down | A Village Called Versailles | Dirt! The Movie | Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai The Real Dirt on Farmer John | Revenge of the Electric Car | Garbage Dreams

The Island President

Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected president of the Republic of MaldivesPremiering April 22, 2013, Jon Shenk’s The Island President is the story of Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives, a tropical Shangri-La of breathtakingly beautiful turquoise reefs, beaches, and palm trees. But, despite its idyllic appearance, the country is threatened by an implacable and unrelenting adversary: the rising ocean. Considered the lowest lying country in the world, the Maldives would be rendered virtually uninhabitable by a sea level rise of a mere three meters. Unless dramatic changes are made by the larger countries of the world, the 1200 islands of the Maldives will disappear under the waves like a modern day Atlantis. Can one courageous leader stand up to the rest of the world and make a difference on climate change?


Deep Down

Coal mining billboardDeep in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky, Beverly May and Terry Ratliff find themselves at the center of a contentious community battle over a proposed mountaintop removal coal mine. Through the richly nuanced story of Beverly May and Terry Ratliff, Deep Down explores issues of environment, economics, public policy, and culture, revealing the devastating impact of our energy consumption against an explosive backdrop: Appalachia’s centuries-old struggle over the black rock that fuels our planet.


A Village Called Versailles

Hai Au Huynh and US Congressman Anh "Joseph" Cao protesting outside of New Orleans City Hall, 2006A Village Called Versailles is the empowering story of how an isolated community in eastern New Orleans, originally settled over 30 years ago by Vietnamese “boat people,” turned a devastating disaster into a catalyst for change and a better future. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Versailles residents impressively rose to the challenge by returning and rebuilding before most other neighborhoods in New Orleans, only to have their homes threatened by a proposed toxic landfill just two miles away.


Dirt! The Movie

Slow food founder Carlo Petrini: healthy food = healthy dirtJust one teaspoon of dirt contains an amazing billion organisms, all working in remarkable balance to maintain and sustain a series of complex, thriving communities that impact our daily lives. Inspired by William Bryant Logan’s acclaimed book Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, Dirt! The Movie deftly combines science and humor as it digs into the history and current state of the living organic matter from which we come from and where we will one day return. An eclectic group of passionate dirt lovers ranging from biologists to Rikers Island convicts, and from activists to Nobel Laureates offer answers to problems and inspire us to clean up the mess that we’ve created.


Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai

Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai tells the story of the Green Belt Movement of Kenya and its founder Wangari Maathai, the first environmentalist and first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Inspiring and uplifting, Maathai helps a young girl water the land in the Aberdare Forest, Kenyathe film tells the story of a woman whose stand for peace and justice was as strong and immovable as the trees she planted. The wisdom of Maathai was that she understood the intrinsic connection between her people and the natural environment, an environment that had dramatically eroded through decades of British colonialization, poverty, civil war, and the Kenyans’ own exploitation and mismanagement of resources. But by planting trees, Matthai and the rural women she worked with were able to restore not only the land, but also their culture, their heritage—even their lifeblood.


The Real Dirt on Farmer John

Organic farmer John Peterson smells a shallot root.Noticing the ongoing multinational takeover of American farming and betting instead on the future of organic produce, John Peterson abandons conventional chemical farming and fights local hysteria to build a thriving organic farm and a progressive farm community, naming the farm Angelic Organics. “I realized that my whole life had been about community—enabling people, bringing them to the farm, working and playing together, sharing the farm experience.” The story of Angelic Organics’ success as a CSA farm over the last 15 years is the final delight of The Real Dirt on Farmer John. A multi-faceted enterprise, the farm now provides fresh organic produce for 1,200 shareholder families, on-site educational programs, employment opportunities for people who truly want to get back to the earth—including Farmer John.

Revenge of the Electric Car

In Revenge of the Electric Car, director Greg "Gadget" Abbott showing the batteries of his converted carChris Paine takes us behind the closed doors of Nissan, GM, Tesla Motors, and the garage of an independent car converter to tell the story of four leaders behind the global comeback for the electric car. With almost every major carmaker now announcing plug-in models, Revenge of the Electric Car follows the race to be the first, the most exhilarating, and the fastest to break the world’s addiction to fossil fuels.


Garbage Dreams

Filmed over four years, Garbage Dreams goes inside Adham and Nabil carrying garbagethe world of Egypt’s Zaballeen (Arabic for ‘garbage people’) to reveal the lives of two teenage boys born into the trash trade. For generations, the residents of Cairo have depended on the Zaballeen to collect their trash, paying them only a minimal amount for their garbage collection services. These entrepreneurial garbage workers survive by recycling 80 percent of all the garbage they collect, creating what is arguably the world’s most efficient waste disposal system. Recycling to lift themselves out of poverty, the Zaballeen have, through necessity, devised ingenious solutions to one of the world’s most pressing problems.