Independent Lens Announces Winter/Spring 2004 Season

Second Half of Season Gets A Toe-Tappin' Start with Debut Film MAKE ‘EM DANCE: THE HACKBERRY RAMBLERS' STORY on Tuesday, January 13th at 10 P.M. on PBS

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(San Francisco, CA) —The Independent Television Service (ITVS) and PBS have announced the line-up of the winter/spring titles of their acclaimed primetime series. The film selected for the debut of the winter season is MAKE ‘EM DANCE: The Hackberry Ramblers' Story, a profile of Louisiana's remarkable "agin' Cajuns,” the oldest performing band in America. The winter/spring's 18 nights of programming, hosted by actor/director Don Cheadle, include special programming for Black History Month (February), featuring the work of two MacArthur Genius Award winners, Charles Burnett and recent Emmy Award-winner Stanley Nelson, along with a several Asian-themed films for Asian American Heritage Month (May). And April will see the long-awaited broadcast of THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND, one of the hottest documentaries on the theatrical as well as festival circuit this year. 

"There are several themes running through our winter/spring season,” said Independent Lens producer Lois Vossen. "We have three films about music (MAKE ‘EM DANCE, JIMMY SCOTT: If You Only Knew and THE AMASONG CHORUS: Singing Out), two films about the ‘60s counterculture (RAM DASS: Fierce Grace and THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND), and others about activists and artists who are using their own lives to change the world. We are also excited to be showing a romantic comedy, COSMPOLITAN, starring Carol Kane and Roshan Seth, which takes a comedic look at cross-cultural ideas of love.” 

Independent Lens: Winter/Spring 2004 on PBS Tuesday nights at 10 P.M. (check local listings) 

Tuesday, January 13 at 10:30 P.M. MAKE ‘EM DANCE: The Hackberry Ramblers' Story Produced and Directed by John Whitehead Co-presentation with WYES / New Orleans For nearly 70 years, the Hackberry Ramblers have played an infectious, toe-tapping blend of Cajun music and western swing. MAKE ‘EM DANCE tells the story of the remarkable multigenerational band that has been in continuous existence since 1933. Part biography, part road movie, the documentary captures the poignant and funny exploits of these "agin' ragin' Cajuns,” from a bayou crab boil to MTV to their first-ever appearance at the Grand Ole Opry. 

Tuesday, January 20 at 10 P.M. LIFE MATTERS Produced, Directed and Edited by Kyle Boyd A fascinating portrait of the filmmaker's father, Dr. Curtis Boyd. A straight-arrow rural Texan Pentecostal/Baptist minister, Boyd relinquished the pulpit in the heat of the social changes of the 1960s and became a doctor who provided thousands of safe, although illegal, abortions prior to Roe v. Wade. Together with a group of East Texas clergy, Dr. Boyd still believes that all women have a right to a safe abortion. 

Tuesday, January 27 at 10 P.M. WHY CAN'T WE BE A FAMILY AGAIN? Produced by Roger Weisberg and Murray Nossel Nominated for an Academy Award®, the film is a moving cinema vérité portrait of the bond that develops between two brothers who long to be reunited with their mother, who is waging an agonizing battle with crack addiction. Showing with: DOWNPOUR RESURFACING Directed, Shot and Edited by Frances Nkara Robert Hall embodies a warmhearted sense of self and sincere strength despite the childhood sexual and physical abuse that he reveals. Experimental montage and music evoke the dream world where these traumas take hold and then transform. 

Tuesday, February 10 at 10 P.M.. NAT TURNER: A Troublesome Property Directed and Written by Charles Burnett; Produced and Written by Frank Christopher; Co-Producer/Writer/Historian: Kenneth S. Greenberg Co-presentation with KQED / San Francisco and California Newsreel From the director of To Sleep With Anger comes this multi-layered investigation into the elusive but pivotal historical figure Nat Turner, leader of the notorious 1831 slave rebellion. A "troublesome property” for his master, Turner has remained a "troublesome property” for the historians, novelists, dramatists, and others who have struggled to understand him and what he means to the troubled racial history of our country. 

