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
20 Seasons, 409 Episodes
August 9, 1999
Documentary & Biography
Cast: America Ferrera, Terrence Howard
Watch Episodes
Clips & Extras

Independent Lens Full Episode Guide

  • Meet the white preacher who set himself on fire to bring awareness to the racism in his Texas town.

  • Meet the first woman judge to be appointed to the Middle East's Shari'a courts.

  • Explore the shadow industry of "content moderators" and learn who controls what we see online.

  • Reveals the untold story and devastating impacts of Indigenous child removal in the U.S.

  • Meet a wildland firefighting crew whose members struggle with fear, loyalty, love and defeat.

  • 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.

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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.

Independent Lens Video Clips & Extras

INDEPENDENT LENS | Rodents of Unusual Size | Trailer | PBS Clip (00:31) INDEPENDENT LENS | My Country No More | Trailer | PBS Clip (00:31) INDEPENDENT LENS | Man on Fire | Trailer | PBS Clip (00:31) INDEPENDENT LENS | The Judge | Trailer | PBS Clip (00:31) INDEPENDENT LENS | The Cleaners | Trailer | PBS Clip (00:31) INDEPENDENT LENS | Dawnland | Trailer | PBS Clip (00:31) INDEPENDENT LENS | Wildland | Trailer | PBS Clip (00:31) INDEPENDENT LENS | Served Like a Girl | Trailer | PBS Clip (00:31)