Filmmakers and journalists are often drawn, if not driven by a sense of obligation, to tell stories of injustice. Refugees fleeing war and embarking on perilous journeys, school girls kidnapped and forced into becoming sex slaves for Islamist guerrillas, victims of bullying or sexual harassment, families torn apart through immigration crackdowns: all of these are major stories of 2018, and all of them involve trauma. How do, and how should, journalists and filmmakers tell these important stories? How to balance the need to know and tell “the whole truth” with the emotional well being of a source who has already suffered deeply? We will hear from directors of new films in which trauma or acute crisis played a role, prominently or as a seemingly inescapable undercurrent.
For investigative storytellers in print and film, protagonists take many forms. They may be a well-placed source or a whistleblower, a victim or a villain. Craft and ethics often demand distance from the subject’s perspective, whose story is indeed being rendered by someone aiming for subjectivity’s opposite, objectivity. To professionals, subjects offer “material,” their stories to be cut and shaped, mediated through our pens and lenses. The voices on this panel, though, are all those of subjects who have appeared in investigative works, unfiltered and unmediated. How and why did they agree to be part of the process, what were their expectations, and how did the filmmaker live up to those expectations? What do they make of the film’s portrayal of them, and its impact on their lives? This is our chance to hear what it’s like for those who entrust us with their stories.
As fake news evolves, it has gone from random clickbait and doctored photos to sophisticated multi-layered operations, skilled at exploiting the capacity of social media’s echo and amplification chambers. It seeks to control not just the story, but the public’s ability to trust in the press as a reliable source of information for holding government accountable, and to destroy the credibility of investigative storytellers it targets. It seeks to turn facts into “facts,” with truth up for grabs–to sometimes devastating and dangerous effect. But all is not dark. Alongside this assault on verifiable truth, equally sophisticated responses are emerging to expose the machinery behind the factories of fake reality, and strategies to challenge its spread.
In today’s world, the making of a documentary can be a minefield, presenting myriad risks to the physical, digital, legal, reputational and emotional security of filmmakers, crews and contributors. In this panel, three filmmakers facing a range of security threats or challenges in their recent work will unpack the risks involved, precautions they took and lessons learned with a panel of experts in safety, digital security, law and trauma.
One filmmaker trained her lens on the Russian oligarchs behind the Miss Universe pageant, and stumbled into explosive material shedding light on Donald Trump. Another project set out to chronicle the Dirty Wars in Latin America. The co-directors, though, kept a shadow project in mind: They collected vast testimony and other evidence over more than 20 years, that prosecutors are now using in court to punish torturers and killers. Yet a third investigation on the notorious ‘Ndragheta mafia almost ended when its author was murdered, leaving colleagues to pick up the pieces and tell the story. This panel will explore the work of filmmakers and journalists whose stories took an irrevocable turn, precipitating a change of course and opening new vistas.
What could be more neutral than data, the gold standard of law, policy—even investigative inquiry? It carries the whiff of science and the weight of fact. Data can turn the anecdotal into the emblematic. And it is being collected on a massive scale. Filmmakers, journalists and artists may work in different modes and to different ends, but they often share data as a common and integral source material. This panel takes a deeper look at our age’s unusual relationship to data: whose is collected and through what means, how it is used and misused, and what does it tell us.