Exclusive: ‘Independent Lens’ sets season 14 air dates

The 2016 winter/spring season of the PBS doc strand will kick off with Matt Fuller's Autism in Love (pictured) on January 11 and wrap up with Amir Soltani's Dogtown Redemption on May 16.
January 6, 2016

PBS documentary strand ‘Independent Lens’ has unveiled the schedule for its 14th season.

The 2016 winter/spring season will kick off with Matt Fuller’s Autism in Love (pictured) on January 11 and wrap up with Amir Soltani’s Dogtown Redemption on May 16.

Other highlights include Nelson George’s A Ballerina’s Tale, Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe‘s (T)ERROR, Justin Weinsteine and Tyler Measom‘s An Honest Liar and Michael Nichols and Christopher Walker’s Welcome To Leith.

As previously reported, the U.S. pubcaster will support the February broadcast of Stanley Nelson‘s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution through a community screening series and the docs Peace Officer and The Armor of Light will air on successive nights in May, alongside town hall conversations about gun violence in America to be produced by PBS, PBS NewsHour and key local public television stations.

‘Independent Lens’ executive producer Lois Vossen tells realscreen she is in talks with the network to give extra marketing support to future titles T-Rex (to coincide with the Rio Olympics) and Best of Enemies (to coincide with the U.S. elections in the fall).

Additionally, two feature documentaries backed by ‘Independent Lens’ and the Independent Television Service (ITVS) will bow at the Sundance Film Festival later this month: Kim Snyder’s Newtown, about the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in 2012, and Dawn Porter’s Trapped, about the ways U.S. states attempt to restrict abortion rights.

‘Independent Lens’ came on board Newtown three years ago and will air the doc this fall, though an air date has yet to be confirmed. The film is part of a series of docs – alongside Peace Officer and Armor of Light – that tackle the issue of gun violence.

“Kim Snyder’s last film Welcome to Shelbyville was on ‘Independent Lens’ and we’ve stayed in touch,” Vossen told realscreen in an email. “She told me she was going up to Newtown to cover that story and the moment she showed me her earliest footage I knew it was a perfect film for ‘Independent Lens.’

“What struck me most was the extraordinary access Kim had to so many people in Newtown, at the heart of the story, and what made me want to fund and support the film was Kim’s idea to make a film that is an ‘anatomy of a town,’” Vossen added.

Porter’s previous film, Spies of Mississippi, was funded by and aired on ‘Independent Lens.’ Her latest project tackles the way U.S. states are getting around federal laws by creating new state laws for women’s reproductive health clinics.

Dawn’s background as an attorney makes her uniquely qualified to take on this subject and her passion to tell stories about disenfranchised women is a vital part of the Independent Lens mission,” explains Vossen. “We’ve been engaged with the filmmakers for two years and hope to broadcast the film in June 2016.”

The full list of winter/spring 2016 films, with descriptions provided by ‘Independent Lens,’ follows. All docs air at 10 p.m. EST unless otherwise noted. Additional summer specials will be announced later.

January 11
Autism In Love by Matt Fuller
Finding love can be hard enough for anyone, but for those with an autism spectrum disorder, the challenges may seem overwhelming. The disorder can jeopardize the core characteristics of a successful relationship — communication and social interaction. Autism in Love offers a warm and stereotype-shattering look at four people as they pursue and manage romantic relationships.

January 25
In Football We Trust by Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn
An insightful and moving documentary that transports viewers deep inside the tightly-knit and complex Polynesian community in Salt Lake City, one of the chief sources for the NFL’s influx of Pacific Islander players. Shot over a four-year period with unprecedented access, the film follows four young Polynesian men striving to overcome gang violence and near poverty through the promise of American football.

February 1
No Más Bebés by Renee Tajima-Peña
The film recounts how a small group of Mexican immigrant mothers and activists sued county doctors, the state, and the U.S. government after they were sterilized while giving birth at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the late 1960s and ’70s. Many of the mothers spoke no English, and charged that they had been forced to consent to having their tubes tied by doctors and nurses during the late stages of labor — often based on little more than the question “More babies?”

February 8
A Ballerina’s Tale by Nelson George
Few dancers make it to the highest levels of classical ballet; of that already small number only a fraction are black women. But Misty Copeland has risen to the highest level, making history as the first African American female principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. Get an intimate look at this groundbreaking artist during a crucial period in her life

February 16 at 9 p.m. EST
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolutionby Stanley Nelson
Stanley Nelson’s acclaimed film is the first feature-length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure trove of rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it.

February 22
T(ERROR)by Lyric Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe
Winner of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival Break Out Documentary award, T(ERROR) is the gripping story of a 62-year-old former black revolutionary turned counter-terrorism informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This unprecedented documentary goes deep inside the world of an active terror sting, without FBI consent, with a plot that unfolds with the drama and intrigue of an espionage thriller.

February 29
Wilhemina’s War by June Cross
HIV/AIDS is one of the leading causes of death for black women in the rural south. This powerful film follows South Carolina grandmother Wilhemina Dixon as she struggles to care for her daughter and granddaughter who are living with HIV.

March 28
An Honest Liar by Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom
For the last half-century, James “The Amazing Randi” has entertained millions of people around the world with his remarkable feats of magic, escape, and trickery. But when he saw faith healers, fortune tellers, and psychics using his beloved magician’s tricks to steal money from innocent people and destroy lives, he dedicated his life to exposing frauds, with the wit and style of the great showman that he is.

April 4
Welcome To Leith by Michael Nichols and Christopher Walker
Welcome to Leith chronicles the attempted takeover of a small North Dakota town by notorious white supremacist Craig Cobb and his followers. As their behavior becomes more threatening, tensions soar and the longtime Leith residents desperately look for ways to expel their unwanted neighbors.

April 18
Democrats by Camilla Nielsson
Democrats is a film about the creation of a new constitution in Zimbabwe. The film follows two top politicians who have been appointed to lead the country through the reform process — political opponents, but united in their ambition to make history by giving the nation a new founding document that could give birth to a future Zimbabwe.

May 2
Nazi Legacy: What Our Fathers Did by David Evans
This powerful film explores the relationship between two men, each the child of Nazi war criminals who were responsible for thousands of deaths. Through frank interviews, the men reflect on the crimes of their fathers and the price of forgiveness.

May 9 at 9 p.m. EST
Peace Officerby Brad Barber and Scott Christopherson
Peace Officer explores the increasingly tense relationship between law enforcement and the public as seen through the eyes of a man who’s been on both sides. Former sheriff William “Dub” Lawrence established Utah’s first SWAT team, only to witness the same unit kill his son-in-law in a controversial standoff 30 years later. Now a private investigator, Dub seeks the truth in his son-in-law’s case and other officer-involved shootings.

May 10 at 9 p.m. EST
The Armor Of Light by Abigail Disney
Two people of faith come together to explore the contradictions of a nation rife with gun violence: a famously anti-abortion evangelical minister who risks losing followers when he questions the morality of gun ownership and a grieving mother dedicated to creating change after the shooting of her unarmed teenage son.

May 16
Dogtown Redemptionby Amir Soltani
For a number of residents in Dogtown, one of Oakland’s poorest neighborhoods, collecting and recycling trash is a primary source of income. To other residents, however, recycling only adds to the dirt and noise in the community. Dogtown Redemption explores the complex dynamics of race, class, and systemic poverty as it tells the story of four recyclers who struggle to survive in a neighborhood already decimated by unemployment, addiction, and violence.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.