Emmy Award-Winning PBS Series Independent Lens to Showcase New Season at the July 2008 Television Critics Association Press Tour

Three-part panel to present range of groundbreaking and innovative programs airing this fall

To be highlighted: Brett Morgen's CHICAGO 10, Gonzalo Arijon's Award-Winning Documentary STRANDED: The Andes Plane Crash Survivors, and Acclaimed Pakistani Filmmaker Sabiha Sumar’s DINNER WITH THE PRESIDENT: A Nation’s Journey

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(San Francisco, CA)—The Independent Television Service’s (ITVS) Emmy® and Peabody Award-winning series, Independent Lens, will be prominently featured at the upcoming Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour, scheduled for July 2008 in Beverly Hills, California. Independent Lens hosted by the Oscar-nominated actor Terrence Howard for three consecutive years, airs nationally on PBS on Tuesday nights at 10 PM October through June. 

The first of the three-part Independent Lens TCA presentation will feature Brett Morgen’s revolutionary CHICAGO 10. Combining bold original animation with extraordinary archival footage, CHICAGO 10 explores the buildup to and unraveling of the 1969 Chicago Conspiracy Trial, where history played out as both tragedy and farce. Visceral and emotional, the film brings viewers inside the courtroom to experience firsthand the riveting drama, legal wrangling and raucous political theater. During the infamous 1968 Democratic national convention, antiwar protesters—denied permits to march and blocked from the political process—fought for their right to be heard. Arrayed against them were the formidable forces of Mayor Richard Daley’s political machine, backed up by billy clubs and the stinging fog of tear gas. Bloody riots splashed nightly on live television as Americans stared at their screens in disbelief. Eight of the most vocal activists were charged and brought to trial in a courtroom circus that pitted activism against the establishment. 

CHICAGO 10’s characters are the stuff of legend: Black Panther leader Bobby Seale, the eighth defendant, who insisted on representing himself and ended up bound and gagged by an exasperated Judge Julius Hoffman; defense attorney William Kuntsler; Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) defendant Tom Hayden; and Yippies Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, who served as court jesters. Vividly bringing the players to life are the vocal talents of Hank Azaria, Mark Ruffalo, James Urbaniak, Jeffrey Wright, Liev Schreiber, Nick Nolte and the late Roy Scheider, among others. During the 40th anniversary of this pivotal year in world history, Independent Lens is pleased to announce that CHICAGO 10 will have its broadcast premiere on Tuesday, October 22, at 9 PM as the season opener of the award–winning PBS series, hosted by Terrence Howard. 

Also featured in the Independent Lens presentation is the award-winning documentary STRANDED: The Andes Plane Crash Survivors. In December 1972, the world was shocked by the miraculous story of 16 young men, rugby players from Uruguay, who went to extraordinary measures to survive for 72 days after their plane crashed high in the snowy peaks of the Andes. It’s one of the great survival stories of all time, and now, 35 years later, director Gonzalo Arijon—who was a childhood friend of several of the young men—has carefully crafted this compelling documentary from the amazingly eloquent and poignant recollections of the 16 passengers—out of 45—who survived. The film carries audiences into the experience, from the joy these young, handsome, middle-class students felt at the prospect of a trip away from home to their teenage hijinks aboard the plane through the crash and the panoply of emotions that followed as hope of rescue slowly dissolved into despair. 

After 10 days in the freezing, unforgiving conditions, consuming little more than toothpaste and cigarettes, those that remained alive learned that the search for survivors had been called off. From that moment on, inspired by faith, a powerful sense of brotherhood and the indomitable will to survive, they banded together, refusing to surrender to death. Their ultimate decision to eat the flesh of those who did not survive shocked the world—but kept them alive. For the first time onscreen, these thoughtful and heroic men discuss what they did and why. Thirty-five years later, the survivors and their children revisit the crash site, now known as the Valley of Tears. Recovered photos and footage of their rescue illuminate the interviews with a powerful immediacy; creating a profound and ultimately inspiring look at the overwhelming human desire to live. STRANDED: The Andes Plane Crash Survivors will have its broadcast premiere on Independent Lens. Airdate TBD. 

Finally, the panel will conclude with a sneak peak at a third film in our new season lineup, DINNER WITH THE PRESIDENT: A Nation’s Journey. Are dictatorship and democracy mutually exclusive? In a country of cultures as ancient and complex as Pakistan’s, the answer to what the future holds is not straightforward. Projected to be the world’s third-most-populous country by 2050, Pakistan has stood at the crossroads of East and West for centuries. Now in the “nuclear club” and an emerging secular democracy amidst neighboring Islamic theocracies, Pakistan plays a critical role in America’s war on terrorism. President Pervez Musharraf has long been viewed as a key U.S. ally in the region—a reputation that does not always serve him well in Pakistan. 

In DINNER WITH THE PRESIDENT: A Nation’s Journey, Pakistani filmmaker Sabiha Sumar and Sri Lankan co-director Satha Sathananthan request a dinner with their country’s leader—and to their surprise the request is granted. The family dinner with Musharraf and his mother forms the backdrop to a filmic journey through contemporary Pakistan as the filmmakers forgo the headlines and search the country for deeper answers. In surprising encounters with people from all levels of Pakistani society, they reveal a country where ethnic and tribal loyalties struggle against modernization and where religious Islamic forces threaten to make Pakistan a theocracy like Iran. In the crosshairs of change sits the president himself, whose ties to the military and modernization efforts in Pakistan have made him a lightning rod for controversy from across the political spectrum. 

The film drives its audience to rethink conventional Western wisdom around concepts such as individual rights, democracy, power and political process. What system of government would replace Musharraf if he were to lose power? Could the future be a nuclear-armed fundamentalist Islamic theocracy? The filmmakers achieve an amazing sense of openness in their conversations with the president as he ponders the situation in his country, which also has immediate and real consequences for the entire world. DINNER WITH THE PRESIDENT: A Nation’s Journey will air October 28, 2008. 

About Independent Lens 

Independent Lens is an Emmy and Peabody® Award-winning weekly series airing Tuesday nights at 10 PM on PBS. Hosted for the third consecutive time by Terrence Howard, the acclaimed anthology series features documentaries and a limited number of fiction films united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement and unflinching visions of their independent producers. Independent Lens is jointly curated by ITVS and PBS, and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding provided by PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts. The series producer is Lois Vossen. Further information about the series is available at pbs.org/independentlens. 

CONTACT: Voleine Amilcar, Independent Lens 415-356-8383 x 244 voleine_amilcar@itvs.org

Posted on July 2, 2008