Documentary can advocate for civil rights and societalissues. Discuss using examples.
Introduce social doc’sA specific ideological understanding and declaration ofsolidarity with the goal of radical social-political transformation. “Werealized that the important thing was not the film itself but that which thefilm provoked” – Fernado Solanas (1969).1Documentaries represent as well as record.Social documentaries excel at telling complex societal problemsand deep human stories. Openly addressing societal problems, with the goal ofmaking audiences aware and motivated for social justice, equality anddemocracy. Helping to engage members of the public as citizens rather thanmerely media consumers. They have gained in popularity and number in the lastdecade.
Despite the critical success of many high-profiledocumentaries such as Supersize Me or Inconvenient Truth, in general theirsocial impacts have been hit or miss. “I wish I could say that you make amovie, and the world changes the next day. But it takes a while for culture tocatch up,” Psihoyos told Motherboard.2Today’s documentaries practices develop from social trends and technological advancements.The civil rights movements, starting with the battle forcivil rights for African-Americans and growing with feminist, ethnic rights andgender rights movements, spurred many people to express their views, to createnew institutions, and to seek out support for expanded notions of citizenshipand rights. The expansion of non-profit organizations, including those thatrepresent rights movements, created institutional vehicles to channel thatenergy. Public and foundation investment in culture and in mass media creatednew resources for aspiring makers and institutions that supported them.
As such socialdocumentaries have become a powerful tool in combating societal problems.Below are a variety of documentaries focusing on various ethnic or societalproblems and showing their impact and reception. From this we can have agreater understanding on how documentaries can advocate for civil rights andsocietal issues.Their influence/impact Target audienceThe Act of KillingThe “Act of Killing” investigates the individuals who participatedin the Indonesian mass killings of 1965-1966. Just like Peter Lennon’s Rocky,Road to Dublin, the Act of Killing was also attempted to be covered up by the government,but their efforts were futile in an age where the distribution of media is so prominent.
The killer’s re-enactment the murders by juxtaposing killingand cruelty with dancing and bright colours. It often appears surreal at timesbut always keeps this disturbing tone. To be put bluntly the documentary isabout people celebrating the killing of others. What is most impressive is the influence and impact it left.Joshua Oppenheimer was clever to get his film out there:· Private invitation only screenings across thecountry – Autumn 2012· International Human Rights Day – 50 screeningsin 30 cities held by leaders of Indonesia’s civil society – December 2012· Released in conjunction with the National HumanRights Commission Indonesia’s report on the atrocities.· Indonesia’s Independence Day – 45 Screeningsannounced publicly for the first time.
· Available for free download across Indonesia onSeptember 30th anniversary of start 1965-1966 genocide.The film was made with clear goals in mind:· To catalyse a fundamental change in how the1965-1966 genocide is understood in Indonesia.· To generate a nationwide critical discussionabout how the past lives on in the present.· To demand an official apology, a truth commission,a reconciliation process, and an end to impunity, corruption and the use ofgangsters in business and politics.The “Act of Killing” went on to receive both recognition andpraise.
It was nominated for an Oscar in 2014. Other milestones include:· 600 news articles published in Indonesia· 100 Festivals in 57 countries· 1000 Community Screenings in 118 cities· 21 countries have released the film for cinema· 29 awards and prizes3 Seeing Anwar’s humanity gave most ofthe audience at the screening hope. The film showed them that Anwar acted onimpulses that “made sense” to him in his everyday life. They startedto understand the man behind the killer. But they also argued that forgivenesshad to come hand in hand with reconciliation. Gangster capitalism, corruptionand censorship still plague Indonesia’s social landscape.
It is not in theinterests of the upper rungs of Indonesian society to analyse the atrocities orseek justice for the victims. There is still a sense that the averageIndonesian has no rational alternative to the status quo. A vote for apolitical candidate puts bread on your table. Bribery and racketeering providewhat one Indonesian woman described as “a heaven in this hell”.
Through a network of undergrounddistributors and social media, The Act of Killing has now been viewed bymillions of Indonesians. It’s a film that is impossible to ignore. Even people at thescreening who didn’t appreciate the “film within the film” structureand criticised its theatricality, thought The Act of Killing would beground-breaking in helping Indonesia break its silence about its history.
Internationalattention will surely help the country come to terms with its past, as onewoman said: “I hope that Joshua goes all the way with this film and thatthe film creates international attention. Then the government of Indonesia maybe forced to deal with human rights in this country.”4The African Americans: Many Rivers to CrossWritten and presented by Harvard University scholar HenryLouis Gates, Jr. This Emmy award winning documentary spanning 6 series, delvesinto not only black history but what it means to be an African American in theUSA today. Starting from African slavetrades and concluding in present day America. Dr.
Gates challenges manycontradictions made throughout black history and debates many of Americas tophistorians.The CoveAn example of a documentary advocating for animal rights is “TheCove” directed by Louie Psihoyos is 2009 documentary film analyses andquestions dolphin hunting in Japan. The dolphins are herded, by small fishingboat, into a cove where they are killed for their meat. The film brings tolight the atrocities of the dolphin mass killings, urging the audience to calla halt on the killings and to bring about change to the Japanese fishing practices.
