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Watch Independent Lens


Independent Lens is series on PBS that airs dramatic and documentary films. The series is always hosted by a well-known actor or actress. The films that the show airs usually have been on the independent theater circuit and have received wide-acclaim and awards. The show is called Independent Lens because the films highlighted in the series are all shot by independent directors and producers. There is no big studio or corporate influence.

The films all deal with contemporary social issues or international political concerns. Some of the films that Independent Lens has shown have gone on to win Academy Awards for best documentary films. One example of this is the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room. This film dealt with the rise and fall of the Enron corporation, which resulted in many of the firm employees losing their pensions because the company have been lying in its accounting.

Each episode is a film dealing with a contemporary topic. Sometimes the series tackles difficult issues such as documentaries filmed in war-town regions or a drug abuser's home. Other episodes are more informative-based with a light-hearted look at an aspect of American life, such as episodes looking at popular cuisines. There are episodes that deal with the rise of hip-hop music and even one dedicated to teenagers preparing for prom. The stated goal of the series is to show viewers an aspect of the world by taking them to a corner that they otherwise would not see.

The films shown on Independent Lens are of a diverse nature. There are episodes that focus on the historical backgrounds of comic book characters. There is episode that examines the difficulties between the rich and poor in America by focusing on one street in New York City that goes through bad neighborhood and good neighborhoods.

Sometimes the series focuses on problems from a global perspective looking an political and finances and other issues that span several different countries. Other times, the episodes pick a town or a street and take a narrow focus on some issue there.

Every year, viewers vote on what the best documentary film was and it receives the Audience Award.

Tuesday 10:00 PM et/pt on PBS
19 Seasons, 404 Episodes
August 9, 1999
Documentary & Biography
7.8/10
Cast: America Ferrera, Terrence Howard
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Independent Lens Full Episode Guide

  • Join five women rebuilding their lives with humor and heart in the Ms. Veteran America Competition.

  • Explore the charged battle to take down ACORN, a controversial national community-organizing group.

  • Go inside the 2016 standoff at Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

  • Three exonerated ex-prisoners start a detective agency to rebuild their lives, help free other wrongly incarcerated persons, and fix the criminal justice system.

  • 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.

  • Travel to West Virginia to uncover the truth behind a massive chemical spill.

  • Meet the unforgettable people who are turning the job of shoe shiner into an art form.

  • Explore the journey of Iranian musician Shahin Najafi after clerics issue a fatwa for his death.

  • Meet the indomitable Dolores Huerta, who has tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice.

  • Trace Baltimore's history through a film that uses rats to chronicle oppression in poor communities.

  • The pivotal role that historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have played in shaping American history, culture and national identity.

  • Explore the life of Winnie Mandela and her struggle to bring down apartheid.

  • Join Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang and a charming young drifter as they explore freedom and America.

  • Go deep inside the long-troubled Oakland Police Department as it struggles with demands for reform.

  • Explore James Baldwin's unfinished book about race in America in this Oscar-nominated documentary.

  • Follow filmmaker Jennifer Brea's struggle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in this intimate film.

  • The colorful story of writer Armistead Maupin, whose Tales of the City series inspired millions to claim their own truth.

  • Meet Naomi, an Orthodox Jewish girl with a surprising talent: breaking world powerlifting records.

  • Explore the billion-dollar global arms trade through those who perpetrate and investigate it.

  • Explore the life of jazz great John Coltrane; Denzel Washington speaks the words of Coltrane.

  • Meet Bennett, a transgender teen on a journey to find his voice as a musician, a son and a man.

  • An Army combat veteran manages his PTSD and becomes a farmer in North Carolina following his deployments in Iraq.

  • Two Muslim soccer players picked up by Israel's Beitar Jerusalem F.C. are subjected to racist attacks by their own fans.

  • Explore how the tentacles of America's criminal justice system reach far beyond the prison walls.

  • Investigate the U.S. drone war with two women and a former NSA analyst who become whistleblowers.

  • Listen to Jewish comics talk about whether any topic - including the Holocaust - should be off-limits in comedy.

  • Learn about passionate seed keepers driven to protect humanity's 12,000-year-old food legacy.

  • Examine the aftermath and resilience of a community ravaged by the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

  • Join the East LA bike squad Ovarian Psycos and examine the impact of their original brand of feminism.

  • At Black Rock Continuation High School in the Mojave Desert of California, the principal and teachers make it their mission to educate students who have fallen so far behind that they will be unable to graduate from a traditional high school.

  • Survivors of the 1966 mass shooting at the University of Texas frame the events of the day and offer perspectives on its impact.

  • Black musician Daryl Davis meets and makes friends with Ku Klux Klan members in an effort to forge racial conciliation.

  • Find out how Griffith's 1915 The Birth of a Nation ignited a dialogue on racism that carries on today.

  • Bill Genovese examines the 1964 killing of his sister Kitty, who was stabbed to death in Queens while 38 bystanders didn't help

  • Join a crew of Native Americans as they set out on a quest to reclaim lost tribal artifacts.

  • Governments around the world struggle to protect future generations from nuclear waste; excerpt from "Uranium Drive-In."

  • Join a unique young lady on a voyage of self-discovery that honors outcasts everywhere.

  • Examine the impact of culture and identity on an intense, personal, important piece of life - love.

  • The Season 18 opener highlights "Best of Enemies," discussing the heated debates between conservative William F. Buckley and liberal Gore Vidal that ABC News aired during its coverage of the 1968 Republican and Democratic presidential conventions in an attempt to increase its paltry TV ratings.

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Independent Lens is currently available to watch free on PBS and stream on PBS. You can also stream, download, buy, rent Independent Lens on demand at Vudu online.