When President Trump rails against respected news organizations as purveyors of “fake news,” what’s really going on? Is he playing to popular mistrust of the media? Serving the interest of top donors and political backers? Pre-emptively discrediting any outside scrutiny of his administration? While the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is not the first to criticize the press, the attacks from the White House are qualitatively different from attacks by other leaders under fire. They take aim at verifiable truth as a universal value, and at the legitimacy of an independent press that seeks information in the public interest. Setting the stage for Double Exposure 2017 are Charles Lewis, author of The Buying of the President series and, more recently, 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity, Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Far Right and staff writer at The New Yorker, and Matt Thompson, executive editor of The Atlantic.
In the United States, the White House has labeled the press an “enemy of the people,” and incited physical violence against reporters. It has turned the full force of the Justice Department against whistleblowers, and pledged to “open up the libel laws” to fight unflattering coverage. While the Obama Administration may have laid the groundwork by increasing prosecutions of whistleblowers and journalists, as some contend, the Trump Administration has upped the ante: There is talk of new government powers to place reporters under indefinite surveillance and of harnessing the Espionage Act—which carries a potential life sentence—to pursue reporters who publish classified information. In Syria, the threat is physical, fatal in fast-changing ways, and leaves no room for error. In Mexico, investigative storytellers fall victim to drug cartels and government forces alike—with the only protection coming from other reporters and the public. Filmmakers, whose projects typically take years between inception and completion, can be especially vulnerable to sudden shifts in threats, to themselves and to their subjects. How can journalists and filmmakers work safely amid a sudden and dramatic heightening of the risk of telling a story? How can they better protect their subjects and whistleblowers, who are often on […]
Over the last decade, a bold spirit of innovation has emerged among visual artists who are committed to leveraging new technologies to create more collaborative, interactive, and immersive storytelling. Pioneering works in transmedia, virtual reality, gaming and other kinds of storytelling represent a convergence of forms that push the boundaries of story and authorship. How does the further mixing of professional cultures—that of filmmaker and journalist—affect storytelling? How are news organizations and documentary filmmakers redefining journalism’s possibilities using emerging tools and new technologies? What are the potentials offered by emerging technologies to tell new stories and reach new audiences? And what is their intended impact? This panel will hear from leading programmers and practitioners on the cutting edge of these new innovations, to offer a glimpse into the horizon of visual storytelling.
The process of making films has a particular metabolism. Many projects, from inception to completion, take months, years, sometimes a decade to bring to fruition. Yet, in the current political climate, with major scandals breaking on a near daily basis, filmmakers wishing to tackle urgent issues must work more quickly, in a range of formats and for a variety of platforms. In newspaper journalism, of course, there is an infrastructure already in place for the release of fast breaking news, but for investigative journalists, like filmmakers, stories often take months, and occasionally longer than that. How can filmmakers and investigative journalists do the kind of digging required to unpeel stories at warp speed on a daily basis? This panel explores the new challenges and opportunities presented by an increasingly tumultuous political climate, and looks at the ecosystem being put into place to support the rapid deployment of stories, from new practices, to new funders to the expansion of platforms designed to present this work and give it context, meaning and impact.
A series of New York Times interviews introduced the protagonist of Icarus—the whistleblower at the center of the film who exposed widespread doping of Russian athletes—even before the film’s celebrated debut at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. While documentarians typically find inspiration in newspaper accounts, Icarus turned that convention on its head. Filmmaker Bryan Fogel and producer Dan Cogan sought in advance journalistic coverage to protect their film subject, Grigory Rodchenkov. They turned to New York Times reporter Rebecca Ruiz, who had been in touch with Rodchenkov before he came to the United States, and offered exclusive access to a prized source under their protection. Their goal—one not shared by Ruiz, as a journalist: to shield their subject from potential prosecution, or even assassination, as Rodchenkov was not only exposing the scandal: his own lab had supplied the ‘cocktails’ that enabled Russians to dope their athletes at the Sochi Olympics, and beyond. Fogel, an amateur cyclist, had been so fascinated by the question of pharmaceutical enhancement in sports, that at first he planned a doping regimen for himself to see if it could go undetected. He would film the results of this experiment in a satirical style akin […]
In their new documentary ONE OF US, acclaimed Academy-nominated filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (JESUS CAMP, DETROPIA) take a deep and moving look at the lives of three individuals who have chosen to leave the insular world of Hasidic Judaism. The film follows Etty, a mother of seven, who leaves a violent marriage and divorces her husband; Ari, a teenager who is struggling with addiction and the effects of childhood abuse; and Luzer, an actor who, despite having found some success in the secular world, still wrestles with his decision eight years earlier to leave the Hasidic community. Produced over three years, ONE OF US offers unique and intimate access to the lives of all three as they deal not only with questions of their beliefs but also with the consequences of leaving the only community they have ever known. With their trademark sensitivity and keen interest in the nature of faith, Ewing & Grady chronicle these journeys towards personal freedom that comes at a very high cost.