It also educates the public to the risk of mercury poisoning from dolphin meat.The film highlights the fact that the number of dolphins killed in the Taijidolphin drive hunting is several times greater than the number of whales killedin the Antarctic, and asserts that 23,000 dolphins and porpoises are killed inJapan every year by the country’s whaling industry.5Japan’s country-wide dolphin catch is now down to less than6,000 animals from 23,000 when the film was released, said The Cove’s director,Louie Psihoyos, in part because of the gruesome images of dying dolphins andblood-red water that splashed across film screens in the US and elsewhere.6Louie would later go on to receive the rights to distribute itthroughout Japan, were many citizens are oblivious about the killings in Taiji.
“Hopefully, they are just as horrified as westernaudiences have been,” he said. “Most people there don’t believe it.They just can’t believe the horror that goes on inside their own borders.”7Rocky, road to DublinPeter Lennon’s “Rocky, Road to Dublin” is a prime example ofa documentary challenging not only social norms but the far greater task ofbringing Irelands cultural isolationism, Gaelic and clerical traditionalism intopublic view.Peter Lennon grew up in the 30’s in the aftermath of the independenceof Ireland.
People were told they were the sons and daughters of heroes andtheir new role was that of gratitude.8It was seen as treason to question the society that the old guerrilla heroeshad fought to create, and it was this lack of questioning that led Ireland downa dark path. Peter Lennon would later travel to France in his adult years andgrew to love the French new wave of cinema and it inspired him throughout the makingof his documentary. After living in Paris for decades working as a journalist critiquingfilms, Lennon decided to revisit his home country in 1967 to create a filmlooking at the state of Ireland. He captured Ireland on the cusp of enormoussocial changes but still mired in a regressive, semi-theocratic mentality thatwould later erupt in repeated church scandals.9It examined the contemporary state of the Republic of Ireland,posing the question “What you do with your revolution once you’ve got it?”.
Using seemingly innocent interviews we see, Lennon has manyof the Irish establishmentsBlends interviews with writersSean O’Faolain and Conor Cruise O’Brien, a spokesman for the Gaelic AthleticAssociation, theatre producer Jim Fitzgerald, a member of the censorship board,an editor of The Irish Times, film director John Huston, and a young Catholicpriest, Father Michael Cleary. Brainwashed school kids admit casuallythat because of Adam’s sin their ‘intellect was darkened, their will weakened,and their passions inclined them to evil”. A patriotic sportsman confirms that any memberof their organisation, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), who played a’foreign’ game such as cricket, rugby or soccer would be banned for six months.
University students tell how they were not allowed to discuss politics oncampus. The number of banned writers in Ireland included Capote, Hemingway,Orwell, Salinger and Wells, as well as the Irish Samuel Beckett, Brendan Behan,Sean O’Casey and even George Bernard Shaw. Although he had seen the Guardian pieces, the Archbishopagreed to my request to follow a priest for two days, obviously believing thatthe singing and dancing 60s swinging priest he produced would win over theprodigal son.10Released in the late 60’s, this documentary shatteredIrelands complacent view of itself as a liberated country.The Irish establishment was frosty towards the film.
Irishcinemas wouldn’t screen it, RTE didn’t broadcast it, and it didn’t get a fullrelease until 2006. Even so in later years Peter Lennon’s documentary wouldbecome a grim reminder of Ireland trading the oppression of the British, forthat of the church. Selected by the Cannes Festival to represent Ireland in1968 and immediately shown across Europe and North America. When the Cannesfestival collapsed, the student uprising under siege by the riot police adoptedRocky Road and distributed it around the Sorbonne faculties.
Peter Lennonhimself had this to say: “The French saw it as a film, the Irish as aninsult.” In later years Peter Lennon’s documentary would become agrim reminder of Ireland trading the oppression of the British, for that of thechurch.The unfortunate truth was that it was swept under rug but today,in the west, with have greater free rein to express ourselves and through theguise of the internet it is made far easy to have these documentaries……An Inconvenient Truth”An inconvenient Truth” is a 2006 American documentarydirected by Davis Guggenheim. Davis was inspired by a slide show, to educatecitizens on the matter of global warming, given by former United States VicePresident Al Gore’s. Davis, producers Laurie David and Lawrence Bender went onto adapt the slide show into a documentary.Having a successful premiere at the Sundance film festivalin 2006 and opening in New York City and Los Angeles on May 24, 2006. It wen onto win two Academy Awards for best documentary feature and best original song.
Thefilm grossed $24 million in the U.S. and $26 million at the international boxoffice, becoming the tenth highest grossing documentary film to date in theUnited States.
11 One of the documentaries biggest milestones is that has beenadded to the science curriculum in schools around the world. It has helped giverise the publics awareness of global warming.OutroNo matter the subject matter or style, be it personal,political, comical, revolutionary. Social documentary films increase ourawareness of ourselves and the world we inhabit.
They are a window into who weare. As such, they have a unique ability to engage, illuminate and inspire.12Social documentaries such as the ones discussed above, tellus that they have become a tried and tested medium, to allow directors to bringsocial issues and the abuse of civil rights into the public rights.1 2 https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/5397db/six-years-later-did-the-cove-impact-dolphin-hunting-in-japan3 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2375605/awards4 https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/mar/05/act-of-killing-screening-in-indonesia5 https://www.theguardian.com/film/the-cove6 https://www.theguardian.com/film/the-cove7 https://www.theguardian.com/film/the-cove8Roacky rd qoute9 http://icarusfilms.com/if-dub10 11 https://cosmolearning.org/documentaries/an-inconvenient-truth-563/12 http://www.sva.edu/graduate/mfa-social-documentary-film