“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming,” wrote poet Pablo Neruda.
Spring has indeed come, and with it an amazing set of documentaries that will round out the rest of this season of Independent Lens. The critically acclaimed, award-winning films coming your way starting next week, and into June, will take you on an incredible journey in your living room. Travel from China to the island of Rapa Nui, from small-town Texas to Philadelphia — and inward, on real-life personal pilgrimages that are unlike any you’ve seen before.
“Communities in large cities and small rural towns alike continue to change, as has always been the case in a nation of immigrants,” said Lois Vossen, the series’ Executive Producer. “As the makeup of our neighborhoods evolve, so, too, do ideals and beliefs. Our job at Independent Lens is to encourage storytelling that opens up a dialogue on relevant, even taboo topics such as climate change, mental health, the homeless crisis, and how the media shapes our political beliefs. We also celebrate individual mavericks whose visionary work changed millions of lives. Their perseverance inspires us, even in difficult times.”
Films making their broadcast debuts from April through June include Bedlam, an intimate examination of the mental health crisis in America, the critically acclaimed The Hottest August, which paints a portrait of collective anxiety around the looming threat of climate change, and Jim Allison: Breakthrough, which chronicles the work of the Nobel Prize-winning visionary doctor who discovered a way to defeat cancer.
Here are all the films coming your way beginning March 30:
One Child Nation (March 30) – China’s one-child policy, the extreme population control measure that made it illegal for couples to have more than one child, may have ended in 2015, but the process of dealing with the trauma of its brutal enforcement is only just beginning. From award-winning documentarian Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, One Child Nation explores the ripple effects of this devastating social experiment, uncovering one shocking human rights violation after another. Called “urgent and affecting” by Entertainment Weekly, “important” by the Washington Post, and a film that “needs to be seen” by the Wall Street Journal.
In Bedlam (April 13), documentarian Kenneth Paul Rosenberg M.D. chronicles the personal, poignant stories of those suffering from serious mental illness, including his own family, to bring to light to this epidemic and possible solutions. Heralded by The Hollywood Reporter as “a damning indictment and a call to action,” and “lucid, harrowing and urgent,” Bedlam takes viewers inside Los Angeles County’s overwhelmed and vastly under-resourced psych ER, a nearby jail warehousing thousands of psychiatric patients, and the homes — and homeless encampments — of people affected by severe mental illness, where silence and shame often worsen the suffering.
The Hottest August (April 20) has been heralded as one of the top films of 2019 by Rolling Stone, Slate, and Vanity Fair, among others. Brett Story’s documentary raises the specter of climate change without ever mentioning it, spotlighting ordinary New Yorkers as they share their anxieties about the future and brace for what could be one of the hottest months on record. “Most climate change documentaries approach the issue from a place of hysteria, overwhelming audiences with statistics and doom-and-gloom scenarios, whereas Story attempts to reframe the subject from a different perspective.” (Variety)
Jim Allison: Breakthrough (April 27) – Narrated by Woody Harrelson and selected as one of the Ten Best Films of 2019 by the Washington Post, who praised it as “absorbing, gracefully constructed and deeply moving,” Bill Haney’s film traces the remarkable life of Nobel Prize-winning Jim Allison from his small-town Texas boyhood to becoming a world-renowned doctor whose bold and painstaking research into cancer treatment went on to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
Rewind (May 11) – Filmmaker Sasha Joseph Neulinger revisits his childhood in Philadelphia through old home movies, revealing the secret that tore apart his seemingly perfect world. “A deeply personal, revealing, and unforgettable piece of filmmaking,” wrote Brian Tallerico for RogerEbert.com. “Neulinger’s courageous documentary transcends his own specific story to become something greater about healing, cycles of abuse, and how closely we have to listen to our children and watch their behavior in order to protect them.”
Eating Up Easter (May 25) – Threatened by climate change and globalization, remote Rapa Nui (“Easter Island”) in the Pacific Ocean provides a wakeup call for the rest of the world as filmmakers Sergio Mata’u Rapu & Elena Kouneski Rapu examine the clash between growth and sustainability faced by communities worldwide. “A lush achievement,” wrote David Lipset in Oceania Journal. “Ranks among the most effective and affective movies of its kind that I have seen in the past in several years.”
Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project (June 15) – Marion Stokes secretly recorded American television 24 hours a day for 30 years, from 1975 until her death in 2012, in hopes that a comprehensive archive of the media would one day be invaluable. Now, through the life of Stokes and her tapes, filmmaker Matt Wolf gives an eye-opening glimpse into how television shaped–and continues to shape–our world. “Eye-opening documentary,” wrote Robert Abele in the LA Times, “more than its occasional resemblance to a very special episode of Hoarders, Wolf’s strange, sad and finally exhilarating portrait is one of radical consumerism turned into a searchable legacy — the viewer as activist.”
Pipe Dreams (June 22) – In this delightful, music-filled documentary, filmmaker Stacey Tenenbaum (The Art of the Shine) follows four young organists as they tirelessly train and compete to win the Canadian International Organ Competition. “Gripping… surprisingly high-stakes documentary,” wrote Sarah Melton for Exclaim. “For each musician, the prospect of winning looms as large as the great Casavant organ at Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica that they perform on. Of course, the challenging music booming through its 7000 pipes doesn’t hurt the drama, either.”