Tuesday, February 17 at 10 P.M. A PLACE OF OUR OWN: Black Resorts and the African American Dream Produced by Stanley Nelson Co-presentation with the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) Stanley Nelson, Emmy Award®-winning director of the acclaimed The Murder of Emmett Till, is a third-generation upper middle-class African American who spent the last 40 summers in Oak Bluffs, an affluent African American resort community. Building on personal stories of summers past, the film explores the world of Black doctors, lawyers and journalists who created social clubs and professional organizations and a safe refuge for African Americans. 

Tuesday, February 24 at 10 P.M. JIMMY SCOTT: If You Only Knew Produced by Brian Gerber and Directed by Matthew Buzzell Jimmy Scott's voice conveys a young boy's innocence, a woman's sensuality and the lessons of 76 hard-lived years of failure and redemption. Through concert footage and intimate interviews, rediscovered jazz legend Jimmy Scott recounts his stranger-than-fiction odyssey from poverty and obscurity to worldwide recognition as one of the most distinctive vocalists of our time. 

Tuesday, March 2 at 10 P.M. SENTENCING THE VICTIM Produced and Written by Liz Oakley; Co-Produced by Joanna Katz At age 19, Joanna Katz was brutally tortured and gang-raped by five men. As a survivor, she saw them convicted and began speaking out publicly. She questioned laws in her state that unduly burdened victims, such as being called upon to testify at parole hearings year after year. This South Carolina woman decided to collaborate with a seasoned filmmaker to tell her own story, challenging the parole system in order to heal herself—and to give courage to other women who have survived violent crimes.

 Tuesday, March 23 at 10 P.M. T-SHIRT TRAVELS (Re-broadcast) Directed and Produced by Shantha Bloemen When international aid worker Shantha Bloemen was working in Africa, she thought it strange that almost every man, woman and child she encountered was wearing a western t-shirt with slogans like "I Love New York.” She decided to follow the trail of the t-shirts and find out how they ended up on the backs of Africans. The result is this eye-opening film, tracing how secondhand clothing donated as charity in the western world eventually lands in Zambia and the devastating effect these clothing donations have on the communities that receive them. 

Tuesday, April 6 at 10 P.M. EVERY CHILD IS BORN A POET: The Life and Work of Piri Thomas Produced by Jonathan Robinson Co-Presentation with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) A film which explores acclaimed Puerto Rican poet Piri Thomas' utilization of creative expression as a means of confronting and overcoming poverty, racism, violence and isolation. Thomas, author of the acclaimed autobiographical novel Down These Mean Streets, chronicles his journey from Spanish Harlem to Sing Sing to a life as an author and activist. 

Tuesday, April 13 at 10 P.M. LOVE INVENTORY Produced by Yahaly Gat and Directed by David Fisher In this funny and bittersweet documentary, Israeli filmmaker David Fisher turns the camera on his own unique family. After the death of their father, Fisher and his four siblings learn of the existence of an older sister, who has disappeared. She was the twin of their eldest brother, who died in infancy. As the filmmaker dissects a tangled web of relationships, he uncovers a dark family secret that is also representative of Israel's own difficult birth pains. 

Tuesday, April 20 at 10 P.M. RAM DASS: Fierce Grace Produced and Directed by Mickey Lemle In the 1960s, Richard Alpert and Timothy Leary were Harvard faculty members experimenting with LSD—in 1963 they were, famously, expelled by the university. Alpert, whose father was a wealthy Jewish attorney and railroad president, morphed into Ram Dass, a beloved guru and spiritual leader. Now in his 70's, the film chronicles Ram Dass's efforts to physically and spiritually remake his life since suffering a stroke, and his new passion—preparing his Baby Boomer compatriots for the challenges of aging. 

