San Francisco Film Society’s New Doc Stories Series

We’re absolutely thrilled that our friends at the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) have added a new documentary series to their autumn programming. An essential element of the organization’s year-round celebration of contemporary world cinema, the Fall Season spotlights international film cultures and now features Doc Stories, a brand-new showcase exhibiting some of the year’s best nonfiction films.


With numerous filmmakers in attendance, Doc Stories (November 5-8 at the Vogue Theatre) will give audiences opportunities to see the movies that will likely define this year’s awards season while engaging in in-depth conversations about critical contemporary issues with some of the most talented documentary storytellers. From intensely personal essays to hard-hitting topical investigations into urgent global issues to examinations of some of culture’s most fascinating figures, there is something for everyone with an interest in the world around them in this inaugural festival.


With films like What Happened, Miss Simone? and Cartel Land — movies already available streaming — the key difference brought to Film Society viewership will be the illuminating and thought-provoking onstage discussions with filmmakers and other special guests in attendance for each screening. SFFS will host directors for nearly every film in the program, putting them in dialogue with key cultural critics.

We’re so excited for this new series to get started. Don’t miss your chance to see the ITVS funded film  Thank You for Playing  on November 8th, and more at:

New Multi-Platform Strategy to Showcase Independent Lens on PBS


In collaboration with PBS, Independent Television Service (ITVS) is proud to announce a new strategy to increase the reach and visibility of INDEPENDENT LENS on PBS member stations. The strategy will draw on strategic scheduling, digital content and distribution, social media and marketing to shine an even brighter spotlight on this important mission-focused content.

“We are very happy that the important work of independent filmmakers will continue to have a prominent place in PBS’ broadcast schedule, and that PBS is also bolstering the visibility of these films through this new multiplatform strategy,” said Sally Jo Fifer, President and CEO of ITVS, which produces INDEPENDENT LENS.

The announcement of the multi-platform strategy follows a several-month, multi-city listening tour during which leaders from PBS, ITVS, POV and WNET held town hall-style meetings with members of the independent film community to discuss how best to present ITVS’ INDEPENDENT LENS and POV on PBS and ensure that the series reach the widest possible audience.

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ITVS Indies Showcase Audience Award Winner – A Panther in Africa

Your votes have been counted and the ITVS Indies Showcase Audience Award goes to  A Panther in Africa

To bring closure to the inaugural ITVS Indies Showcase festival which just wrapped up, viewers were asked to select a favorite film for the always-coveted Audience Award. Well, the votes have been tallied and the Indies Showcase Audience Award winner is A Panther in Africa.

The documentary by filmmaker Aaron Matthews, which originally aired on POV, tells the story of  Pete O’Neal, a Black Panther living in exile in Tanzania who commits his life to activism and community service.

Congratulations to the filmmaker and thanks to everyone who voted!

Click her to watch a trailer >>

ITVS Indies Showcase Comes to a Close with Most Dangerous Man

Judy Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith’s Emmy-nominated documentary The Most Dangerous Man In America: Daniel Ellsberg And The Pentagon Papers will be the 20th and final film to stream for free as part of ITVS’s Indies Showcase. Watch the film in its entirety now until Thursday, September 22.

The film follows Daniel Ellsberg, a leading Vietnam War strategist, who concluded in 1971 that America’s role in the war was based on decades of lies. He leaked 7,000 pages of top-secret documents to The New York Times, a daring act of conscience that led directly to Watergate, President Nixon’s resignation, and the end of the Vietnam War.
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Vote Early and Often for ITVS’s Indies Showcase Audience Award

The ITVS Indies Showcase is coming to a close on September 23, after streaming 20 of the organization’s groundbreaking documentaries free online. To bring closure to the festival, viewers are encouraged to select a favorite in the always coveted Audience Award.

At film festivals, the accolade that often most excites filmmakers is the Audience Award. Take the opportunity to stand up and be counted by rating each film throughout the duration of the festival. The highest-rated film will receive a special Indies Showcase Award.

Rate the films as you see them on the Showcase site and help us identify the audience favorite!


This Weekend on Indies Showcase, Revisit Two Towns of Jasper

Veteran ITVS filmmaker Marco Williams has a history of creating films that examine race relations between white and black Americans. Williams provided BTB with some background to his and Whitney Dow’s documentary Two Towns of Jasper, streaming free from September 17 – 19 on ITVS’s Indies Showcase.

