Independent Lens Unveils Winter Slate with Titles About Reparations, Fentanyl Crisis

Independent LensPBS’ long-running, Emmy-winning documentary anthology series — has announced its programming lineup for its winter season.

FBI informant Ernest Withers, the U.S. reparations debate and a secret female-only language invented 400 years ago in China are among the subjects of the feature docs, all presented by ITVS. Children of Las Brisas from Marianela Maldonado will kick off the slate on Jan. 2; it follows three children from the impoverished Las Brisas neighborhood in Venezuela in their quest to become professional musicians.

“The films debuting this winter on Independent Lens take us to small towns across the U.S. and around the world to China and Venezuela,” said executive producer Lois Vossen. “We learn the history of a secret language, the overlooked history of queer comics, trace the ongoing movement for reparations to African Americans and meet exceptional community builders whose stories are being told for the first time—showing us how people come together to make change in their societies and how even one person can change the course of history.”

As for the Independent Lens filmmakers, six of the eight projects are from BIPOC filmmakers, and seven of the eight films highlight BIPOC subjects. These stats buck the industry norm. According to a recent study from the Center for Media and Social Impact, between 2014 and 2020, 78 percent of documentary films distributed across cable, network and streaming platforms featured a white director or directing team, while 63 percent of documentaries’ primary subjects were white.

See Independent Lens‘ full winter slate below.

Jan. 2: Children of Las Brisas from filmmaker Marianela Maldonado: The film follows three children from the impoverished Las Brisas neighborhood in Venezuela in their quest to become professional musicians within the ranks of the “El Sistema” youth orchestra.

Jan. 16: The Big Payback from actress and filmmaker Erika Alexander and co-director Whitney Dow: The doc shines a light on the national debate around reparations for slavery in the U.S.

Jan. 23: No Straight Lines from director Vivian Kleiman: The doc tells the story of five queer comic book artists on their journey from the DIY underground comix scene to mainstream acceptance.

Jan. 30: The Picture Taker from filmmaker Phil Bertelsen: The film tells the story of civil rights photographer and FBI informant Ernest Withers.

Feb. 6: Outta the Muck from co-directors Ira Mckinley and Bhawin Suchak: This is an intimate portrait of a small Florida town who rise “outta the muck” to celebrate family history and big-time football.

Feb. 13: Love in the Time of Fentanyl from director Colin Askey: The film shines a timely light on the overdose crisis by turning the lens on employees and volunteers at a safe injection site in Vancouver, Canada.

March 20: Storming Caesars Palace from filmmaker Hazel Gurland-Pooler: This doc chronicles the life of Las Vegas activist Ruby Duncan, who kicked off a grassroots movement of mothers fighting for basic income guarantee. 

March 27: Hidden Letters from director Violet Du Feng: This documentary uncovers the history of Nushu, a secret, female-only language invented 400 years ago in China, through the perspective of two millennial Chinese women.

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