The cast of Served Like a Girl, posing for the Ms Veteran America pageant

Independent Lens Announces Spring 2018 Slate of Award-Winning Films

January 19, 2018 by Independent Lens in Announcements

Independent Lens, which recently won the 2017 IDA Documentary Award for Best Curated Series from the International Documentary Association, now officially announces our March-May 2018 lineup on PBS. Dolores, Peter Bratt’s highly-acclaimed film about activist Dolores Huerta premieres March 27; other highlights include documentaries that dig deep into recent news stories including No Man’s Land, about the 2016 standoff at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; ACORN and the Firestorm, about the controversial sting operation against the community organizing group ACORN; and the ecological thriller What Lies Upstream, an investigation into the 2014 chemical spill that left 300,000 people without drinkable water. Additional films profile writer, farmer and activist Wendell Berry; Iranian rapper Shahin Najafi; women veterans who band together to help their homeless sisters; a Dallas detective agency formed by exonerated men who seek to free other wrongfully convicted prisoners; and an uplifting look at shoe shiners who are taking their profession to the next level.

“From sea to shining sea, our upcoming lineup reflects the vast diversity of our country and its citizens,” said Independent Lens Executive Producer Lois Vossen. “They delve deeply and compassionately into the issues that divide us and those that bring us together. From Oregon to West Virginia, from Kentucky to Texas, these films are a reflection of the way we live today.” Full list of just-announced films below.

The broadcast schedule for March-May 2018 follows:

Dolores by Peter Bratt (Tuesday, March 27, 9-11 p.m. ET). 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 11, the film reveals the raw, personal stakes involved in committing one’s life to social change.

When God Sleeps by Till Schauder (Monday, April 2, 10-11:30 p.m. ET) is a rap-punk rock doc wrapped around a Romeo and Juliet romance. The film tells the story of Iranian musician Shahin Najafi, who is forced into hiding after hardline clerics issue a fatwa for his death, incensed by a rap song that focuses on the oppression of women and human rights abuses. As Shahin risks his life every time he steps on a stage, he tries to establish a life with a woman whose grandfather was handpicked by Ayatollah Khomeini to be the first Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Art of the Shine by Stacey Tenenbaum (Monday, April 9, 10-11 p.m. ET). You might pass them on the sidewalk, at the mall or at the airport. They’re the shoe shiners, purveying an old-school trade that seems like something out of the Mad Men era, out of step with our fast-paced, disposable consumer culture. Yet, to many of the shoe shiners in this joyous and quirky film, shining shoes is a calling and a passion, a way to be one’s own boss and connect with other people. You’ll never look at a shoe shiner the same way again.

A shiner's hand, from Art of the Shine poster art
A shiner’s hand, from Art of the Shine poster art

What Lies Upstream by Cullen Hoback (Monday, April 16, 10-11:30 p.m. ET) travels back to West Virginia to uncover the truth behind the massive chemical spill that left 300,000 people without drinking water. But when Hoback discovers collusion between chemical corporations and the government, the investigation spirals in a new direction and we learn the truth about what lies upstream of us all.

Look & See: Wendell Berry’s Kentucky by Laura Dunn & Jef Sewell (Monday, April 23, 10-11 p.m. ET) is a cinematic portrait of the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America in an era of industrial agriculture, as seen through the mind’s eye of writer, farmer, and activist Wendell Berry. Through his poetic and prescient words and the testimonies of his family and neighbors — all deeply affected by the industrial and economic changes to their agrarian way of life — we see the changing landscapes of rural America and the redemptive beauty in taking the unworn path. Often called “a prophet for rural America,” Berry has long been a voice for communities frequently overlooked by the media.

True Conviction by Jamie Meltzer (Monday, April 30, 10–11:30 p.m. ET). There’s a new detective agency in Dallas, Texas started by a group of exonerated men with decades in prison served between them. Chris Scott was sitting in a support group meeting for men who were bound together by the painful experience of wasting years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, when he was struck by a realization. He and his friends had firsthand knowledge of how wrongful convictions happen. Together, they could start a detective agency to look for innocent people still incarcerated. Calling themselves the “Freedom Fighters,” their goal is to free those who were wrongfully accused and are still behind bars.

No Man’s Land by David Byars (Monday, May 7,10-11:30 p.m ET). In January 2016, armed protestors in Oregon occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to call attention to what they felt was an intrusion by the federal government into their right to make a living. In a larger sense, the “patriot community” introduced itself as disgruntled American citizens with grounds for airing their grievances against a federal government that didn’t have their best interests at heart. The federal government begged to differ. No Man’s Land is an unbiased detailed account of the impasse, displaying unprecedented access to the protagonists, and culminating in a climax that resulted in the arrest and acquittal of occupation leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and left another man dead.

scene from No Man's Land, member of armed standoff in oregon riding horseback with American flag
No Man’s Land

ACORN and the Firestorm by Reuben Atlas and Sam Pollard (Monday, May 21, 10–11:30 p.m. ET). For 40 years, the community-organizing group ACORN sought to empower poor and marginalized communities. Its critics believed ACORN exemplified everything wrong with progressive ideals. In 2008, these competing perceptions exploded on the national stage as Barack Obama was running for president. Fueled by a YouTube video made by amateur undercover journalists, ACORN came under attack. ACORN and the Firestorm goes beyond the 24-hour news cycle and cuts to the heart of the political divide this event represented.

Served Like a Girl by Lysa Heslov (Monday, May 28, 10–11:30 p.m. ET) provides a candid look at several American women as they transition from active duty to civilian life after serving tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wounded U.S. female service personnel often return to a stark reality, one that is rarely discussed or considered. Struggling with PTSD, homelessness, broken families, serious illness, physical injuries, and the aftermath of military sexual abuse, these amazing women find ways to adapt and overcome debilitating challenges through participation in the “Ms. Veteran American” competition.

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