In the aftermath of this weekend's 80th Academy Awards, many filmmakers, stars, and fashions will be showered with attention.
Others who woke up with a golden statuette on their pillow Monday morning
are not necessarily stars or A-listers ~ in fact, you may not even
recognize them. For the good or the bad, most documentary filmmakers
fall into this group.
This past week, I had the privilege to attend the IDA (International Documentary Association) Academy Award Documentary Nominee Program and reception as well as Docuday. Seeing the programs, meeting some of the filmmakers, and hearing them speak so passionately about their films gave me newfound appreciation for documentary filmmaking. At the reception, filmmakers were allowed to speak about the stories behind their films—the struggles and dangers they faced in getting their films made as well as the indelible impact the experience had on them personally.
These are the stories we don’t
get to hear in 40-second Oscar acceptance speeches.
Sometimes in creative ventures, we wonder how (and if ) we’re making a difference. How does art contribute to humanity? Can a film open our eyes to worlds we’ve never seen? Can it be both thought-provoking and powerful enough to instigate social change? The answers to all of these questions is a resounding “Yes.” And no one knows that more intimately than the documentary filmmaker.
I urge everyone to give documentaries a second look-- a viewing chance. Go out and see a documentary. Fast-track a doc to the top of your Netflix list. Organize a documentary day movie night with friends.
As Filmmaker Michael Moore said at the nominee reception:
“People want to see documentaries, but there’s a disconnect between that desire and the exhibitors out there...We’re not asking for charity. This [Documentaries]could be on the 15th screen of a multiplex that would otherwise have the sixth showing of the new Harry Potter movie." (Michael Moore, Writer/Director "Sicko")
Follow Michael Moore's lead and urge theatre chains to show more documentaries. The nominated documentaries are each educational, thought-provoking,
and extraordinary in their own way. They certainly deserve more
recognition, as do documentary films, in general.
No End In Sight --The first film of its kind to chronicle the reasons behind Iraq’s descent into guerrilla war, warlord rule, criminality, and anarchy. (Charles Ferguson / Audrey Mars)
Operation Homecoming: Writing The Wartime Experience—Explores the first-hand accounts of American soldiers through their own words. (Richard E. Robbins / The Documentary Group)
Sicko – Profiles ordinary Americans whose lives have been disrupted, shattered, or in some cases, ended by health care catastrophe. (Michael Moore / Meghan O’Hara)
Taxi To The Dark Side* -- begins with the death of an Afghan taxi driver from injuries inflicted by US soldiers. From there, the film is an unflinching look at the Bush administration’s policy on torture. (Alex Gibney / Eva Orner)
War/Dance – tells the story of three Ugandan children whose family have been torn apart by civil war. When they are invited to compete in a music and dance festival, it gives them an opportunity to regain part of their childhood. (Amanda Nix Fine / Sean Fine)
Freeheld* -- follows the battle of Laurel Hester, a dying police officer who fights to transfer her pension to her domestic partner. (Cynthia Wade / Vanessa Roth)
La Corona (The Crown) – follows four inmates competing for the crown in an annual beauty pageant of the Women’s penitentiary in Bogota, Colombia. (Amanda Micheli / Isabel Vega)
Salim Baba –tells the story of Salim Muhammed, a father who lives in North Kolkata, India with his wife and five children. Since the age of ten, he has made a living screening discarded film scraps for the kids in his surrounding neighborhood using a hand-cranked projector that he inherited from his father. ( Tim Sternberg / Francisco Bello)
Sari’s Mother – follows the struggle of an Iraqui mother who is trying to help her 10-year-old son, Sari, who is dying of AIDS. ( James Longley)
Filmmakers of all genres must also rise to the occasion and produce films that contribute to our culture, force us to question our own humanity, and challenge us and our established beliefs.
Documentary filmmakers know
this. Through getting to know IDA, I’ve learned that documentary filmmakers are family-- supportive of each other and passionate about making films that truly matter.
If others in the entertainment industry could follow their lead, we’d be all better off.
* - denotes Academy Award winner
Copyright © 2008 KLiedle
Film Poster: Taxi To The Dark Side (X-Ray Productions)