Summer #ThrowbackThursday’s Return!

For a second year, ITVS’s Emmy-award winning series, Independent Lens, is unlocking the PBS Video vault to revive previously aired, fan favorite films.

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This week’s #ThrowbackThursday offering is Summer Pasture, the story of a young nomadic couple living with their infant daughter in eastern Tibet.  The documentary provides a rare window into a highly insular community seldom seen by outsiders. In the collective imagination of Tibet, nomads have traditionally occupied a dual role — romanticized as embodying the purest form of Tibetan identity and mocked as being backwards, uncivilized, and inferior.

Make sure you’re following Independent Lens on Twitter and Instagram to see which docs will be offered next. The “throwback” films are available on PBS.org for one week only, so take advantage while you can!

ITVS and Independent Lens Receive 13 News and Documentary Emmy Nominations

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced this year’s nominees for the 35th annual News & Documentary Emmy® Awards, which recognizes outstanding achievement in broadcast journalism and documentary filmmaking. And ITVS is proud to say that nine of our documentaries received 13 nominations for 2013!

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PBS received a total of 43 nominations — the most of any network — including 10 nominations for Independent Lens, 11 nominations for FRONTLINE (two for the ITVS-funded Outlawed in Pakistan), and six for POV (including Reportero), so it’s a great day all around for public media documentaries! The News & Documentary Emmy Awards will be presented on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014, in New York City.

“These Emmy nominations are a testament to the expemplary journalism that independent documentary filmmakers practice,” said Lois Vossen, Independent Lens Deputy Executive Producer. “They reflect the extraordinary vitality and diversity of our vibrant independent documentary community.”

And without further ado, here are the ITVS films receiving Emmy honors: Continue reading

Decisions on Deadline: Online Game Puts Ethics to the Test

“My goal…is to engage the general public in a conversation about public faith in the media, media ethics, and why we need to support institutional journalism even in this era of democratized media.”
– Samantha Grant, filmmaker

Recently Independent Lens premiered the film, A Fragile Trust, the shocking story of Jayson Blair, the most infamous serial plagiarist of our time, and how he unleashed the scandal that rocked The New York Times and the entire world of journalism.

Inspired by the film, Decisions on Deadline takes the story to another level with a fast-paced game that puts players in the shoes of working journalists as they report on the daily drama of life in Southside, a fictional American town.

We asked producers Samantha Grant and Brittney Shepherd about their foray into making games, their hopes for impact, and ethics and journalism in the digital age.

How did the film, A Fragile Trust, inspire the game?

Samantha Grant (SG): I was a BAVC MediaMaker fellow in 2011, and it was there, during that fellowship, that I first dreamed up the idea for a journalism ethics game. Brittney was attending the fellowship with me, as the co-producer of the film, and at one point during a presentation on gaming, I turned to her as said ‘Yes! A Game!” I wanted to make the game because I realized that the film I was making was bringing up a lot of problems in the field of journalism without offering any solutions. I’m the type of person who, when I see a problem, I immediately start thinking about solutions. Continue reading

In Loving Memory of Danny Anker

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The documentary community is mourning last week’s loss of exceptional filmmaker and esteemed colleague, Danny Anker. Senior Producer and head of production at ITVS Richard O’Connell pays tribute.

The passing of Danny Anker on Monday, April 21st is a huge loss for all of us who care about the art and craft of documentary film. Danny is best known for his narrative documentaries, Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust and his Oscar-nominated film, Scottsboro: An American Tragedy, which was broadcast on PBS.

I was lucky enough to work with Danny when he was making his film Music From the Inside Out, a film that remains one of my personal favorites. It has all the elements we have come to expect of documentary filmmaking at its very best: original, captivating, artistic, heartfelt, and of course, enlightening. Music From the Inside Out would go on to be presented on Independent Lens and be seen widely across the world in festivals and with a limited theatrical release – a huge success by anyone’s standards.

Danny strongly believed that public television was the best home for Music from the Inside Out. Much like the way he explored music in the documentary, Danny wanted the film to be accessible to everyone. His meticulous and exacting approach in all aspects of filmmaking was evident in the impeccable production values of the film, particularly the knock-out recordings of the music. It was also a joy to witness his beautifully crafted insights into both the creative process and his belief as to why music is so important to our lives.

The film was a testament to Danny’s creativity and the originality of his approach, which is one of the reasons why this film is the one I most often want to share, even with my own children. Working with Danny was a pleasure and while I am not saying it was always easy, Danny’s tenacity and passion for his work exemplified the nature of what it takes to be successful in this field. He was a true independent producer, a model professional, and like all great documentary filmmakers, his dedication and passion to the project never wavered – despite the film taking more than six years to complete. ITVS is very proud to have worked alongside Danny and consider it a privilege to have shared his work with the public television audience.

ITVS Snags Four Peabody Awards!

Administered by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the George Foster Peabody Award is one of the most prestigious honors in electronic media.

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Independent Lens programs The House I Live InHow to Survive a Plague, and The Invisible War, in addition to the ITVS-funded Latino Americans series, were among the films honored with a Peabody Award this year.

