Community Cinema Joins the Online Conversation with Independent Lens

Community Cinema Social Composite of Events

It’s here – a brand new season of dynamic screening events with Community Cinema. This season, Community Cinema is proud to celebrate 10 years of uniting people through independent film. Available nationwide, Community Cinema presents free screenings and discussions about films from the Emmy Award-winning series Independent Lens. By igniting conversations around issues that affect us all, Community Cinema creates real and lasting change.

A new season of Community Cinema also means new ways of engaging with our audiences. We’re excited to announce that Community Cinema will soon be able to reach a wider audience through the Independent Lens social media space! As of November 1st, we’ll be closing the Community Cinema Facebook and Twitter accounts, and bringing you the latest in Community Cinema events and news via Independent Lens’s social accounts. With an expanded community, the Independent Lens Facebook and Twitter pages are the perfect spots to continue Community Cinema conversations online.

So, if you want to stay in the know on the latest Community Cinema event news and updates, make sure to follow Independent Lens on Facebook and Twitter.

Help make our 10th season the best one yet by adding your voice to the conversation. Join us at one of our local events; we’d love to see you there!

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.


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 for one week only, so take advantage while you can!

Relive the Movie Magic with #ThrowbackThursday!

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


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 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.

Mapping Our Memories: Tributopia Launches Memorial Day

Tributopia, the project inspired by the ITVS-funded documentary The Grove, is a free iPhone app for creating virtual memorials and remembering lost loved ones by posting tributes on an interactive map. Tributopia invites engagement by connecting memories to a specific place. With the augmented reality feature, users looks through the viewfinder and can find virtual tributes overlaying the real world around them. Tributopia launches in conjunction with Memorial Day, just before Gay Pride Month.


Filmmaker Andy Abrahams Wilson gives us this inside look at the inspiration behind the app and his take on the changing interactive media landscape:

How did making The Grove inspire your idea for Tributopia?

The AIDS Memorial Grove founders envisioned a nature-based memorial in which individuals could till their grief and find comfort in seeing their own human experience reflected in nature. While the stigma of AIDS created invisible victims and survivors often excluded from traditional rituals of burial and remembrance, having a special place to remember and share was especially important.

While I was in the midst of production on The Grove, I vacationed in Mexico and witnessed scores of roadside memorials adorned with flowers, pictures, and photos. I was mesmerized and wanted to know what happened and whom it happened to. It was as if those shrines wanted to speak to me, to tell me their story. I began to realize how vital the connection was between memory and place, and between community and communication.  Hence, the idea for Tributopia was born: a way to use new media to tell stories of loss – to connect memories to place and join in a community of remembrance.

What was the experience like, going from being a “traditional” documentary filmmaker to working in the interactive media space? Was there a large learning curve?

There was an enormous learning curve. We tend to take for granted our mastery over our own craft. Suddenly I found myself facing a technology, terminology and business model that were alien to me. While we cling to the idea of “storytelling” as a unifying theme and comforting commonality, I really did feel like I was entering a brave new world! Continue reading

Up Next From the Half the Sky Movement

On March 4th, the Half the Sky Movement releases a wide-reaching Facebook game designed to inspire many.

The Half the Sky Movement is cutting across platforms to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide, the defining issue of our time. Inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book of the same name, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide brings together video, websites, games, blogs and other educational tools to not only raise awareness of women’s issues, but to also provide concrete steps to fight these problems and empower women. Change is possible, and you can be part of the solution.

Last year, the movement released the documentary series as a special presentation of Independent Lens on PBS, making decisions along the way that would help the series reach a wider audience and bring awareness to the work of the nonprofits on the ground in 10 countries. This proved successful when the October broadcast garnered one billion mentions on social media – a true feat for a 4-hour long documentary on these sensitive issues. Continue reading

Can’t Make Media That Moves Millions? Livestream with Hari!

Media That Moves Millions looks at the unprecedented phenomena of user-generated media campaigns that have inspired masses of participants and rocked political systems. Join the social conversation while we Livestream with PBS NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan live from the event on Thursday, February 28, from 9am to 11am EST.

Watch live streaming video from independentlens at

Sponsored by ITVS and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), the Media as Global Diplomat series of summits has highlighted the changing role of today’s media in public diplomacy and peacebuilding since 2009.

The first part of the Media that Moves Millions event will feature activists from such campaigns as We Are All Khaled Said, Half the Sky, Kony 2012 and A Million Voices Against the FARC, as we seek to better understand why they were able to mobilize civil society so successfully. The second portion of the day will offer hands-on instruction by experts from Facebook, Twitter, Text Haiti 9099 and Indiegogo to individuals and organizations alike seeking to use the ever-expanding toolkit of media for social change and peacebuilding.

We highly encourage participation from those unable to make the Washington, DC event to join the social media conversation (using #GlobalDiplomat) or view the event online here. PBS NewsHour correspondent Hari Sreenivasan will be hosting the livestream broadcast on-site. In addition to watching the panels live, in real-time — Hari will be answering questions from bloggers and citizen journalists from around the world and providing a behind-the-scenes account of the event.

Using Social Media to Inspire Peaceful and Positive Change

media_millions_finalThe United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and ITVS have partnered up to present Media that Moves Millions summit on February 28, 2013 in Washington D.C. The event marks the fourth installment of the Media as Global Diplomat leadership series, aimed at leveraging global media to highlight innovative models for international conflict prevention.

