Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category
On a February Friday afternoon walking along Fulton near Nostrand in Brooklyn, my son and I encountered an artist/writer/performer/thinker mounting painted wooden statements or declarations to the temporary plywood of a construction site. We paused to ask him about his declarations and he broke them down one by one. According to the artist each sign represents a book that he is working on, but they also sound like moments and reflections from his life.
I recently revisited a project from 2008 – On Transmitting Ideology, that is partly an audio montage of historically famous speeches that I feel have helped define the current conservative and liberal ideologies so prominent in the United States political and cultural arenas. Although the piece has been exhibited several times, I’d really like for more people to listen to the audio montage, particularly since we’re in a presidential election year. So much of the current rhetoric is drawn almost verbatim from our past. For example a famous speech known as “Rivers of Blood” (1968) by the conservative British Parliament member Enoch Powell strongly reflects some of the things that Donald Trump has said regarding immigration. The 1968 speech is a call to shutting down the British borders largely due to bigotry.
In the desire for more people to listen to the audio montage, I’ve created a video featuring the audio montage. Perhaps if people give it a few seconds they will be intrigued by the voices of Calvin Coolidge, George Wallace, Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King Jr., Barry Goldwater… enough to play the entire 17 minute and 30 second video. It begins with quick snippets, but as the piece proceeds longer excerpts compliment one another, ideally to create a nice flow.
The montage only includes 12 men, however, they are amongst the most prominent in U.S. history (with exception of one Brit – Powell). At over 17 minutes the piece is already longer than most people will listen, many more diverse voices could easily be referenced, but I tried to keep it short. The 12 voices included are:
Calvin Cooldige, George Wallace, Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King Jr., Barry Goldwater, Barack Obama, Enoch Powell, Malcolm X, Douglas MacCarthur, Noam Chomsky, William F Buckley Jr., Dwight D. Eisenhower
Nathan Fitch is an extraordinary photographer and film maker and the pieces that I’ve seen of his documentary “Island Soldier” are emotionally striking and enlightening. This is a project well worth supporting via Kickstarter “Island Soldier”.
Toxic Sites pieces together complex data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to explore the over 1300 Superfund sites, or the worst toxic contamination sites, in the U.S. The project is by media artist Brooke Singer and funded by the Open Society Foundations’ Documentary Photography Project.
Programming at Toxic Sites during Photoville:
Dr. Sarah Durand, Biologist
Saturday, September 12 from 2-4pm in the Toxic Sites tent at Photoville
The Greenpoint Bioremediation Project (gBP)
Sunday, September 13 from 4-6pm in the Toxic Sites tent at Photoville
Gowanus Canal Walking Tour with The Gowanus Canal Conservancy
Friday, September 18 from 10:00–11:30am at Union Street Bridge (Union Street between Bond and Nevins Streets, Brooklyn 11215)
Gowanus Canal Clean & Green Paint Out
Saturday, September 19 from 10am-4pm at The Salt Lot (2 Second Avenue, Brooklyn 11215)
Public Lab Ghost Stream Mapping
Saturday, September 19 from 12–4pm in the Toxic Sites tent at Photoville
Celebrate Social Justice Journalism
Friday, April 24, 2015 @ 6:30 p.m.
Free & open to the public
The 25th annual James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism will go to reporters who have exposed the collusion of a major U.S. corporation with a vicious African warlord, the impact of violence on some Baltimore children, the growing legion of elderly Americans who work menial jobs in the warehouses of the world’s largest online retailer, the myriad costs of neglecting to care for the mentally ill, and the injustices that plague America’s Indian reservations.
Winners will discuss the inspirations and difficulties of reporting such stories at a free public presentation Friday, April 24 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lang Recital Hall at Hunter College, 68th Street & Lexington Ave, New York City.
Just some of the winners:
William Greider, Career Achievement
In a career spanning more than 35 years, William Greider has been a steadfast and tireless reporter and editor focusing on American politics. He has been the national affairs editor at Rolling Stone; an assistant managing editor at the Washington Post, where he was also a national correspondent and columnist; and the national affairs correspondent for The Nation. In addition, Mr. Greider has written several books and numerous articles for additional publications.
Nathan Fitch, Mikros Soldier (2014, 51 minutes)
Mikros Soldier investigates the Impacts of Militarization in the Federated States of Micronesia, an independent Island nation in the Pacific that has suffered very high casualty rates in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nathan Fitch, a filmmaker and photographer holds an MFA from the Integrated Media Arts program at Hunter College.
Sam Feder, Kate Bornstein is a Queer & Pleasant Danger (2014, 72 minutes)
In this uplifting and timely feature-length documentary, Sam Feder profiles the brave, pioneering transgender performance artist and activist Kate Bornstein, who underwent sex-reassignment surgery in 1986 at age 38, to address the importance of being true to oneself while considering, more broadly, what it means to lead a fulfilling life. Sam Feder, a filmmaker and educator holds an MFA from the Integrated Media Arts program at Hunter College.
Occasionally, I see something that makes me reconsider the Libertarian platform as perhaps not being so ridiculous. The latest something to do so is the short documentary by Stephen Maing titled “The Surrender” which is currently available on First Look Media.
