Independent Lens Announces Fall 2003/Spring 2004 Season

29 Nights of Independent Documentaries, Features and Shorts To Kick-Off on Tuesday, October 14th at 10 P.M on PBS

"Watching Independent Lens... is like going into an independent bookstore—you don't always find what you were looking for but you often find something you didn't even know you wanted.” – Nancy Franklin, The New Yorker"Entertaining as Hell!” – Aaron Bar

For Immediate Release 

Contact: Cara White843/ Mary Lugo770/ Randall Cole415/ 

(San Francisco, CA) – The Independent Television Service (ITVS) and PBS today announced the first ten titles of their acclaimed primetime series Independent Lens, the most ambitious season to date. The Fall 2003/Spring 2004 season, 29 evenings of independent documentaries, features and shorts, will be hosted by acclaimed actor/director Don Cheadle, a champion of independent filmmaking. From dramas like Carlos Avila's new FOTO NOVELAS, to BE GOOD, SMILE PRETTY, Tracy Droz Tragos's lament for a father lost in Vietnam, to Mei-Juin Chen and Martha Burr's SHAOLIN ULYSSES: KUNG FU MONKS IN AMERICA, Independent Lens will take viewers on a cross-cultural tour of humanity. The new season premieres on Tuesday, October 14th at 10 P.M. on PBS; check local listings. The Winter/Spring 2004 schedule will be announced at a later date. 

Says Cheadle, whose many credits include Traffic, Ocean's Eleven, and The Rat Pack (for which he won a Golden Globe), "I'm a passionate believer in the power of independent filmmaking — filmmaking that truly represents the totality of who we are in this country. Now more than ever, with people being intimidated against speaking out and with huge conglomerates controlling more and more of what we see and hear, people deserve the chance to see these kinds of films. And the great thing about Independent Lens is anybody with a TV, from Maine to Alabama or wherever you happen to live, can go on the incredible journey where these films take you.” 

"Don Cheadle's commitment to independent film and quality television makes him a natural host for the series,” said ITVS president and series executive producer, Sally Jo Fifer. "We are very grateful he made time in his schedule to present the next season of Independent Lens. 

John Wilson, co-chief programming executive at PBS says "Independent Lens is bringing new viewers to PBS by offering fresh voices and a diversity of perspectives and genres. Added together with P.O.V., this series offers a year-round, consistent place to find independent film.” 

Winter/spring titles for the series includes award-winning films and festival hits such as Sam Green and Bill Siegel's WEATHER UNDERGROUND, MacArthur Genius Award winner Stanley Nelson's A PLACE OF OUR OWN, and Charles Burnett's fascinating re-examination of history in NAT TURNER: A TROUBLESOME PROPERTY, and RAM DASS: FIERCE GRACE, which tells the amazing tale of the LSD experimenting Harvard professor turned spiritual leader who confronts growing older. Other films focus on music, including MAKE ‘EM DANCE: THE HACKBERRY RAMBLERS, about a swinging group of "agin' Cajuns;” THE AMASONG CHOIR: SINGING OUT, about a lesbian choral singing group; and JIMMY SCOTT: IF YOU ONLY KNEW, an acclaimed portrait of the recently rediscovered jazz great. A complete announcement of all Winter/Spring titles and schedule will follow. 

The new primetime Independent Lens debuted in January 2003. The first season saw the re-launched series evolve into a critical hit that brought a new group of loyal viewers to PBS. Although the films in the series are disparate in subject matter and tone, what unites them is the passion of the independent voices represented. Some of the places viewers will visit in this fall's films include Livermore, California, a quirky town lovingly dissected in Rachel Raney and David Murray's LIVERMORE; the West Bank in Sherine Salama's A WEDDING IN RAMALLAH, which follows a Palestinian American telephone repairman who returns home for an arranged marriage; and Salt Lake City, whose young Mormon missionaries are the subject of Nancy du Plessis' GET THE FIRE! YOUNG MORMON MISSIONARIES ABROAD. The lives of artists, poets and musicians are examined in LOADED GUN: LIFE, AND DEATH, AND DICKINSON; WORST POSSIBLE ILLUSION: THE CURIOSITY CABINET OF VIK MUNIZ; and EROICA!. The fall season will wrap up with an entertaining array of shorts in December. 

Independent Lens: Fall 2003 on PBS Tuesday nights at 10 P.M. (check local listings) 

WORST POSSIBLE ILLUSION: The Curiosity Cabinet of Vik Muniz Produced by Mixed Greens President, Paige West; directed by Anne-Marie Russell October 14, 2003 An exhilarating look at the work of the Brazilian-born contemporary conceptual artist and rising star Vik Muniz — sculptor, photographer, and self-proclaimed magician. Muniz, best known for his book Seeing is Believing, which made both The New York Times and the Village Voice top ten lists of photography books in 1999, uses his knowledge and interest of the history of photography to demonstrate how we, as viewers, can be easily deceived by the images around us. 

