"Independent Lens" Announces Winter Slate of Documentary Films
Highlighting Stories of Courage and Community
Beginning January 9, 2024, on PBS
OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE
NEWS PROVIDED BY
INDEPENDENT LENS, the award-winning PBS documentary anthology series presented by ITVS, today announced its winter lineup of features set to make their television premiere beginning January 9, 2024. The films cover a wide range of timely issues including racial tensions, gentrification, mental health, representation, and humanity through the lens of individuals, families, and tight-knit communities.
"At a time of tremendous upheaval around the world, INDEPENDENT LENS offers stories about individuals struggling to be free," said Lois Vossen, executive producer of INDEPENDENT LENS. "Starting with the gripping account of families who risk everything to escape North Korea, to Floridians fighting to keep their homes, rural Americans struggling with addiction, and women rewriting how and who reports the news, at the core of these documentaries are authentic people telling their own stories."
The winter slate will kick off on January 9 with the critically acclaimed "Beyond Utopia," winner of the U.S. Documentary Audience Award at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, followed by two films chronicling the fights of two distinct Black American neighborhoods - "Racist Trees" on January 22 and "Razing Liberty Square" on January 29. Continuing on February 5 with the inspiring end-of-life story "Sister Úna Lived a Good Death," and on February 19 with the headline-making "Breaking the News," the season closes on March 25 with "Greener Pastures," an intimate look at farmers' lives in the American Midwest.
• BEYOND UTOPIA - January 9 - Madeleine Gavin's heralded and harrowing feature documentary is a suspenseful depiction of a long and dangerous journey to freedom, following a family of five escaping North Korea, a mother trying to reunite with the child she was forced to leave behind, and the courageous pastor working tirelessly to guide them through safely. Embedding the viewer with the families as they attempt their perilous escape, and palpably conveying life-or-death stakes as they secretly document their journey on cell phone cameras, the award-winning film provides a never-before-seen glimpse into the lives of these refugees before, during, and after their escape.
• RACIST TREES - January 22 - The insightful and thought-provoking documentary "Racist Trees" shines a light on a liberal desert town, a majority-Black neighborhood, and a line of tamarisk trees as racial tensions ignite. Co-directed and produced by Sara Newens and Mina T. Son, and executive produced by John Legend and Get Lifted Film Co., the film follows a historically Black neighborhood in Palm Springs, California, fighting to remove a towering wall of tamarisk trees that form a barrier, believed by some to segregate the community, frustrating residents who regard them as an enduring symbol of racism.
• RAZING LIBERTY SQUARE - January 29 - Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Katja Esson's "Razing Liberty Square" airs on January 29, 2024, and follows the residents of Liberty City, Miami, fighting to save their community from climate gentrification. With rising sea levels, one of the oldest segregated public housing projects in the U.S. sits upon higher ground that has become real estate gold. The documentary offers an inside look at the struggle as wealthy property owners push inland, creating a speculators' market in the historically Black neighborhood, previously ignored by developers and policy-makers alike.
• SISTER ÚNA LIVED A GOOD DEATH - February 5 - A heartwarming film about an unforgettable woman makes its world premiere with INDEPENDENT LENS on February 5, 2024. Following her cancer diagnosis, a mischievous, rule-breaking Catholic nun dedicated to social justice chooses to live as she's dying. In this touching end-of- life documentary from director Par Parekh and producer Ali Hart, the self-proclaimed "leader of the misfits" Sister Úna plans her funeral during her last nine months of life.
• BREAKING THE NEWS - February 19 - From the highly lauded filmmaking team of Heather Courtney, Princess A. Hairston, and Chelsea Hernandez comes "Breaking the News," a barrier-breaking story aptly premiering on President's Day, February 19, 2024. The film follows a group of women and LGBTQ+ journalists, including MSNBC analyst Errin Haines, as they launch The 19th*, a news startup that bucks the white, male-dominated status quo and asks who's been omitted from mainstream coverage, and how to include them. Bringing the viewer right into the newsroom during tense moments, as the startup launches in a pandemic amid rising social unrest, the film provides a lucid picture of what it takes to challenge the status quo and break the mold in American media.
• GREENER PASTURES - March 25 - Closing the season on March 25, 2024, is "Greener Pastures," which captures the day-to-day lives of four Midwestern families dealing with the unseen mental health issues affecting farmers in America. Through the intimate, observational lens of filmmakers Samuel-Ali Mirpoorian and Ian Robertson Kibbe, each family's story unfolds and connects the dots between mental health, industrialization, food production, and climate change.
Films will be available to stream on the PBS App immediately following the broadcast. Visit the INDEPENDENT LENS website for more information.
ABOUT INDEPENDENT LENS
INDEPENDENT LENS is an Emmy(R) Award-winning PBS documentary series. With founding executive producer Lois Vossen, the series has been honored with 10 Academy Award nominations and features documentaries united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement, and unflinching visions of independent filmmakers. Presented by ITVS, INDEPENDENT LENS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Acton Family Giving, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts. Stream anytime on the PBS app. For more visit pbs.org/independentlens
December 6, 2023 6:00am ET by PBS