For journalists, the Freedom of Information Act is a familiar tool for unlocking government documents and data, often in massive quantities. The information gleaned gives breadth and context to stories that might otherwise be easily dismissed as merely anecdotal or biased. For filmmakers venturing into retrieving government documents, however, the challenge is different. They must wrestle with rendering the dry language of records into compelling cinema. Hear from two directors who are using FOIA to inform and shape current projects on timely issues, in conversation with Topher Sanders of Pro Publica, an investigative news organization known for its groundbreaking reporting on patterns and problems that often emerge after analyzing vast troves of government data.
While the Pulitzer Prize has never gone to an undercover reporter, the practice of shedding the status of an outsider to live the story is as old as Sir Richard Burton, who wandered Arabia, and Nellie Bly, who feigned insanity to expose brutality at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island in the late 1800s. In documentary filmmaking, immersive storytelling found its most vivid and persuasive form only in the 1960s, with the parallel direct cinema and cinema verité movements, a mode which has since remained a touchstone of the genre. In our current information-saturated environment, immersive storytelling has the ability to cut through spin and noise to reach more complex and deeper truths. While undercover reporting and clandestine infiltration, along with overt forms of immersion and embedding, may trade authority and distance for authenticity, they bring vulnerability as well—in the gathering of the story as well as its telling. Blending into the background can raise a raft of unanticipated ethical and legal issues, in the physical and virtual world. This panel will explore the process by which investigative journalists and documentary filmmakers approach this critical form of immersive storytelling.
Filmmakers and journalists have long recognized the important role that storytelling and “voice” have in expanding perspectives and fostering a collective conversation, a practice that is all the more urgent in the age of siloed newsfeeds and assaults on “media elites.” This panel examines a fast-developing trend that builds narrative agency from the ground up, in an effort to reach the unlikely viewer: the emergence of first-person and community initiated storytelling. Affordable and readily available technology, for one, is bringing those living an experience into the investigative process, and opening new channels for them to tell their own stories. We’ll hear about unique collaborations between reporters, filmmakers and residents, as well as strategic supporters developing skills and outlets for citizen journalists. We’ll also explore what happens when a filmmaker shares a distinct vulnerability with her subject, and uses personal experience as the starting point of a cinematic investigation.
Hardly any journal or film exists without the people you’ll hear from here. A select group of fiscal supporters of prominent journals and films will give a behind-the-scenes view of the inner-workings of the funding process. They will discuss how they make strategic funding decisions and determine desired outcomes; what they deem a successful project; and how prospective grantees can more successfully position their projects for funding. This is not to be missed.
Journalism and filmmaking spring from two different cultures, each with their own approaches and assumptions, ethics and forms. Skills and resources that may be inherent in one profession are often not available, or even visible to the other. Increasingly, however, we are seeing cross-sector pollination, in which the work of journalists and filmmakers are integrating and overlapping. Filmmakers are embedding in newsrooms to work alongside reporters, helping those newsrooms develop visual forms of storytelling and engage with new audiences in ways print reporting alone could not. At the same time, filmmakers are selectively incorporating tenets of investigative reporting into their work, and adapting the supportive infrastructure of a newsroom, such as legal counsel, fact checking, and security measures, into their production process. The most successful practitioners, editors, and curators, on hand for this session, are aiming to achieve storytelling more transcendent than the sum of its parts.
