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What documentary filmmakers and journalists can learn from each other

by Lene Bech Sillesen.


Harnessing the power of film to tell investigative stories can be risky for documentary film producers. In 2009, the documentary Bananas! took a critical look at a Dole Food banana plantation, where pesticide use was allegedly making workers sterile. Dole sued filmmaker Fredrik Gertten for defamation and sought to ban further showing of the film, which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

The lawsuit was later dropped, but the whole ordeal is just one example of how documentary filmmakers who challenge powerful organizations can face serious challenges, and even dangers, from corporations or individuals whose interests are at stake.

It was one example in a new report by The Center for Media & Social Impact at American University, out Thursday, showing that when documentaries broach power, it matters if the film’s creator identifies as a journalist or a filmmaker. It matters not just for the sake of rhetoric and categorization, but in a very real, concrete way, because those who identify as filmmakers rather than journalists have a smaller range of places to turn to, or networks to rely on in the face of certain risks, the report shows.

Read the rest of this article from CJR.org

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