A simple conversation between Stephen Kim an intelligence analyst in the State Department and an ignorant Fox reporter James Rosen lead to the prosecution and 13 month prison sentence of Stephen Kim. The basis of this prosecution is a report that a UN Resolution would lead to further nuclear tests by North Korea. As Jon Stewart put it “that’s it, that’s the leak… North Korea has a nuclear test based economy.”
A good man looses his life savings fighting ridiculous accusations by the Obama administration using the Espionage Act to try and dig up whistle blowers. It’s difficult to not consider whistle blowers as the agents for a transparent government, one of the values espoused by Obama.
Why are our tax dollars going toward the conviction of innocent people who are trying to help build a better world? Of course Libertarian ideals and the desire to contribute toward a better government and country are at odds. Immediately after reconsidering Libertarianism, I recall… “oh ya, Libertarians must be land-owning white people who are pissed about taxes, like to have their guns and feel strongly that they had nothing to do with slavery or its aftermath. They probably home school their children and are against vaccinations.”
Once Stephen Kim’s prison term is up, he must show proof of employment. Later this year Stephen Kim will go from highly regarded State Department Analyst to a Beauty Product Salesman (Kim secured his employment at a beauty supply store before heading to jail).
Hunter College Media Studies professor, Jason Fox invited Charif Kiwan of the Abounaddara Syrian video collective to screen a compilation film and speak with Hunter Students. The evening made for a powerful and eye-opening exchange.
Inspired by Dziga Vertov’s “Man with a Movie Camera” (1929), Abounaddara is Arabic for “man with glasses.” Charif Kiwan is the collective’s representative who no longer lives in Syria and has no plans to return. Osama al-Habali, one member of the collective has been imprisoned for the past year and a half, however the collective continues with its mission to produce and post one video a week depicting Syrian life at a time of war.
As Charif described the work of Abounaddara, the collective’s goals are simple:
1. Produce and post one video per week that captures Syrian life at this time of war. Kiwan referred to this practice as “emergency cinema.”
2. Defend the “right to the image” as a basic human right.
The outcome of these goals are to inform and motivate others to find a way to help a people in crisis and to create an archive that portrays every-day life in Syria at this moment. The French-German television network arte commissioned the nearly hour-long compilation of Abounaddara’s videos that was screened at the Roosevelt House.
Although Charif claimed that the anonymous video collective attempts to capture all sides of Syrian life and in doing so give voice to members within the Bashar al-Assad regime and the Islamic State as well as to the rebels and the victims of the ongoing conflict, the compilation is most strongly a call to end the violence and suffering.
Amongst the most powerful shorts in the compilation are “Children of Halfaya” and “SYRIA: Snapshots of History in the making” both are embedded below. “Children of Halfaya” captures boys in a refugee camp in Lebanon, the oldest boy recalls bombing massacres, including that of his school. And “SYRIA: Snapshots of History in the making” captures a young man retelling the moment that he became an activist and the empowerment of protest, however, he must pause as his interview is interrupted by bombing.
Whereas other videos posted to Vimeo, merely capture moments in everyday life, such as young people enjoying a street concert (this video was not included in the compilation):
Charif Kiwan pleaded to the audience to act, to engage and to work toward a better world. The video compilation captured diverse perspectives, however, the message appeared clear – the United States must intervene in Syria. It is the moral imperative to end the killing. Charif stated that Syrians are strongly against imperialism, and he seemed to imply an understanding of the price that a U.S. intervention would cost Syria and it’s culture. The current reality of human massacre, suffering and exodus necessitates intervention by foreign powers.
“Every Mother’s Son” profiles three New York mothers who unexpectedly find themselves united to seek justice and transform their grief into an opportunity for profound social change.
Two decades ago “between 1994 and 1999, 107 civilian killing by police occurred in New York City under circumstances that community groups felt represented an overuse of force.” Unfortunately, again, this situation does not appear to change. The 2004 documentary “Every Mother’s Son” features the mothers of the following innocent, unarmed men who were killed by the police:
1994 The murder of Anthony Baez by Francis X. Livoti in the Bronx
1999 Amadou Diallo shot 19 times by Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon and Kenneth Boss
1999 Gary “Gidone” Busch shot 12 times by four officers
The film opens with the death of Anthony Baez who died due to a choke hold by Officer Livoti, at times it feels as if little changes in our society.
Next week, I will be presenting a keynote talk on web documentaries – what works and does not along with several examples. I will also do a two-day techinical workshop on constructing a web documentary, using bootstrap and HTML5 video properties as the primary tools.
I recently re-visited this very important mockumentary from 1978 and need to make a note of it. “Agarrando Pueblo (aka The Vampires of Poverty)” was shot in Cali, Colombia, 1978 and is a satiric mockumentary critiquing the popularity of documentaries capturing Latin American poverty in the 1970s. Mayolo and Ospina coined the term “pornomiseria” or “pornography of misery” in reference to the objectification of poverty in Latin America for Eurocentric audiences.
The director and cameraman move quickly around the city requesting a taxi driver to take them to spots where they can capture poor children, crazy people and whores. The directors have a recipe of necessary vignettes to compose the documentary. When pedestrians confront the film makers they dismissively tell them that it’s to inform the world or that they don’t understand what this film is about. At one point the director is filmed some cocaine in his hotel bathroom between shots.