The traditional ways to view a film are becoming increasingly obsolete. On-line platforms, many emanating from established news publishers, have become the go-to site for the exhibition and consumption of cutting-edge works of investigative film and visual journalism. Hear from leaders in the online digital exhibition space, on the kinds of work they’ve produced in the past, what they’re looking for going forward, and the best way to approach them with new stories and ideas.
Set in Baltimore in the 1960s, The Keepers investigates the unsolved murder of Sister Catherine Cesnick, a beloved nun at Archbishop Keogh High School, who tried to stop the serial sexual abuse of students by the school’s chaplain. Nominated for an Emmy Award and told in serial form over seven episodes, Ryan White’s remarkable film follows an investigative reporter and two alums of the school, now retired, who take it upon themselves to unravel the mystery of their former teacher’s brutal killing, a murder that has reverberated through the decades. The Keepers raises important questions about police involvement in a network of abuse in a town where the archdiocese ruled unchallenged, the church leadership’s indifference to the suffering of victims, the failure of prosecutors to protect the public, and the subsequent cover-up that allowed a killer to literally get away with murder. From a cinematic perspective, The Keepers expands the distinctive experience of episodic storytelling—which is fast emerging as standard in the visual and aural investigative mode. Its journey illustrates a film’s ability to intervene in and directly impact the world beyond celluloid, and explores the responsibility of a filmmaker to his subject, who entrusts her most vulnerable secret to […]
COCAINE PRISON unfolds in Bolivia’s notorious San Sebastian gaol, a virtual citadel inside a crumbling old colonial house. The film follows the lives of Hernan, a drug mule arrested on his first run, his younger sister, Daisy, who struggles to win his freedom, and Hernan’s friend Mario, a cocaine worker and father sealed away at San Sebastian, far from his children. In a country where the coca leaf is woven deep into the culture and poverty assures a steady supply of labor, COCAINE PRISON goes beyond the image of the gun-toting “Narco” to uncover the lives of three small fish who swim in the tide of coca’s promise.
In 1994, six men were gunned down and five wounded in a pub while watching a World Cup soccer match in Loughinisland, Northern Ireland. With a police investigation that was perfunctory at best, the case remained unsolved. In this non-fiction murder mystery, Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney reopens the original case to investigate why no culprit was ever brought to justice.
The Pro Bono Legal Clinic offers investigative storytellers lacking legal representation the opportunity to connect with experts who can knowledgeably discuss legal challenges they are confronting. Leading attorneys in the areas First Amendment law, privacy and libel, Freedom of Information, whistleblower protection, copyright and intellectual property will be on hand. Attorneys will brief participants on case law and trends relevant to the problems that journalists and filmmakers have articulated upon registering for the clinic, and field questions from them. Attorneys have also agreed to consider representing select participants in need of counsel on an ongoing basis pro bono. All Access pass holders receive a link via email to pre-register for the Legal Clinic. They should describe the legal challenges they are facing to ensure participating attorneys are aware of their issues. Seating is limited and available on a first-come first-served basis to those who pre-register and are confirmed to attend.
From Ferguson and Charlottesville to Nairobi and Bogotá, covering volatile situations presents immense challenges for independent documentary filmmakers. They must make quick decisions on any number of situations: where to place a camera on the frontline of unpredictable protests, whether driving down a dangerous road is the right thing to do, or whether to trust a fresh source. This Safe+Secure workshop will inform filmmakers how to assess and mitigate the plethora of risks one faces whilst making a film. The training is relevant to a variety of situations such as war, natural disasters, protests, organized crime, repressive states, or digital security challenges affecting investigations done even from one’s bedroom! While most hostile environment-training deals with ducking crossfire and kidnappers, this session will teach filmmakers how to avoid unnecessary peril with careful preparations before, during and after assignments. Participants will emerge with a better understanding of how to shun hostile parties and film more safely.