Media that Moves Millions looks beyond the headlines to understand the role of social media in mass movements for peaceful social change. A gathering of tech savvy peacebuilders and change agents, the day long summit will feature many of those people and organizations at the forefront of innovation, including: Nicholas Kristof, journalist, author, op-ed columnist, and a winner of two Pulitzer Prizes; Ben Keesey, CEO of Invisible Children; Frank Sesno, award-winning American journalist; Matthew Perault, manager for privacy and global policy at Facebook; and Alec Ross, senior advisor for innovation to the Secretary of State. Other notable speakers include president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, Kathy Calvin, CPB president and CEO Patricia Harrison, and Sally Jo Fifer, President & CEO of ITVS.

The first part of the Media that Moves Millions summit will explore campaigns that have captured the world’s attention by successfully using participatory media for social change, including the We Are All Khaled Said, Half the Sky, and Kony 2012 campaigns. Continue reading

Ai Weiwei: Behind the Scenes Twitter Chat with Alison Klayman

Alison Klayman, the director of upcoming Independent Lens documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, will be participating in a Twitter chat on Monday, February 25, 2013, at 11am PST/ 2pm EST. She will be taking questions and providing insight into one of the most celebrated (and controversial) artists/activists of our time, Ai Weiwei.

ai-weiweiAi Weiwei is arguably the most internationally celebrated Chinese artist of the modern era. The inscrutable bearded visionary burst onto the scene with vast conceptual installations, such as his eight million hand-painted ceramic sunflower seeds inside Tate Modern, and went on to design the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics. But at heart, Ai Weiwei is a troublemaker with a serious agenda: to challenge the oppression of the Chinese people by their government with rebellious and irreverent gestures. His activism has cost him his freedom repeatedly, but he never seems to lose his childlike approach to serious dissidence executed with a wink.

As the director and producer of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Klayman started filming in 2008 hoping to use the film as a way to help people around the world learn something new about China through the eyes of Ai Weiwei. During her time filming, she spent countless hours with the charismatic and fascinating artist, learning the motivations behind both his art and activism.

Ask Alison a question either before or during the chat by posting to Twitter with the hashtag #AWWchat.  Continue reading

Brad Lichtenstein on How BizVizz Can Help You Shop Smarter

Brad Lichetenstein with video camera

Filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein, the man behind the new app BizVizz

BizVizz is a brand-new free iPhone app that makes corporate behavior transparent and available to all. Just snap a picture of a brand’s logo or bar code, and presto: A simple, graphic screen tells you the financial truth about 300 of America’s largest corporations. 

Independent Lens sat down with BizVizz co-founder Brad Lichtenstein, the filmmaker behind the award-winning PBS Independent Lens documentary, As Goes Janesville, to find out more about the app.

Congratulations on BizVizz going live! OK, so let’s set the scene for the app’s practical use. I’m shopping. I see my favorite cereal, and scan the logo on my smartphone using BizVizz. Up pops all kinds of information about the company: profits, donations, taxes paid, government subsidies, etc. What am I supposed to do with this information?

A lot of people these days are very conscious of how the products they use and consume are made. Fair trade, green, how a company treats its workforce — these are values people care about. We think BizVizz is another way for people to shop their values, especially when we are into our fifth year of economic recovery and asked to sacrifice.

image of iphone app BizVizz on two iphones

We think people will care when they learn that one company pays their fair share of taxes vs. another that pays none at all. BizVizz is such an easy way for people to find out this information, plus it’s fun to take pictures of logos — though maybe not so fun to learn that all of the brands on the typical grocery shelf lead to just a couple of companies.

Could an app that easily reveals this kind of information be seen by some as anti-business?
BizVizz shows that this exerting influence is not a Republican or Democratic thing. It’s a power thing. Ordinary citizens don’t have the political muscle to write tax laws. We think of BizVizz as a tool to give people like you and me some power to point out how the system is unfair, and influence on the law-making process is something that money buys in America, which ultimately corrupts our democracy. Continue reading

Introducing BizVizz: A Corporate Responsibility App Inspired by ‘As Goes Janesville’

By Brad Lichtenstein
Director, As Goes Janesville

Inspired by the Independent Lens film As Goes Janesville, the BizVizz app serves as the transmedia component of the documentary, enlightening users how specific companies behave when it comes to corporate and social responsibility.

There’s a scene in As Goes Janesville (airing tonight on Independent Lens), towards the end, where the city council votes to approve a $9 million incentive package for Shine Medical Technologies. Shine is a startup looking for a town in which to set up their medical isotope operation and, like many companies, it is compelling cities to compete with offers. Though Janesville is desperate for jobs after losing their GM plant, $9 million is 20% of their budget. This is the scene that inspired BizVizz, our corporate accountability app.

I was aghast when filming this scene. There was no public hearing prior to the vote. There was no public disclosure of a third party audit of Shine Medical. While the City Manager of Janesville expressed some reservations to me on camera, there was barely an opportunity, through the media or otherwise, for those reservations to be discussed by the taxpayers who were footing the bill. What galled me was not so much the gamble with public money, but how the democratic process was subverted. A selected handful of business leaders working behind closed doors with the city council were deciding what to do with the public’s money.

One brave guy stood up just before the city council vote and said “ I feel like a pair of brown shoes in a room full of tuxedos….nine million dollars…maybe 125 jobs…no guarantees.” That’s what I felt like with my camera, observing this unfold: a pair of brown shoes in a room full of tuxedos. I badgered my subjects with questions about why this deal was never put before the public but none of them felt that democracy required the public to know or engage more, beyond the role city council played.

What happened in Janesville happens everyday in America.

BizVizz is an attempt to give the public more access to corporate behavior. Corporations spend millions on their image and message so that we don’t question what they do. We figured people might like to know how much a company pays in taxes, if they receive government subsidies, and who they support with campaign contributions. All the information found on BizVizz is shareable on Facebook and Twitter, helping to put a little power back into the hands of ordinary people. Continue reading