Just a quick post about Silverdocs, which takes place June 12-17. I’ll be attending for the first time and look forward to seeing several films. I'm hoping to catch Alex Gibney’s Taxi to the Dark Side; which focuses on U.S policies/practices of torture and interrogation and the death of an Aghani taxi driver; Please Vote for Me, about third graders practicing classroom democracy in China, and 14 Women, which follows female members of the U.S. Senate in 2006. I also want to see some short films by Jem Cohen and AJ Schnack’s much acclaimed Kurt Cobain About a Son, and if I can squeeze it in, the biographical doc Frank and Cindy.
I’m also looking forward to the International Documentary Conference and sessions on Filmanthropy, which will examine how nonprofit groups and philanthropists are turning to documentaries to raise awareness about key social issues. Filmanthropy is a term that originated with Nanking producer and AOL Exec Ted Leonsis, who is a keynote speaker at the conference. Although the connection between nonprofits/advocacy groups and documentary is nothing new, I’ve been paying close attention lately to wealthy philanthropists trying to promote social change through filmmaking: the most obvious example is Jeff Skoll’s for-profit Participant Productions, as well as the emergence of Ben Goldhirsch's Good, a media company which includes a print publication, a blog and creates and posts videos on youtube (A brief review of these can be found here.) While the films created through such "filmanthropists" can bring awareness to certain subjects (the best and most obvious example being An Inconvenient Truth), I’m wondering if this type of filmmaking will risk giving up on storytelling and craft to focus on fundraising, with a singular goal of asking viewers to make contributions and serving more as propaganda than anything else. I guess I’m taking a cynical view here, but I’m just not sure how this particular trend will shape documentary practices in the future.