The upcoming slate of films airing on Independent Lens on PBS starts in January with seven highly-acclaimed documentaries that reflect the ever-changing nature of the United States, highlighting women who led the way in workplace sexism —in offices, NFL playing fields, and police forces — as well as telling the stories of a trailblazer in public television, those doing groundbreaking work on prejudice in artificial intelligence, and the complicated relationship between American evangelicals and Israeli Jews.
“This Independent Lens lineup offers a stimulating and immersive slate of films that illuminate the powerful forces impacting our country today,” said Lois Vossen, executive producer of Independent Lens. “From gender equality, to pay equity, to racial justice, there is an urgency, grace, and optimism to these documentaries and the topics they take on that is suited to the challenging times in which we live.”
Here’s a sneak preview of the films airing January through March 2021.
A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem (January 4)
A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem sheds light on the continued fight to end the gender pay gap prevalent throughout the National Football League. For over 50 years, the NFL has employed cheerleaders—women who are lifelong athletes expected to both maintain a peak physical condition and fulfill extreme beauty standards. Many of these athletes have been historically underpaid, with some earning as little as $5 an hour, while others are never paid a salary at all. A Woman’s Work, by Yu Gu, chronicles the journeys of cheerleaders from the Raiders and the Buffalo Bills, each of whom put their careers on the line to take legal action and fight for fair pay.
A Day in the Life of America (January 11)
Director Jared Leto crafts a sweeping yet intimate cross-section of America shot on a single July 4th in 2017 with 92 film crews fanning out across each of the United States and Puerto Rico to capture A Day in the Life of America. A gargantuan production shot over a single 24 hour period across the country, the film weaves a wide range of beliefs and backgrounds into a rich tapestry of life.
9to5: Story of a Movement (February 1)
When Dolly Parton sang “9 to 5,” she was singing about a real movement that started with a group of secretaries in the early 1970s. Their goals were simple—better pay, more advancement opportunities, and an end to sexual harassment—but as seen in 9to5: The Story of a Movement, their fight that inspired a hit would change the American workplace forever. From the team behind the Oscar-winning American Factory.
Women in Blue (February 8)
In the years leading up to the murder of George Floyd, four female Minneapolis police officers believe gender equity in the force can change the culture of policing in a department that would soon become a worldwide emblem of state violence. “An unflinching study of a complex situation, showing gray areas where often only black and white are seen.” (Boston Globe)
Mr. SOUL! (February 22)
In 1968, producer Ellis Haizlip developed a new show aimed at Black audiences, one that used the familiar variety-show format to display and celebrate the breadth of Black culture. For five years, the public television series SOUL! highlighted Black literature, music, and politics, and often paired guests in unexpected juxtapositions that gave them an opportunity to shine in unique ways. The documentary Mr. SOUL! received five Critics’ Choice Documentary Award nominations.
Coded Bias (March 22)
When MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini discovers that the majority of most facial-recognition software does not accurately identify darker-skinned faces, she embarks on an investigation that uncovers widespread bias lurking in the algorithms that shapes the technology powering our lives.
‘Til Kingdom Come (March 29)
Pastors encourage an impoverished Kentucky community, “The forgotten people of America,” to donate to Israel in anticipation of Jesus’s impending return. This documentary by Maya Zinshtein (Forever Pure) exposes the controversial bond between Evangelicals and Jews in a story of faith, power, and money.