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Social Documentary

SXSW 2012: Culture from the Inside

SXSW FilmSome of my faves at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival were documentaries that track the evolution of a culture from the inside.

Two of them focused on the emergent practice of public data-hacking/dumping. Both Patrick Forbes’ "Wikileaks: Secrets and Lies" and Brian Knappenberger’s "We Are Legion" take on their subjects with journalistic curiosity and an eye for the oddball. Both are mostly B-roll with interviews, but they provide rich insight into processes.

The American Revolution: A conversation with filmmaker, Bill Lichtenstein

Bill Lichtenstein interviewing WBCN's Charles Laquidara for film,  Photo credit: Jay Rooney

WBCN brought humanity to the airwaves; a new rhythm to life; a cast of characters we loved and identified with (Charles, Sam, Tommy, Jim, Bill, JJ, Mississippi, Al...); music which evolved as the world changed; real news reflecting real happenings, without the taint of corporate America (thanks to Danny Schechter); and a sense of community that brought several generations together. We lived and loved well, and through it all was WBCN. I think we all need to reconnect with those values and realize how important WBCN was to us, and to the community.”

Dan Beach (kickstarter supporter and WBCN listener)

Pull Focus: Suzan Beraza

Founder of Reel Thing, Suzan Beraza's films have appeared on national public television in the United States, and at many festivals, winning top awards at Worldfest, Montreal Film Festival, and Mountainfilm in Telluride, among others. Previous films include Life's A Beach, American Outrage, Blue Planet Run, Water, A Clear Solution and Troubled Waters: The Dilemma of Dams.

Beraza's latest film, "Bag It," follows “everyman” Jeb Berrier as he tries to make sense of our dependence on plastic bags. Although his quest starts out small, Jeb soon learns that the problem extends past landfills to oceans, rivers and ultimately human health. The average American uses about 500 plastic bags each year, for about twelve minutes each. This single-use mentality has led to the formation of a floating island of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean more than twice the size of Texas. The film explores these issues and identifies how our daily reliance on plastic threatens not only waterways and marine life, but human health, too. Two of the most common plastic additives are endocrine disruptors, which have been shown to link to cancer, diabetes, autism, attention deficit disorder, obesity and infertility.


Media That Matters 2012 Rapporteur's Report

This year's Media That Matters conference, "Change for Good," featured conversations about how independent social change filmmakers can execute integrated campaigns that are strategic, action-oriented, and have enduring impact.


Pull Focus: Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion

Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion

Eric Strauss has been creating documentary films for more than a decade, shooting, writing and producing for broadcasters such as National Geographic, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, and A&E. For National Geographic Explorer, Eric directed, shot and produced Heroin Crisis, about the global trail of Afghan heroin, as well as Iraq's Guns for Hire, a profile of the private security industry in Iraq. Eric also directed and produced for Hard Time, an Emmy-nominated prison series that premiered on the National Geographic Channel in March 2009. The Redemption of General Butt Naked is his first feature film.

Daniele Anastasion has worked regularly on documentaries for National Geographic, including the Emmy-nominated Inside the Body Trade. She directed and produced KKK: Inside American Terror for The National Geographic Channel and has also produced and shot for Frontline/WORLD. She also produced for Hard Time, an Emmy-nominated prison series for National Geographic that provides a gripping yearlong view into the world of incarceration. The Redemption of General Butt Naked is her first feature film.

(biography via The Redemption of General Butt Naked website)