The Power of the Documentary is an unusual film festival, because its aim is to break a silence that extends across much of film-making, the arts and journalism.
By silence I mean the exclusion of ideas that might change the way we see our world, or help us make sense of it.
There are 26 films in this festival and each one pushes back a screen of propaganda – not just the propaganda of governments but of a powerful groupthink of special interests designed to distract and intimidate us and which often takes its cue from social media and is the enemy of the arts and political freedom.
Documentary films that challenge this are an endangered species. Many of the films in the festival are rare. Several have never been seen in this country. Why?
There’s no official censorship in Australia, but there is a fear of ideas. Ideas of real politics. Ideas of dissent. Ideas of satire. Ideas that go against the groupthink. Ideas that reject the demands of corporatism. Ideas that reach back to the riches of Australia’s hidden history.
It’s as if our political memory has been hi-jacked, and we’ve become so immersed in a self-regarding me-ism that we’ve forgotten how to act together and challenge rapacious power that is now rampant in our own country and across the world.
The term “documentary” was coined by the Scottish director John Grierson.
“The drama of film,” he said, “is on your doorstep. It is wherever there is exploitation and cruelty.”
I like those words: “on your doorstep”.
What they say is that it’s the blood, sweat and tears of ordinary people that has given us the documentary film at best. That’s the difference.
A documentary is not reality TV. Political documentary is not the consensual game played by politicians and journalists called “current affairs”.
Great documentaries frighten the powerful, unnerve the compliant, expose the hypocritical.
Great documentaries make us think, and think again, and speak out, and even take action.
Tomorrow at the MCA, we’ll show a documentary called Harvest of Shame directed by Susan Steinberg and Fred Friendly and featuring the great American journalist Edward R.
» Lees verder