Shadows of Liberty

HotDocs arrived this past weekend — my fave fest of the city pretty much! First up for me was “Shadows of Liberty” — all about how the media, due to its corporate/for-profit ownership, ignores some stories (and pumps others) depending on what that story will do for their profits.

(Somewhat related side note: In the most basic form – far more basic then what the doc content is about – is how I find, and cringe at how, even local Toronto newscasts will make a ‘news story’ out of some crap reality show they’re showing later on that evening. Maybe fill that 5 minutes with real news instead?)

It’s a fair situation to pick apart in a documentary for sure. I found the history particularly interesting: Basically, the media in the US used to be, by law, not corporate owned. Then laws changed to allow them to be corporate owned… later to be followed by abolishing the rules where one company could not own x media outlets (and x per market). While I thought it would pick apart the Republicans for all this (they do for some of it for sure) I was surprised it was Clinton who helped out as well. Ditto, it says, for what Obama has *not* done regarding net neutrality (the future of this fight). While the Internet should be a partial leveling of what news gets out to the public, getting rid of net neutrality could lessen this.

Back to the doc. It was very well done and was engaging for sure. The story about how CBS News decided not to report a follow up story (working conditions in Nike factories overseas) due to a huge Nike sponsorship deal for the Olympics (which CBS had broadcast rights to) was quite interesting. Ditto a TWA flight disaster that smells of a cover up – per the doc slant. Of course, then comes the Iraq war and how the US media basically becomes the propaganda machine for the US government (war=ratings&readers!). Also touched on is how a journalist stuck to his story and reported it (re: CIA & a Nicaraguan group – and how that led to drugs coming to the LA area) however was derided by other media (bigger outlets w/o the scoop) and – even once proved correct – was still criticized and became blacklisted as a journalist — eventually leading to his suicide as a result.

After the doc came the Q&A w/ the director and an American side kick (from the folks). The first question became a plug to save the CBC (“oh, I also work there” said the questioner — indeed). Upon subsequent questions it became apparent to me that the director actually seemed some what lackluster about the topic of his documentary. The side-kick was all over it, but the director seemed disinterested in his very own “social justice” documentary. I found that odd, but maybe that’s just his personality.

One question was “how was your doc funded” — seeing how it wouldn’t be by any corporations likely. The answer: “DocFactory” — w/o any explanation as to what that is. Turns out, DocFactory funds docs that “inspire change for important social issues worldwide”. While I don’t have a problem with that, I found it interesting that it wasn’t explained as to what DocFactory was in the response. That plus the seeming lack of interest from the filmmaker made me wonder if DocFactory basically put up a bunch of money (and the topic/interviews/etc) and just needed someone-anyone to produce it. Ok, maybe far fetched.

Anyway, a well put together documentary and one that is thought-provoking for sure. Go see it… 4/5.

(This post originally written in April 2012)

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