Independent Lens
GenreDocumentary, Drama
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons21
No. of episodes405 (list of episodes)
Executive producersCarrie Lozano,[1] Lois Vossen
Running time60-120 minutes or multi-part docuseries
Production companyIndependent Television Service
Original release
ReleaseAugust 9, 1999 (1999-08-09) –

Independent Lens is a weekly television series airing on PBS featuring documentary films made by independent filmmakers. Past seasons of Independent Lens were hosted by Angela Bassett, Don Cheadle, Susan Sarandon, Edie Falco, Terrence Howard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, America Ferrera, Mary-Louise Parker,[2] and Stanley Tucci, who served two stints as host from 2012-2014.[3]

The series began in 1999 and for three years aired 10 episodes each fall season. In 2002, PBS announced that in 2003 the series would relaunch with ITVS as the production company, under the leadership of Sally Jo Fifer and Lois Vossen, and would expand to 29 primetime episodes a year.[4] The 2019-20 season is regarded as the 18th season for the series.

Independent Lens has won six Primetime Emmy Awards and 20 films have won News & Documentary Emmy Awards. In 2012, "Have You Heard From Johannesburg?" won for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking; in 2007, A Lion in the House won for Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking; and A Lion's Trail won in 2006 for Outstanding Cultural and Artistic Programming. Three other films won for Best Documentary: Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life in 2008, Be Good, Smile Pretty in 2004, and Sing Faster: The Stagehands' Ring Cycle in 2000. Four Independent Lens films won News & Documentary Emmys in 2017 alone: The Armor of Light; (T)error; Best of Enemies; and In Football We Trust.[5] As well, seven Independent Lens films garnered Academy Award nominations for Best Documentary: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2006), The Weather Underground (2004), Waste Land (2010), Hell and Back Again (2011), How to Survive a Plague (2012), I Am Not Your Negro (2016), and Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018). Other awards conferred upon Independent Lens films include the George Foster Peabody Award,[6] International Documentary Association Documentary Awards, Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award, and Sundance Film Festival Awards.


Main article: List of Independent Lens films

Audience Award

Independent Lens gives out an annual Audience Award. The TV viewing audience is invited to rate each episode of the series (through online voting), and an award is given to each season's winner. Winners of the Audience Award have included:[7]

Critical Reception

Independent Lens has received generally positive reviews from television critics. David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun wrote, "The series on PBS from Independent Lens, one of the nation’s finest and most daring producers of documentaries, offers a deep-dive, granular look at what happened in Philadelphia when Krasner, a longtime criminal and civil rights attorney."[8]

See also


  1. ^ ITVS Names Carrie Lozano as President and CEO” (on June 7, 2023)
  2. ^ "Introducing Our Illustrious New Host, Mary-Louise Parker!" (on September 20, 2011)
  3. ^ Independent Lens Announces New Season Lineup” (on September 4, 2013)
  4. ^ "'Independent Lens' From ITVS Re-Launches; Expands to 29 Weeks". July 26, 2002. Archived from the original on August 3, 2002.
  5. ^ National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences News & Documentary Emmys Winners List” (on October 5, 2017)
  6. ^ "Peabody Awards for Independent Lens". Peabody Award.
  7. ^ Independent Lens - About the Audience Award (retrieved June 3, 2009).
  8. ^ Zurawik, David (April 30, 2021). "'Philly D.A.' a winning documentary that captures a moment of landmark change in law and social justice | COMMENTARY". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved June 28, 2024.