PBS documentary series “Independent Lens” announced its Winter/Spring 2014 lineup today, presenting a varied selection of independent docs from both first-time filmmakers and familiar names like Frederick Wiseman and Bill Siegel. The season’s premiere include “Spies of Mississippi,” a look at a little-known chapter of civil rights history, “Las Marthas,” a peek at Laredo’s unique debutante tradition, and “Muscle Shoals,” a tribute to the powerful sound of the titular Alabama musical mecca.
“What strikes me most about our winter and spring line-up is the sheer range these award-winning films cover,” said “Independent Lens” senior series producer Lois Vossen. “We’re eager to share these provocative films that move you with people’s stories, with music, with our complex living history.”
Here’s the lineup:
“At Berkeley” by Frederick Wiseman
Monday, January 13, 2014, 10:00 PM-2:00AM, ET
Legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman goes back to school for this intimate and sprawling film about the University of California at Berkeley. Eschewing narration and standard interviews, the film takes viewers from faculty meetings to classrooms, from financial aid seminars to research labs, to show the myriad aspects of university life.
“Blood Brother” by Steve Hoover
Monday, January 20, 2014, 10:00-11:30PM ET
Why would someone leave everything behind to devote their life to helping others? Director Steve Hoover explores that question in Blood Brother, the remarkable story of his long-time friend Rocky Braat, who did exactly that. A young man from a fractured family and a troubled past, Braat went traveling through India without a plan. There he met a group of HIV-positive children living in an orphanage — a meeting that changed everything for him. Winner of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize.
“The State of Arizona” by Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini
Monday, January 27, 2014, 10:00-11:30PM ET
The turbulent battle over illegal immigration in Arizona that came to a head with Senate Bill 1070 frames this riveting documentary that tracks multiple perspectives — activists, politicians, Latino immigrants, controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio, ranchers, and others — as America eyes the results.
“Spies of Mississippi” by Dawn Porter
Monday, February 10, 2014, 10:00-11:00 PM ET
The inside story of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, a secret agency created by the state in the 1950s to spy on its own citizens and maintain segregation. To accomplish its goals the Commission used investigators and informants — including African Americans — to infiltrate civil rights groups. Over time it evolved from a propaganda machine to become the hidden hand of the state’s power structure, coordinating state police, county sheriffs, state courts, and private citizens groups to protect white supremacy — at any cost.
“Las Marthas” by Cristina Ibarra & Erin Ploss-Campoamor
Monday, February 17, 2014, 10:00-11:00 PM ET
Las Marthas explores the unique Laredo, Texas celebration in honor of George Washington, where society daughters, most of them Mexican American, debut in elaborate colonial gowns representing iconic figures from America’s revolutionary history. The film follows two of the young debutantes as they prepare for this extraordinary rite of passage.
“All of Me” by Alexandra Lescaze
Monday, March 24, 2014, 10:00-11:00 PM ET
The “Girls” have been friends — and morbidly obese — for years. They met via the Austin chapter of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance but now they’re going through the life-changing process of weight-loss surgery in an effort to lose hundreds of pounds. The experience presents a host of issues and consequences — some they knew they were in for, some they feared, and some they never could have imagined.
“Medora” by Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart
Monday, March 31, 2014, 10:00-11:30 PM ET
A once-booming rural Indiana community with a thriving middle class has seen its factories and farms close as the population dwindles. A deeply personal look at small-town life, Medora follows a down-but-not-out varsity basketball team as its struggles to compete parallel the town’s own fight for survival.
“Brothers Hypnotic” by Reuben Atlas
Monday, April 7, 2014, 10:00 – 11:00 PM ET
The eight young men who make up the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are sons of Phil Cohran, a legendary Chicago trumpeter. They lived an insular, communal existence, and starting at age four joined the family band. Now in their 20s and 30s, they make music that ties currents from jazz, funk, and hip hop. But while working together as their father had hoped, they find their ideals tested in this coming of age story.
“The Trials of Muhammad Ali” by Bill Siegel
Monday, April 14, 2014, 10:00 – 11:30 PM ET
The story of the famed boxer’s toughest bout of all: his battle to overturn the prison sentence he received for refusing U.S. military service. The film explores Ali’s exile years when he was banned from boxing and found himself in the crosshairs of conflicts concerning race, religion, and wartime dissent.
“Muscle Shoals” by Greg “Freddy” Camalier
Monday, April 21, 2014, 9:00 – 11:00 PM ET
Muscle Shoals, Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America’s most creative and defiant music. At its heart is Rick Hall, founder of FAME Studios, where he brought together blacks and whites to create music for the generations. Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, Etta James, Bono, and others bear witness to the magnetism and mystery of Muscle Shoals.
“A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at The New York Times” by Samantha Grant
Monday, May 5, 2014, 10:00 – 11:30 PM ET
The most infamous serial plagiarist of our time, Jayson Blair unleashed a massive scandal that rocked The New York Times and the world of journalism. A Fragile Trust is both a character-driven narrative about an important chapter in the history of journalism, and a complex story about power, ethics, representation, race, and accountability in the mainstream media.
“Let the Fire Burn” by Jason Osder
Monday, May 12, 2014, 10:00 – 11:30 PM ET
Using archival news coverage and interviews, Let the Fire Burn brings to life one of the most tumultuous but largely forgotten clashes between government and citizens in modern U.S. history, as a longtime feud between Philadelphia police and radical urban group MOVE came to a tragic climax in 1985.
“God Loves Uganda” by Roger Ross Williams
Monday, May 19, 2014, 10:00 – 11:30 PM ET
God Loves Uganda is a journey into the heart of East Africa, where Ugandan pastors and their American counterparts spread God’s word and evangelical values to millions desperate for a better life. Inspired by his own roots in the African American Baptist church, director Roger Ross Williams explores a place where religion and African culture intersect.
“The New Black” by Yoruba Richen
Monday, June 16, 2014, 10:00 – 11:00 PM ET
The New Black examines how the African American community is grappling with the gay rights issue in light of the gay marriage movement and the fight over civil rights. The film documents activists, families, and clergy on both sides of the campaign to legalize gay marriage in Maryland.