Sunday, April 30, 2006

Hot Docs in Toronto

“It was magic at first,
but it let everyone down.
Now this world is gonna hurt,
You better turn it around.”

-Jack Johnson “Cookie Jar”

I am here at a major documentary film festival in Toronto. I am overwhelmed by the amount of people in the world with similar goals to me, to realize the educational potential of film and television. There are over 1700 industry delegates/potential shmoozing opportunities here. It's unbelievable.

The ironic thing is I generally don’t watch TV. It is often mind-numbing and mind deteriorating, mostly because TV executives have sold their collective souls to advertisers who desire more sex and violence to sell their products to society’s lowest common denominators. This has perpetuated a vicious cycle that effectively keeps people as shallow as the programs they watch. I typically only watch documentaries, sports, and news. At a certain point a few years ago, I stopped watching the “News” as well. And I was not surprised to find that since then I have become much more attuned to reality. Many networks have turned into sensationalist spin machine for the powers that be, biased not only in their delivery but more importantly in their selection of what the news is. It is not in their interest to tell stories that may disturb the general public from its sleep. It is not in their interest to show us the starving Sudanese refugees or reactions to US foreign policy in the Muslim world. The bias is often not in the news they televise, but in the news they don’t televise. Another problem I had with traditional network news lies in their approach. Why does it have to be so boring? News has become solely information-based, without asking the essential journalistic question of “why”? Asking this “why” provides an understanding that facts cannot convey. As ABC anchor Ted Koppel said himself, “We have substituted facts for knowledge.”

Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. There is amazing potential in this medium to educate, uplift, and wake up the general public. I believe in television’s potential to stimulate minds, strengthen values, and raise consciousness. I believe in the power of images. My goal is to point my camera where the traditional news media will never dare point theirs. There are stories out there that need to be told and are being ignored; stories of injustice, genocide, and love. Stories that will change the way you see the world and will be a prism into your own soul. That, to me, is good TV. The facts are important, but its what’s behind the facts that make it interesting. Learning, understanding, and getting closer to that universal truth are all values that are important to me as an individual My goal is to transmit these values through my subjects and stories. I believe it is slowly becoming safer to turn your TV back around. I believe that the magic of TV may not be in the past, but in the future.