This condensed workshop will help participants understand the rapidly evolving field of immersive media, how to immediately start to explore and experiment, and issues in the emerging form, with a primary focus on journalism. Foundations Based on work and research in Saleem Khan’s JOVRNALISM practice with news and other organizations, and drawing on emergent consensus with other global leaders, participants will gain a grounding in what immersive media are, why they matter, fundamental principles and practices, key ethics and other issues confronting us today and into the future. Register here.
A workshop covering the politics and logistics behind archive use in creative documentary forms. Mila Turajlic is a documentary filmmaker and archive researcher whose work in archives extends from accessing and reactivating film archives of a disappeared country to tracking down the erased history of a resistance movement. Aimed at directors, producers, and the archivally-curious, the workshop will break down the logistical process of researching, obtaining, and working with archival materials. Using examples of creative archive treatment, it will aim to raise philosophical questions of archive activism in terms of right to use, involvement in collecting and preserving, and the construction of private memory from public archives.
Filmmaker Everardo González interviews victims and perpetrators of violence in Mexico, where more than 100,000 people have been executed in just the last five years, and another 300,000 people made indirect victims. All of his subjects are masked, from the killers to the soldiers to the orphaned toddlers. The masks give those who suffer and inflict violence the rare freedom to speak frankly and without fear. Flesh-colored and tight-fitting, the masks create the sense of an invisible country of victims, enablers, would-be reformers and killers, caught in a maelstrom from which there is no escape.
In an era where fake news and filter bubbles seem to create alternative realities and threaten the basis of democracy, it’s more important than ever that investigative journalism is factually correct, so viewers can trust the reporting. In this workshop, we will show what can happen if journalists and news organizations neglect to fact-check before publishing or for the sake of dramatic storytelling omit important facts. This is a hands-on workshop; we will train participants to strategically and efficiently fact-check their own biases and their own reporting, even if the filmmaker has no institutional support. We will show how to independently verify facts, background people and how to use new tools that can help journalists verify when and where an image was shot. Filmmakers will not only develop a road map to fact-check their own work, they will also learn about investigative skills and tools that will benefit any reporting, and even facilitate distribution. Lindsay Crouse from the The New York Times’ Op-Docs team will share how her news organization verifies visual content and two independent investigative filmmakers, Pulitzer Center grantees Eleanor Bell formerly with the Center for Public Integrity and Hilke Schellmann, Emmy-Award winning investigative journalist and […]
Mark Felt. Daniel Ellsberg. Karen Silkwood. Frank Serpico. Throughout history, whistleblowers have risked their lives to expose illegal or unethical activity, and have played a critical role in government accountability. Filmmakers and journalists working in the investigative mode often rely on the testimony of a crucial witness, vulnerable subject, or whistleblower, but what is their responsibility to keeping them safe, both legally and psychologically? As documentary filmmakers and journalists find themselves venturing into increasingly dangerous terrain, what are best practices for shooting and sharing sensitive or volatile information? This intensive workshop, led by the filmmaker, Sonia Kennebeck, the producer Ines Hofmann Kanna, and the subject, Lisa Ling, of National Bird — a film about the US reliance on aerial combat drones and the impact on three former operators and current whistleblowers involved in the tracking of targets — is designed to introduce practical resources and specific strategies to investigative filmmakers about how to protect sources and subjects and keep them safe during and after filming.
Wondering how to get started on your outreach campaign? Stymied by requests to describe your film’s outcomes? Join Dot Connector Studio’s Jessica Clark and Angelica Das for a hands-on workshop based on the Impact Pack—a card deck designed to help makers and funders develop more effective media strategies. Incubated at the Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project and based on more than a decade of Clark’s research into how media can drive social change, the deck has been used by filmmakers at AFI’s Doc Impact Lab, media development experts at the Central European University, funders at the Philanthropy Workshop and many others. The workshop will step attendees through how to use the cards, and then invite them to discuss their own engagement strategies.
This condensed workshop will help participants understand the rapidly evolving field of immersive media, how to immediately start to explore and experiment, and issues in the emerging form, with a primary focus on journalism. Lab Participants will apply foundations gained in the first part of the workshop by learning how to plan and prototype immersive experiences, and collaboratively develop design dialogue skills to use in their own organizations for immersive journalism. Register here, limited to 10 participants on a first-come first-served basis.
