Independent Lens, the Emmy-winning PBS series, will feature a lineup of buzzy documentaries during the first three months of 2020 that will include everything from deep-dives into racial injustice and climate change to the penetrating looks at the clash between science and creationism.
“The topics are serious, but all of the films offer hope,” said “Independent Lens” executive producer Lois Vossen.
Making their broadcast debuts from January through March are Nanfu Wang’s critically acclaimed “One Child Nation,” an examination of China’s controversial attempts at population control; Jacqueline Olive’s “Always in Season,” a look at a mother’s struggle to get law enforcement to acknowledge that the death of her teenage son was a lynching and not a suicide: and “We Believe in Dinosaurs,” the story of how the construction of an $120 million Noah’s Ark-inspired theme park in Kentucky threatens the barrier between church and state.
“We’re in a time where journalism is under attack and TV outlets and local papers are shutting down,” said Vossen. “These films help fill a void. They pull back the curtain to tell deeper stories about social issues. Most of our filmmakers spend a minimum of three years making their movies. That’s something news outlets can’t afford to do. But it allows people to really get to the bottom of things and to spark conversations.”
ITVS, the non-profit organization that backs “Independent Lens,” doesn’t just help these films reach a broader audience. In many cases, it provides critical financial assistance. Many of the films featured on “Independent Lens” are co-funded and co-produced by ITVS. Its past projects include the Oscar-nominated “I Am Not Your Negro,” “How to Survive a Plague,” and “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.”
“Always in Season” will premiere on Feb. 24, “One Child Nation” will bow on March 30 and “We Believe in Dinosaurs” will air on Feb. 17.
Other films premiering on PBS’s Independent Lens this winter include:
ACCEPT THE CALL (Jan. 20) – An anguished Somali father in Minnesota seeks to understand what led his American son to attempt to join the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. Filmmaker Eunice Lau crafts an intimate story of a father and son attempting to mend their relationship after breaking each other’s hearts.
THE FIRST RAINBOW COALITION (Jan. 27) – Filmmaker Ray Santisteban highlights the history and legacy of a groundbreaking multiethnic alliance of community groups led by the Black Panthers that changed the face of 1960s Chicago politics.
LEFTOVER WOMEN (Feb. 3) – Filmmakers Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia explore the role of women in modern Chinese society through this intimate look at the lives of three professional women in China as they try to find a partner to marry before society deems them “leftover.”
COOKED: SURVIVAL BY ZIPCODE (Feb. 10) – The repercussions from the little-known 1995 Chicago heat wave are explored in this documentary from filmmaker Judith Hefland, from its effects on the city’s entrenched poverty, to its economic and social isolation, and racism.
Highlights from the spring season of Independent Lens spanning the months of April through June include “Bedlam,” a documentary from filmmaker and psychiatrist Ken Rosenberg about the meaning of mental illness, and “Pipe Dreams,” the story of five young organists playing to win the Canadian International Organ Competition.