On September 21, 2011 Lawrence Russell Brewer, one of the three white men convicted for the racially motivated murder of James Byrd Junior, a black man, in Jasper Texas, will be executed.  The chaining and dragging of James Byrd behind a pick-up truck formed the basis of Two Towns of Jasper, the film that Whitney Dow and I made.
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ITVS’s Showcase Serves up Anatomy of a Springroll

The documentary by filmmakers Paul Kwan and Arnold Iger will stream free from September 14 – 16 on ITVS’s Indies Showcase.

Anatomy of a Springroll is an award-winning documentary that follows one man’s journey to reconcile his Vietnamese roots with his current American life. In 1973, Paul Kwan’s father bribed a customs official to allow the youngest of his 24 children to flee the political chaos that was Saigon. Living in San Francisco 20 years later, Kwan looks to the language of food to best reconcile his past.

BTB spoke with filmmakers Paul Kwan and Arnold Iger about the film, earlier this week…
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Revisiting The Oath and Gitmo, 10 Years After 9/11

In recognition of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, ITVS and PBS NewsHour will be hosting a live chat with The Oath filmmaker Laura Poitras and others.

The Oath, which is streaming free on ITVS Indies Showcase from September 11-13, follows the story of Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard, and Salim Hamdan, a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay Prison and the first man to face the controversial military tribunals.

Moderated by NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan, Monday’s live chat will feature a panel of experts including:

• Abdul-Ghani Aliryani
Political Analyst and Co-founder of the Democratic Awakening Movement
Abdul-Ghani Aliryani is a Yemeni political researcher and analyst, who played an advisory role to filmmaker Laura Poitras in the making of The Oath. He is based in Sana’a, Yemen.

• Lt. Cmdr. Brian L. Mizer
Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Eastern District of Virginia
Lt. Cmdr. Brian L. Mizer served as Salim Hamdan’s lawyer at Guantanamo and is featured throughout the documentary The Oath.

• Laura Poitras
Filmmaker, The Oath
Academy-Award nominated filmmaker Laura Poitras has directed several acclaimed documentaries including Flag Wars (2003) and My Country, My County (2006). Her film The Oath is part of a trilogy of films about America post 9/11 and earned top honors for cinematography at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

• Andrea Prasow
Senior Counterterrorism Counsel, Human Rights Watch
Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, Andrea was a defense attorney with the Office of Military Commissions. She served as assistant counsel for Salim Hamdan alongside Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer.

Join us for the event on BTB on Monday, September 12 at 11AM PT / 2PM ET.

Murdoch Meltdown Solidifies the Value of Public Media

By Sally Jo Fifer

ITVS President & CEO Sally Jo Fifer calls on public media leaders to put “new technology to work for a public interest free from the gravity of profit.”

Sally Jo Fifer, President & CEO of ITVS

Information is valuable.  It’s valuable to those of us working in public media and it’s valuable to Rupert Murdoch, who started out owning a single Australian afternoon tabloid newspaper and ended up building the $33 billion News Corp empire by acquiring information, often at great cost, and packaging it to maximize profits.  Yet for Murdoch, perhaps no information in recent memory was as costly as the phone messages his staff allegedly stole, toppling the 168-year-old News of the World despite a circulation of 7.5 million.

On the surface, it would seem that there could be no two beasts as dissimilar as public media and tabloid journalism. One strives to serve the public with the information and tools it needs as citizens; the other hawks sex scandals, celebrity secrets, and other entertainments.

It might seem like they are the yin and yang of media, defined by their contrasts yet containing surprising elements of one another.  Public media, after all, must plumb the public’s obsessions — some dark, some trivial — in order to compete in the media marketplace and serve its audience. And tabloid journalism often invokes “the public interest” in its defense, as the National Enquirer does in ferreting out the untrustworthiness of public figures like John Edwards.
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Now on Indies Showcase: Lost Boys of Sudan

Emmy Award-nominated documentary from  Jon Shenk and Megan Mylan follows two young refugees of Sudan’s civil war through their first year in America. Lost Boys of Sudan streams free until Sept. 7th on ITVS’s Indies Showcase.

Orphaned as boys by Sudan’s civil war, Peter Dut and Santino Chuor survived lion attacks and gunfire to reach a Kenyan refugee camp with thousands of other children. After a decade in the camp, they come to America. Lost Boys of Sudan  follows them from Africa through their first year in the United States as they are confronted with the abundance and alienation of contemporary America.

Watch Lost Boys of Sudan now on ITVS’s Indies Showcase >>