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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.

Independent Lens is a Documentary & Biography series that is currently running and has 22 seasons (442 episodes). The series first aired on August 9, 1999. It has mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.9.

Independent Lens is available for streaming on the PBS website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Independent Lens on demand at PBS Vudu, PBS online.

Tuesday 10:00 PM et/pt on PBS
22 Seasons, 442 Episodes
August 9, 1999
Documentary & Biography
7.9/10
Cast: Susan Sarandon, Edie Falco, Peter Coyote, Don Cheadle, Kal Penn
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Independent Lens Full Episode Guide

  • Follow artist Matt Furie, creator of Pepe the Frog, as he fights to take back his cartoon image.

  • Follow four ultra-talented young people playing in the Canadian International Organ Competition.

  • Look inside the life of a radical activist who videotaped everything on television for 30 years.

  • See how Easter Island provides a climate change and globalization wake-up call for the world.

  • Rewind paints a vivid but ultimately hopeful portrait of a family plagued by a vicious cycle of abuse.

  • Meet a visionary doctor discovering a new way to use the immune system to help defeat cancer.

  • Listen as ordinary New Yorkers break down some of the biggest problems they face in August 2017.

  • A psychiatrist visits ERs, jails and homeless camps to tell poignant stories behind mental illness.

  • Explore the untold history and rippling impact of China's former one-child policy.

  • A grieving mother embarks on a quest for racial justice after her teenage son's suspicious death.

  • Witness Creationism and science collide aboard an enormous Noah's Ark in rural Kentucky.

  • Despite successful careers, educated women face the stigma of being unmarried in China.

  • The story of a heatwave that overtook Chicago in July 1995, killing 739 residents, most of them poor, elderly and African American. The heatwave revealed a long-term crisis of poverty, racism, and economic and social isolation in the city.

  • The Rainbow Coalition story is told with archival footage and interviews with former members.

  • The true story of Alaska Native dogsled champion George Attla is presented. With one good leg and fierce determination, he rose to international fame. His racing prowess and ability to identify and train exceptional dogs made him a legend.

  • How the onslaught of development in Long Island's wealthy Hamptons has triggered a clash of values. Members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, farmers and fishing communities seek to stop the building boom and preserve the environment.

  • Meet local interpreters who helped US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, now in danger themselves.

  • Discover why the Bronx burned in the 1970s and meet those who chose to resist, remain and rebuild.

  • Go inside the lives of four surrogates and the intended parents whose children they carry.

Independent Lens Video Clips & Extras

Pipe Dreams Clip (00:31) Leftover Women Clip (00:31) Official Trailer | Tre Maison Dasan | Independent Lens | PBS Clip (00:31)