Mark the date Friday, May 4, 2012. It’s the first time that Canadian documentary filmmakers in Toronto have taken to the streets to protest attacks on culture generally and against the documentary in particular. The people need documentaries, to tell, see, and talk about their stories. That’s what documentary filmmakers do. I made some signs for the protest. For inspiration, I turned to a book first published in 1935, Documentary Film by Paul Rotha.
The use of the film medium to interpret creatively and in social terms the life of the people as it exists in reality.
I made my sign: DOCS – The Life of the People – Don’t Cut Culture! Petra Valier at work texted me a sign slogan: Keep it Real, Save our docs . It felt great to be out there. I’m convinced the cultural work we do is a positive force in society and we have to fight for the means to do it! We’re not going to take it anymore!!
a film about the struggle of the working poor to survive and the increasing wealth gap between the 1% and the rest of us is finally going to be released this spring in Toronto and on the internet. The delay is the result of the efforts of the National Film Board of Canada that produced the film, to have it premiere at a film festival. While Piers Handling, the CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival said Courage was “emotional, a great subject, with amazing stories”, the Toronto Festival turned it down. So have all the festivals the NFB sent it to. Bebeth, a character in the film had my favourite explanation for this disappointment — “They don’t want to see reality.”
Courage will be screened at several libraries in the Greater Toronto area. Double click on the postcard to enlarge and see the locations, dates and times. Courage will also be available on the NFB website shortly. For a period of time it will be streamed for free. I plan to let everyone know how they can see the film and get a copy if they wish for their own or their organizations educational purposes. The film is relevant to those interested in the anti-poverty movement, equality, fairness, gender, immigration, and other issues.
A very good thing is that the film got made. The project was first mentioned on this website as a ‘work in progress’ titled ‘Salaire minimum’. That project did get made and it is called Courage. It was a fantastic project with so many good people involved but for sure it would not have been made without the unflagging support of producer Anne Marie Rocher from the Office national du film du Canada.
Who knew? Who knew that documentary filmmaking would become what it is today? On the one hand it’s been turned upside down into factual entertainment, lifestyle programming, and reality television — a significant kind of coffee-table-book-cum-game-show industry that provides jobs and countless hours of easy consumption. On the other hand, there’s an international elite of prestige documentary filmmakers making extreme documentaries — these works and the stars who make them people festivals around the world and presumably make money. The breakout filmmaker for this tendency of course was Michael Moore. For me, Wasteland is a good example of an extreme documentary. It’s about a world famous New York modern artist, Vic Muniz, who makes a film – and art – with the poorest of the poor — garbage pickers in the world’s largest garbage dump on the edge of Rio de Janeiro. There are big screen shots of massive amounts of garbage being plowed or dumped with hordes of people scrambling over it looking for anything useful. So documentary is big movies on the one hand and reality/lifestyle on the other. In any case, in Canada the production of documentaries went down 30% in one year. There is barely a window available on television. Culture, non-profit, and documentary are not to be mentioned in polite company. Loftier goals for Canadian culture and Canadian television were of a certain time … that is over.
… Hopefully happier notes soon to come.
Phhewww! that took awhile! For the last 10-15 years, the oil companies and the Alberta government couldn’t go fast enough to maximize the number of billion dollar projects that would strip off the boreal forest to boil the oil out of the oil sands. Wages, and the cost of materials and housing in the little town of Fort McMurray skyrocketed while the environment took a serious pounding. Now former Alberta Premier Lougheed in a recent interview in the Globe and Mail is calling for the development of only one oil sands project at a time. It’s good, it’s great … but isn’t the horse already out of the barn or rather isn’t the HERD of horses already out of the barn? Maybe next time the Conservatives will actually conserve instead of ‘rape and pillage’?
In the year 2000, we made The Hospital at the End of the Earth for the CBC series The Nature of Things. It was about the human tragedy of probably the worst environmental tragedy of the 20th Century. Here are two pictures of the shrinking Aral Sea. The first was taken in the year we made our film and the other was taken in 2009. The black line is the boundary of the Aral Sea in the 1960s. It didn’t take long to cause this irreversible damage. It’s heartsickening to see and just so sad.
The Aral was once the 4th largest lake in the world, bigger than Lake Huron! There was a thriving fishing and tourist industry. Now there are thriving dust storms.
For more please see the page for The Hospital at the End of the Earth
For more news and information from renowned British filmmaker and remarkable media critic Peter Watkins visit his website at …
Please see also our film The Universal Clock: the Resistance of Peter Watkins
David Suzuki and Tom Berger outside Tuktoyaktuk, NWT in July. It was just about our last day of shooting Ghosts of Futures Past – Tom Berger in the North for the CBC series The Nature of Things.
That little hill in the background is made of ice and is called a “?”