TELEVISION REVIEW

Five films from Women Make Movies will be featured on acclaimed PBS series “Independent Lens” this fall, including four newly released titles: “Afghanistan Unveiled” by Brigitte Brault and the AINA Women’s Filming Group; “Thunder in Guyana” by historian Suzanne Wasserman; “Girl Wrestler” by Diane Zander; and two compelling experimental documentary shorts about Holocaust memory by Elida Schogt (“Zyklon Portrait” and “The Walnut Tree”).

“Independent Lens” is an Emmy Award-winning showcase of documentaries and dramas by today’s most innovative independent filmmakers. Women Make Movies is a national, nonprofit distributor of films made exclusively by and about women, covering many of the most relevant and compelling social and human rights issues in the world.

“Afghanistan Unveiled” offers an unprecedented look at events in that country from the perspective of the first team of women video journalists to be trained in the region and makes its television debut on Nov. 16. (Check local listings for times.)

Traveling to rural regions of the country, the young filmmakers capture heartbreaking footage of Afghan women whose lives have been decimated by the Taliban’s repressive rule and the subsequent bombing campaign in the region.

In Emmy Award-winner Diane Zander’s provocative documentary, “Girl Wrestler,” Texas teenager Tara Neal upsets tradition by insisting that girls and boys should be able to wrestle on the same mat. The film follows Neal through the last year in which state guidelines allow her to wrestle boys, a year rife with family conflict, weight obsession, and ultimately fierce policy debates over women’s athletics in public schools. “Girl Wrestler” airs on Dec. 14.

“Thunder in Guyana” is the remarkable story of Chicago-born Janet Rosenberg Jagan, who was elected president of Guyana in 1997, and is the first American-born woman to lead a nation. In 1943, Jagan married Guyanese activist Cheddi Jagan and returned with him to Guyana to start a socialist revolution.

First-time filmmaker and historian Suzanne Wasserman, who is also Janet’s cousin, weaves an amazing story of romance, politics and international intrigue through a wealth of archival materials, interviews and more recent footage of Janet’s dramatic presidential campaign. This dramatic film both illuminates the controversial, yet little known history of Guyana, and offers a rich portrait of a remarkable woman. The film airs on Feb. 22.

Filmmaker Elida Schogt’s short films on family history and Holocaust memory poetically integrate nonfiction with experimental and narrative forms. “Zyklon Portrait,” winner of numerous festival awards, including Special Mention at the 2000 Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival, is a meditation on Zyklon B, the chemical compound used by the Nazis as a genocidal weapon; “The Walnut Tree” eloquently examines survival and recollection, and the role of photography in history. Schogt’s films will follow acclaimed documentarian Fredrick Wiseman’s “The Last Letter.” The films air on May 3.

“We’re bringing four fascinating and diverse stories by and about women to this year’s season — from controversial topics in contemporary culture to new perspectives on history,” said Debra Zimmerman, executive director of Women Make Movies. “And we’re thrilled to be airing them on “Independent Lens,” a series that’s bringing wide-ranging views to the public at a time when we need it most.”

“Independent Lens” series producer Lois Vossen comments: “We want programs that offer new perspectives, as they challenge and encourage us to discover more about our neighbors, our communities, our country and people around the world. We are especially interested in presenting films by women and minorities, so working with Women Make Movies is a natural fit.”

“Independent Lens” is broadcast on most PBS stations on Tuesday evenings.

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