At the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam (IDFA), journalists and documentarians from around the globe shared stories of risk and reward in telling truth to power.
The festival, which regularly draws thousands of makers and many more viewers to focus on how documentary can contribute to make the world a better place, was the perfect venue to showcase Dangerous Docs: How to Minimize Risk While Telling Truth to Power.
Angelica Das, the project director, first focused on how important the rich and deep knowledge and institutional support networks developed by journalists are to documentary makers tackling the challenge of telling truth to power. She ended by reminding them that learning from journalists, and even calling oneself a journalist, need not rob filmmakers of their highly honed ability to tell compelling stories.
I followed with observations on exaggerated risks we discovered in our report—especially fear of legal challenges, which are rare and idiosyncratic—and on the wealth of resources the report makes available to documentarians.
Among the filmmakers present was Doug Blush, one of the producers of Invisible War, which is now facing legal threats (but not legal action) from universities accused in the film of doing less than they should about rape on campus. He pointed out that the publicity from the attacks was a great boon—a point also made in the report.
What impressed both of us was the courage of filmmakers who are working in conflict zones, in stateless situations and within states not observant of rule of law. Filmmakers working in places such as Indonesia, Russia, eastern Europe and Turkey stressed to us and others in the session the importance for them of international attention, of hazardous conditions training, and of networks of communication among colleagues (all points in the report as well).
We were honored to be in such illustrious company, exploring the challenges of telling truth to power.