Congratulations to the filmmakers on this incredible achievement! This brings the total of Peabody awards for ITVS films to 29. Continue reading

Celebrate Women’s History Month with #SheDocs!

March kicks off the second annual #SheDocs, an online film festival showcasing 12 documentaries highlighting extraordinary women and their accomplishments in celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. The festival is presented by ITVS’s Women and Girls Lead campaign and sponsored by Eileen Fisher, Inc.

Female protagonists in film are few and far between. According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, women have been consistently underrepresented as main characters for at least six decades. In 2013, females accounted for only 33% of all characters in the top 100 grossing films and only 11% featured women in leadership positions.

Women and Girls Lead is proud to combat these gender stereotypes and misrepresentations with the second annual #SheDocs online film festival, a collection of 12 documentaries highlighting extraordinary women working to close the gender gap and fight inequality. This month-long, free event presents films by prominent independent filmmakers and shines a spotlight on women who are working to transform their lives, their communities, and the world. Continue reading

ITVS Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

ITVS and PBS offer viewers the opportunity to explore the rich and vibrant history and cultural contributions of Native Americans throughout the year, but this November offers a special slate of new and encore programs in honor of Native American Heritage Month.

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This November, Independent Lens is shining a spotlight on Native American culture with two new films. Premiering Monday, November 18th, Indian Relay documents an unheralded aspect of modern-day Native American life and what it takes to win one of the more exciting forms of horse racing. From the bitter cold of winter to the heat of summer, this lively documentary follows teams from three different tribes as they compete across a grueling season. Then on November 25th, Young Lakota takes viewers to South Dakota, where abortion politics bring political turmoil to the doorstep on the Pine Ridge Reservation and three young idealists, along with the tribe’s first female president, must decide how far they will go to change politics.

Throughout the month, Community Cinema and Women and Girls Lead continues to celebrate Native American Heritage Month by showcasing additional films featuring outstanding women leaders. These documentaries are available on PBS Video and additional online screenings will be offered using OVEE – the social screening platform for watching PBS content and engaging in meaningful discussions around films. Continue reading

Check Out the American Graduate Shorts!

The Graduates/Los Graduados explores the national high school dropout crisis through the eyes of six Latino students. While the two-part special airs Monday, October 28th and November 4th, audiences can also watch five additional short films online, each showcasing additional challenges faced by today’s Latino youth. 

The five short films are part of the American Graduate public media initiative, supported by Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to help local communities across America find solutions to address the dropout crisis. These shorts (which include Can’t Hold Me Back, I Really Want to Make It, Immigrant High, and Skipping Up) collectively showcase a diverse array of determined Latino adolescents, from Oakland to Detroit, New York to San Antonio, who have all struggled to overcome challenges — gang violence, drugs, poverty, young motherhood, and language barriers — as they keep their eyes on the prize: a high school diploma.

Watch all five shorts after the jump! Continue reading

A New Season of Community Cinema is Upon Us!

The new season of Community Cinema will screen six documentaries in more than 100 cities across the country, in addition to hosting online social screenings through the innovative OVEE platform.

The 2013-14 season of Community Cinema officially launched in September, offering an exciting slate of films and new ways to participate. First up, partners are screening the two part series The Graduates/Los Graduados prior to its Independent Lens broadcast premiere dates on Monday, October 28 and November 4 (check local listings). The series features first-hand perspectives on the challenges facing Latino and Latina high school students from across the U.S.

The Graduates/Los Graduados is the first entirely bilingual English-Spanish Community Cinema engagement campaign, with resources including an incredibly creative and engaging Youth Action Guide designed to get young people involved in increasing their school-wide graduation rates. At screenings, a few lucky educators and youth leaders will get to take home their own DVDs with the films, short format modules, and tools to help bring other important stakeholders into the conversation. With the support of CPB’s American Graduate initiative behind The Graduates/Los Graduados, the Community Cinema screenings through October will help start the school year off right with impactful, solution-oriented discussions on education and equality. Continue reading

Relive the Movie Magic with #ThrowbackThursday!

Join ITVS’s Independent Lens each week for a special #ThrowbackThursday dip into the archives. 

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If you’re a fan of Instagram and Twitter (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?), you’ve probably seen or used the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday. The social trend is so popular that on Instagram alone, there are over 23 million pictures tagged with #ThrowbackThursday and another 40 million captioned with #tbt.

ITVS’s Emmy-award winning series, Independent Lens, is joining in on the fun by unlocking the PBS Video vault. Every Thursday, Independent Lens is announcing the revival of a previous aired, fan favorite film. The “throwback” docs are only available on PBS.org for one week, so take advantage while you can.

This week’s #ThrowbackThursday offering is Summer Pasture, the story of a young nomadic couple living with their infant daughter in eastern Tibet.  The documentary provides a rare window into a highly insular community seldom seen by outsiders. In the collective imagination of Tibet, nomads have traditionally occupied a dual role — romanticized as embodying the purest form of Tibetan identity, and mocked as being backwards, uncivilized, and inferior.

Follow Independent Lens on Twitter and Instagram for future #ThrowbackThursday announcements and other tasty morsels for your indie pleasure.