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"It is shown that history repeats itself if we don't learn from it." This season, from fall to spring, Independent Lens presents a new group of impressive films that delve deep into the most pressing issues facing our nation, through the eyes of some of the most talented and incisive documentary filmmakers working today.
An unlikely duo discovers a pattern of illegal sterilizations in women’s prisons, shielded by prison officials and doctors, and wage a near-impossible battle against the Department of Corrections. Belly of the Beast exposes modern-day eugenics and reproductive injustice in California prisons, through intimate accounts from currently and formerly incarcerated people.
In Jonathan Scott's Power Trip, the HGTV home makeover guru shines a light on the obstacles and opportunities for America’s solar industry, following fossil fuel monopolies that halt the growth of renewable energy while visiting with politicians, coal miners, solar panel installers, the Navajo Nation building its own solar plant, and others at the forefront of the battle for energy freedom.
Represent follows three women running for office in the heart of the Midwest leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, as they take on entrenched local political networks and fight to reshape politics on their own terms.
Feels Good Man is the story of how artist Matt Furie, creator of a once-benign comic character named Pepe the Frog, fought an uphill battle to reclaim his iconic creation from those who turned it into a symbol of hate. Feels Good Man is a thought-provoking, wild ride through an Internet that transformed an unlucky cartoon frog, and then the rest of the world.
Pipe Dreams challenges preconceived notions about an age-old instrument—the pipe organ—while introducing viewers to a new generation of passionate, talented young organists in the intense lead up to the Canadian International Organ Competition (CIOC), widely regarded as the Olympics for organ music and which attracts virtuosi under the age 35 from all over the world. Who will come out on top?
In this excerpt from Pipe Dreams, talented young organists competing in the intense Canadian International Organ Competition (CIOC) in Montreal practice, practice, practice, and even do physical workouts. Anything to get ahead of the competition, including bringing out their inner craziness, for what is widely regarded as the Olympics for organ music.
In this excerpt from Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, activist and prolific archivist Marion Stokes first becomes cognizant of the power of television to inform —or misinform—people when she starts appearing on a Philadelphia public access current affairs show in the late '60s. Stokes' realization of the power of mass media to affect public opinion was well ahead of the curve.
A fiercely intelligent activist who became a wealthy recluse in her later years, Marion Stokes was dedicated to furthering and protecting the truth — so much so that she recorded American television 24 hours a day for over 30 years. Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project peels back the curtain on her life, through a mix of Stokes’ archive of recordings and interviews with those who knew her best.
More than just a picture-perfect postcard of iconic stone statues, Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, is a microcosm of a planet in flux. Directed by native Rapa Nui filmmaker Sergio Mata’u Rapu, Eating Up Easter explores the challenges his people are facing, and the intergenerational fight to preserve their culture and a beloved environment against a modernizing society and booming tourism trade.
In this excerpt from Eating Up Easter, isolated Rapa Nui or Easter Island, 2,500 miles from the mainland, has to find creative solutions (like shipping recycling out) to get rid of excess trash piling up from the throngs of tourists who visit -- only to find the planet brings even more trash back to the island's shores sent by ocean currents.
In this excerpt from Rewind, filmmaker Sasha Neulinger and his mother revisit his childhood through powerful home movies to pinpoint the period he went from outgoing, gifted kindergartner to sullen first-grader.
Made up of home video footage that reveals a long-kept secret, Sasha Joseph Neulinger’s Rewind is a brave and wrenching look at his childhood and his journey to reconcile his past. By probing the gap between image and reality, the film depicts both how little and how much a camera can capture.
In this excerpt from Jim Allison: Breakthrough, while young medical student Allison was meeting his future wife at the University of Texas in Austin, he was also becoming fascinated by an important new discovery: T-cells. The center of the human immune system, they are "cells that go all over your body and manage to protect you and not kill you," Allison said, "to me, it’s just wondrous."
The story of one warmhearted, stubborn man’s visionary quest to find a cure for cancer, Jim Allison: Breakthrough is an homage to an unconventional superhero — a pioneering, harmonica-playing scientist from a small town in Texas who triumphed over a doubtful medical establishment to save innumerable lives around the world and win the Nobel Prize.
Brett Story’s critically acclaimed documentary The Hottest August raises the specter of climate change without ever mentioning it, spotlighting ordinary New Yorkers as they share their anxieties about what the future holds while bracing for what could be one of the hottest months on record.
In this excerpt from The Hottest August, two New Yorkers -- an artist/designer in his studio and a naturalist on his boat in Jamaica Bay -- are asked about their futures and the planet's. The designer talks specifically about issues facing the African American community for whom the future "becomes less important than actually trying to figure out how to survive for the next day."
America's three largest jails are also its three largest psychiatric treatment facilities. In this excerpt from Bedlam, while one person with mental illness faces a long wait in jail before finding treatment, California Gov. Gavin Newsom tours the Twin Towers Correctional Facility where he is shocked by the staggering number of people with mental illness housed in high-security jails.
Shot over the course of five years, Bedlam examines the mental health crisis through intimate stories of those people who are in-and-out of overwhelmed and under-resourced psych emergency rooms, jails and homeless camps in Los Angeles, while psychiatrist and filmmaker Kenneth Paul Rosenberg, M.D. also searches for answers to his own late sister’s mental illness.
In this excerpt from One Child Nation, Brian Stuy, Utah-based co-founder of Research China and father to three adopted girls from China, explains how a "recruiting network" worked to find and bring children into orphanages, children that were later to be bought and sold--trafficked. Filmmaker Nanfu Wang then wonders about each baby's story, of separated twin siblings, many of them unknowingly.