When Subjects Attack Filmmakers, Is Freedom of Expression at Risk?

by Patricia Aufderheide

Whenmcarthur-foundation filmmakers take on tough subjects, do they need to take extra precautions? Crude, Bananas!, Venus and Serena, Central Park 5 all confronted legal challenges. Other important films, such asGasland and Hot Coffee, have faced smear campaigns.

Documentarians are raising important issues in important ways, and more people than ever before are watching docs. So it’s not surprising that big interests like Chevon, Dole, government and major league sports take, ahem, an interest in their films and their research.

How can filmmakers continue to play that vital role in convening and enriching public debate, without being intimidated by big interests and deep pockets?

Thanks to a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Center for Media & Social Impact is researching:

  • what practices filmmakers use to avoid avoidable trouble;
  • the consequences filmmakers face when they take on tough subjects; and
  • what resources they draw upon.

If you would like to share a story or a contact, please get in touch at cmsimpact [at] gmail [dot] com


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