‘Independent Lens’ partners with PBS for documentaries on civics, justice system

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Ryan Collerd

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner at his desk in the "Philly D.A." documentary series.

Independent Lens, the documentary series presented by the Independent Television Service, announced Tuesday that it will partner with PBS to bring more than 20 documentary films and series that focus on civic engagement and criminal justice to public TV.

The announcement is part of Stories for Justice, a multiyear initiative. Leaders from both Independent Lens and PBS said in a news release that the films will be produced by “diverse independent filmmakers.”

“At PBS, we believe in programming that inspires and educates — and Stories for Justice is at the intersection of that, while elevating civic dialogue in communities across the country,” said Sylvia Bugg, PBS’ chief programming executive and GM for general audience programming.

“Storytellers in this initiative come from the towns they cover and go deep within communities to expose the long-term impacts of our local and national decisions, and the result is an immersive, human story with all the journalistic standards we need to have meaningful conversations that inspire community-led solutions,” said Lois Vossen, EP of Independent Lens, in the news release.

The initiative’s marquee program is Philly D.A., an eight-part series premiering in April that shows how Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and his staff are addressing issues with police use of force, the opioid epidemic, gun violence, mass incarceration and racism. Philly D.A. continues Independent Lens’ recent streak of multipart films, such as American Nomads and alter-NATIVE: Kitchen.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner with his team in the “Philly D.A.” documentary series. (Photo: Ryan Collerd)

A second docuseries for Stories for Justice tentatively scheduled for 2022 will focus on the criminal justice system in Dallas. Additional films for the initiative include Women in Blue, directed by Deirdre Fishel; Down a Dark Stairwell, directed by Ursula Liang; and short documentaries that explore other communities.

A spokesperson for ITVS told Current that Stories for Justice will use DocScale, an online platform developed by ITVS for surveying the public to help filmmakers and local stations assess the impact of their work.

DocScale was developed during the 2019–20 grant cycle for the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge. ITVS partnered with Arizona PBS, Louisiana Public Broadcasting, Nashville Public Television, PBS North Carolina and the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority “to test and evolve a prototype designed specifically for public interest media and storytellers. DocScale remains in beta testing with select PBS stations,” the spokesperson said.

Stories for Justice is supported by organizations including CPB, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Park Foundation and the Wyncote Foundation.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that the multipart film And She Could Be Next aired on Independent Lens. And She Could Be Next was funded by ITVS but aired on POV.

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