Documentary series “Independent Lens” launches its 12th season on PBS on September 30th with a lineup of 23 films from both new and established filmmakers. The season will kick off with Ramona Diaz’s “Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey,” about Filipino singer Arnel Pineda, who was plucked from YouTube to become the frontman for the iconic American rock band Journey. Following on Monday, October 21 is “The Waiting Room,” directed by Peter Nicks, which examines the current state of public health, told through 24 hours in an Oakland, California hospital waiting room stretched to the breaking point.
“The Graduates/Los Graduados,” a two-part special by filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz that profiles six remarkable students who are challenging the Latino dropout crisis, will air October 28 and November 4. November will see the premieres of two films about contemporary Native American life, “Indian Relay” (November 18) and “Young Lakota” (November 25). The fall lineup also includes foodie favorite “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (December 23) and David France’s powerful Academy Award-nominated “How to Survive a Plague” (December 30). Stanley Tucci will be returning as the series host.
The “Independent Lens” fall lineup through the end of the year is below. Check out our interview with series producer Lois Vossen.
“Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey” by Ramona Diaz
Monday, September 30, 10:00-11:30 p.m. ET
Follow the real life rock and roll fairy tale of Filipino singer Arnel Pineda, who was plucked from YouTube to become the frontman for the iconic American rock band Journey. In this Cinderella story for the ages, Arnel, having overcome a lifetime’s worth of hardships, must now navigate the immense pressures of replacing a legendary singer and leading a world-renowned band on their most extensive world tour in years.
“The Waiting Room” by Peter Nicks
Monday, October 21, 10:00-11:30 p.m. ET
The Waiting Room is an immersive documentary interweaving several stories that unfold in surprising ways in the ER waiting room at Oakland, California’s Highland Hospital — a facility stretched to the breaking point. Telling the story of our health care system at a moment of great change through the eyes of people stuck — sometimes for up to 14 hours — in the waiting room, the film reveals a remarkably diverse population battling their way through seismic shifts in the nation’s health care system while weathering the storm of a national recession.
“The Graduates/Los Graduados” by Bernardo Ruiz
An eye-opening introduction to some of the determined and resilient young people who will shape America’s future, “The Graduates/Los Graduados” explores the roots of the Latino dropout crisis through the eyes of six inspiring young students who are part of an ongoing effort to increase graduation rates for a growing Latino population.
Monday, October 28, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Episode 1 – Girls
Through the stories of three remarkable young women, this episode looks at the special challenges faced by many Latina students, including teen pregnancy, poor schools, and poverty.
Monday, November 4, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Episode 2 – Boys
This episode profiles three young Latinos who, through the help of family, friends, and community organizations, have overcome tremendous obstacles — including gang pressure and immigrations status — on the road to completing their education.
“Indian Relay” by Charles Dye
Monday, November 18, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET
The hope and determination of contemporary American Indian life is revealed in this story about what it takes to win the most dangerous form of horse-racing practiced anywhere in the world today. “Indian Relay” follows teams from three different Native American communities as they prepare for and compete across a grueling relay season — all hearts set on the glory and honor of winning the National Championship.
“Young Lakota” by Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt
Monday, November 25, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Three young people living in the Pine Ridge Reservation try to forge a better future. When the first female President of Oglala Lakota defies a South Dakota law criminalizing abortion by vowing to build a women’s clinic in their sovereign territory, the three young tribe members are faced with difficult choices.
“Playwright: From Page to Stage” by Robert Levi
Monday, December 16, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET
The lives of two outstanding young playwrights — an African American from Miami’s inner city and an Indian American from Cleveland — are brought together inextricably in the process of creating a new language for the stage.
“Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” by David Gelb
Monday, December 23, 10:00-11:30 p.m. ET
Eighty-five-year-old Jiro Ono, considered the world’s greatest sushi chef, is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearance, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a three-star Michelin Guide rating, and sushi lovers from around the globe make pilgrimages. “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” is a thoughtful and elegant meditation on work, family, and the art of perfection.
“How to Survive a Plague” by David France
Monday, December 30, 10:00-11:30 p.m. ET
This acclaimed film tells the story of ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group), two groups whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. Despite having no scientific training, these determined activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry to help identify promising new drugs, and move them from experimental trials to patients. With unfettered access to a treasure trove of never-before-seen archival footage, the film reveals the controversial actions, heated meetings, heartbreaking failures, and exultant breakthroughs of heroes in the making.
Highlights of the upcoming winter/spring season include “At Berkeley,” the latest film from legendary documentarian Fredrick Wiseman; Samantha Grant’s “A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at The New York Times”; Dan Krauss’s “The Kill Team,” the story of an American soldier who attempted to thwart U.S. war crimes even more heinous than Abu Ghraib and who was then charged with premeditated murder; Greg “Freddy” Camalier’s “Muscle Shoals,” about the Alabama musical mecca; and Bill Siegel’s “The Trials of Muhammad Ali,” which explores Ali’s battle to overturn the five-year prison sentence he received for refusing U.S. military service. The complete spring 2014 schedule will be announced at a later date.