Tuesday, April 27 at 10 P.M. THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND Directed, Produced and Edited by Sam Green; Co-Directed and Produced by Bill Siegel Co-Presentation with KQED / San Francisco In the late 60s and early 70s, a group of several hundred young women and men tried to spark a socialist revolution in America. Outraged by the Vietnam War and racism in America, the organization waged a low-level war against the U.S. government—bombing the Capitol building, breaking Timothy Leary out of prison, and evading one of the largest FBI manhunts in history. This film explores the rise and fall of this notorious movement, as former members speak candidly about their experiences. 

Tuesday, May 4 at 10 P.M. - Asian American Heritage Month ONE NIGHT AT THE GRAND STAR Produced by Natasha Uppal There's only one place in Los Angeles to celebrate the synchronicity of an old-school Chinatown establishment, classic jazz, DJ culture and the underground dance scene: the Grand Star. What's the secret to this unique nightspot that brings people of diverse ages, races and interests together? Showing With: DOUBLE EXPOSURE Produced by Kit-Yin Snyder An artist and self-proclaimed "old Chinese lady” sets out to explore her own identity and prove it's never too late to take a risk by making her first film at the age of 68. The result is an experimental program that expresses her roots in two countries through self-effacing humor, double-exposed images and an immigrant's long look back at her native China. 

Tuesday, May 11 at 10 P.M. REFUGEE Produced by Spencer Nakasako Co-Presentation with NAATA REFUGEE recasts oral histories of young Southeast Asian refugees into visual sequences, edited together to create the emotional effect of a single story, a single life. Set in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and the U.S., the stories trace three passages common to all immigrant children: the departure, the arrival and growing up American. Individually and collectively, the stories create a multidimensional portrait of young newcomers who are now part of America's future. 

Thursday, May 27 at 10 P.M. DEATH OF A SHAMAN Directed and Written by Richard Hall; Produced and Written by Fahm Fong Saeyang Co-Presentation with KVIE / Sacramento and NAATA Through a journey that takes her back to her roots in Thailand, a young Mien woman from Sacramento strives to come to terms with her late father's death, his drug addiction and the murder of her teenage sister. Reunited with her Mien relatives, she begins to grasp the complexity of her father's past and experience the subtle nuances of a lost identity. With ease, humility and humor, the film grapples with what it means to make peace with history. 

Tuesday, June 1 at 10 P.M. COSMOPOLITAN Produced by Jason Orens, Jen Small and Brian Devine; Directed by Nisha Gantra; Written by Sabrina Dhawan Co-Presentation with KTEH / San Jose and NAATA After he loses his job, his wife, and his daughter, Gopal (Monsoon Wedding's Roshan Seth), a first generation Indian-American, reinvents himself as an American bachelor. Using Cosmopolitan magazine as his guide, Gopal decides to pursue Mrs. Shaw (Carol Kane), the divorcee next door. But he soon finds there's more to love than the pages of Cosmo would suggest. A delightful new comedy based on the short story by Akhil Sharma. 

Tuesday, June 8 at 10 P.M. SUMO EAST AND WEST Produced, Directed, Shot and Edited by Ferne Pearlstein; Produced, Written and Edited by Robert Edwards; Co-Produced by Yoshi Muto and Nan Bress Co-presentation with NAATA Steeped in the sanctity of Japanese tradition stretching back thousands of years, Sumo has recently seen an increasing number of foreigners making their mark on the scene. Taking us from Hawaii to Japan to Los Angeles, the film profiles some of the most prominent American wrestlers. This fascinating glimpse at the past, present and future of Sumo illustrates the intersection of cultures as the hallowed sport grapples with the forces of internationalization. 

Tuesday, June 15 at 10 P.M. THE AMASONG CHOIR: Singing Out Produced by Jay Rosenstein Co-Presentation with WILL-TV / Urbana, IL When lesbian music student Kristina Boerger moved to a small Illinois college town, she didn't find a ready-made community. So she created one with what she loved best: choral singing. Assembling a ragtag group of volunteers, she created a lesbian choir in the middle of this conservative area. Showing the choir's evolution into a nationally accepted and recognized award-winning ensemble, THE AMASONG CHORUS documents how the spirit and dedication of one person can help transform a community. 

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 and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

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 January 23, 2004