Filmmakers Ina and Enes Talakic follow legendary reporter Edward Jay Epstein, still going strong at 81, as he investigates Edward Snowden’s 2013 leak of classified documents on government surveillance. One of the last of his generation of journalists, the energetic, articulate, and boyish Epstein delights in his discoveries, and in skewering accepted truths. Part chronicle of shoe leather investigative reporting, part romp through a life lived at the top of the social chain, HALL OF MIRRORS takes on us through Epstein’s most notable investigations, examining the Warren Commission’s work, the roots of the diamond industry, the strange career of Armand Hammer, and the inner workings of big-time journalism itself.
Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old black mother, was gang raped by six white boys on her way home from church in Alabama in 1944. Though white on black rape was a familiar threat in Jim Crow South, few African American women spoke up, in fear for their lives. Not Recy Taylor, who bravely identified her rapists–one of whom lived near her house in Abbeville. The NAACP sent its chief investigator, Rosa Parks, who rallied support and triggered an unprecedented outcry for justice, before the local sheriff forced her to leave town. Filmmaker Nancy Buirski exposes an ugly legacy of slavery, ignored by the mainstream press of the time–until Recy Taylor.
VOYEUR follows Gay Talese — the 84-year-old giant of experiential journalism — as he reports one of the most controversial stories of his career: a portrait of a Colorado motel owner, Gerald Foos. For decades, Foos secretly watched his guests with the aid of specially-designed ceiling vents, peering down from an “observation platform” he built in the motel’s attic. He kept detailed journals of his guests’ most private moments — from the mundane to the shocking — but most of all he sought out, spied on, and documented one thing: couples having sex. Talese’s insatiable curiosity leads him to turn his gaze to a man accustomed to being the watcher, exploring a tangle of ethical questions: How can a reporter trust a source who has made a career of deception? What does a journalist owe to his subjects and his readers? Who is really the voyeur?
In 1946, S.E. Branch—a white Southern racist, and the artist’s great-grandfather—murdered Bill Spann, a black man, in rural Alabama. The murder has become hushed and hidden family lore. When Wilkerson sets out to unravel the mystery, he encounters obstacle upon obstacle—destroyed records, everyone refusing to talk. He’s accused of bringing shame upon the family, shaking up old trouble nobody wants. Soon enough, his life is threatened too.
Filmmaker Lilian Franck investigates the Geneva-based World Health Organization, a body of the United Nations charged with protecting global health. Franck exposes an organization infiltrated by special interests, including the tobacco, pharmaceutical and nuclear industries, with direct effects on global health.
Ten years following Serbia’s democratic revolution, a look through the keyhole of a locked door in an apartment in Belgrade combines a family memoir with the portrait of a country in turmoil, to reveal a disillusioned revolutionary and her struggle with the ghosts haunting Serbia’s past and present. Filmmaker Mila Turajlic tracks down hidden video footage that had been confiscated from television stations inside Serbia and gathers records overseas, to reveal political resistance that nationalist leaders had airbrushed from the nation’s history, in a bid to strengthen their grip.
“They are gone.” These are the words that propelled photojournalist Nicole Tung into a daunting situation which nothing could have prepared her for. Masked men wielding Kalashnikovs had abducted her friends John Cantlie and James Foley while they were en route from Syria back into Turkey. Nicole had been nervously waiting for their arrival at the border. Instantly, their fate rested upon her ability to find out who captured her friends and how to get them back alive. The abductions of John Cantlie and James Foley were the beginning of a hostage taking frenzy which impacted the foreign policy of many countries. Because of media blackouts surrounding the kidnappings, many others unwittingly ventured forth into hostile ISIS territory. Fixers were targeted, causing people who thought they were safe to be captured. These unsuspecting journalists and aid workers were thrown into a dark and desperate situation that ended horribly for those whose countries didn’t pay ransom. These crimes revealed what can happen when truths are obscured – causing negotiations and rescue missions to go horribly wrong. END OF TRUTH is an emotionally powerful investigation into the political and criminal enterprise of kidnappings as ISIS rose to power in war […]