FOTO-NOVELAS Produced by Carlos Avila; co-presentation with Latino Public Broadcasting October 21, 2003 A continuation of the critically acclaimed ITVS programs that explore the Latino experience through the prism of dreams, memories and reality, FOTO-NOVELAS consists of two half-hour dramas: "Junkyard Saints,” a spiritual thriller set in a South Texas automotive graveyard; and "Broken Sky,” a fictionalized account based on the real-life 1948 plan crash that killed 28 Mexicans in Fresno, California. 

SHAOLIN ULYSSES: KUNG FU MONKS IN AMERICA Produced by Mei-Juin Chen and Martha Burr October 28, 2003 The famous fighting monks of the Shaolin Temple have seen a resurgence throughout the world aided in part by the popularity of kung-fu movies among the hip-hop set and films like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The film follows a handful of Shaolin monks who have brought the style to America, chronicling their adventures in New York City, Houston, and Las Vegas. 

A WEDDING IN RAMALLAH Produced by Sherine Salama November 4, 2003 This Australian documentary puts a human face on the Middle East conflict by chronicling the story of Bassam, a Palestinian American telephone repairman from Cleveland who returns home for an arranged marriage with a "home-made bride.” On the West Bank, everyday domestic duties and squabbles are carried out against a backdrop of shelling and violence. Once in America, however, his bride discovers that life in exile is not necessarily an easier alternative. 

BE GOOD, SMILE PRETTY Produced by Tracy Droz Tragos; co-presentation with KCPT/Kansas City, MO November 11, 2003 – 10:30 p.m. A moving, personal documentary that chronicles the filmmaker's struggle to know and grieve for the father she never knew, a soldier who died in Vietnam when she was a baby. Through her journey of discovery, and that of her family and her father's friends, the film sheds light on the over 20,000 Americans whose fathers were killed in Vietnam – and those young Americans who continue to lose parents in war. 

LIVERMORE Produced by Rachel Raney and David Murray November 25, 2003 Part history, part mystery, part comedy, LIVERMORE is an offbeat look at one eccentric California town. We meet a memorable cast of local armchair historians who describe some of Livermore's legends – a supernatural light bulb, a cursed totem pole, a scandalous book of photographs, and the ominous nuclear lab. In an age of sprawl and coast-to-coast homogenization, LIVERMORE is a celebration of old-fashioned civic pride. 

EROICA! Produced by Alan Miller December 9, 2003 An insider's look at the beautiful, talented, sexy group of women known as the Eroica Trio, a Grammy-nominated chamber supergroup that has been wowing audiences around the world with their uniquely modern, athletic, passionate take on the classics. As we follow the women on tour, we witness the dynamics of the creative process and the challenges involved in being women, friends, mothers and artists at the peak of their game. 

LOADED GUN: Life, and Death, and Dickinson Produced by Jim Wolpaw and Steve Gentile; co-presentation with WGBH/Boston December 16, 2003 — 10:30 p.m. A frustrated filmmaker who is captivated by Emily Dickinson's poetry searches for "flashes of insight” beyond those offered by experts such as actress Julie Harris and U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. So he turns to shrinks, a stand-up comic, a rock band, and finally dozens of actresses who recite poems and improvise Dickinsonian answers to questions about God, death, and love – resulting in a playful, witty rethinking of the elusive belle of Amherst. 

GET THE FIRE! Young Mormon Missionaries Abroad Produced by Nancy du Plessis December 23, 2003 At age 19, young Mormon men are expected to put their daily lives on hold and devote two years to spreading their faith throughout the world. They go in pairs to live in different towns and countries, with one task: to talk to everyone they meet with about God. GET THE FIRE! follows three young missionaries from the time they receive their mission calls until they finish their 22-month missions in Germany. 

MAN BITES SHORTS December 30, 2003 Combining humor, insight and brevity, six short films explore love, basketball, bicycles and what it means to be a man. COMPULSORY BREATHING by David Munro; DON'T NOBODY LOVE THE GAME MORE THAN ME by Martha Pinson; SERGI by Paul Francis Sullivan and Dan Cronin; EXCERPT FROM DILLY DALLY by Josh Blum; TOM HITS HIS HEAD by Tom Putnam and BIKE RIDE by Tom Schroeder. 

About Independent Lens 

Independent Lens is a weekly series airing Tuesday nights at 10 P.M. on PBS. 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 features unforgettable stories about a unique individual, community or moment in history. Presented by ITVS, the series is supported by interactive companion websites, and national publicity and community outreach campaigns. Further information about the series is available at lens. 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. 

About ITVS

Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10 P.M. on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American People. 

About PBS 

PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 349 public television stations. Serving over 90 million people each week, PBS enriches the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services on noncommercial television, the Internet and other media. More information about PBS is available at, the leading dot-org Web site on the Internet.

Posted on June 12, 2003