Saturday, December 11, 2010

AIFF 2010: Festival Blogger Ethics and Objectivity

This festival blogging started in 2007 when I bought a pass for the festival and was at a screening when some of the filmmakers and actors were hamming it up in the lobby at the museum.  I pulled out my camera and taped it.  And posted it.  [Update: I see this doesn't really link to anything.  Blogging while sleep deprived isn't good for making sense.  I was trying to say here that the blogging sort of just happened and then built up over the years until the Festival people started emailing a month before the festival, "Hey, you're going to blog again this year aren't you?" And as I blogged more, I got to 'know' - in that temporary away from home sort of friendship - film makers who came here for the festivals.  And began to realize that knowing film makers affected how I wrote about them.  It doesn't have to be a negative affect, as this post describes.]

Watching Full Disclosure, which touched on how being embedded affects a journalists objectivity in reporting, I could relate well.  As a blogger I've faced a similar issue covering trials, covering the legislature, and covering the festival.  It's much easier to write about someone or their performance if you don't know them.  But when you actually talk to someone, you get a chance to correct your stereotyping, learn more about who they are and more about the background of the film (or whatever topic.)  But it's harder to say negative things.  So it's a double-edged sword.  I think the most important part is to be honest to yourself and to your readers.

Brian Palmer on Shannyn Moore show
Knowing the people I'm writing about has a very positive side effect.  I think carefully about how to write critical things.  I choose my words carefully and attempt to focus on identifying the specific, tangible events that bother me, rather than using general negative adjectives.  Perhaps if US Embassy officials know there's a chance that their messages will become public, they will write with less snark and fewer pejoratives, and simply report facts.

Dave - one of the Beekeeper Team
All that above has a reason.  I've been pushing Full Disclosure and so I think I need to do my own full disclosure.  At the film festival I get to meet film makers.  (Everyone has that opportunity, not just me.  But as a blogger I'm much more forward about introducing myself than I would be otherwise. And film makers react to bloggers much more positively than do legislators!)  Wednesday (or was it just yesterday?) Brian Palmer gave me a copy of his DVD.  I'd read about Full Disclosure, but hadn't seen it.  So the next day I emailed him to say how much I liked the movie and to ask some questions.  And was he available Friday to talk.  He emailed back he was.  So we met at Fire Island Bakery - a few blocks from where he was staying.  But he was scheduled to be on Shannyn Moore's KUDO show in 15 minutes.  So I took him down there.

While we were there, Dave (I have this nagging feeling that I've mixed up his name with someone else, but I'm pretty sure it's Dave) who does lots of technical stuff for Shannyn, was there and I learned he's one of the people who made The Beekeeper, an Alaskan feature that shows Saturday at 10:20pm at Bear Tooth.  

Then I took Brian off to Campbell Airstrip.  I want these out-of-towners to see at least a glimpse of Alaska.  And we got to walk and talk a bit on the trail.  (I knew my extra ski boots would never fit his feet, so we walked, but the cross-country conditions were great.) 

I want to tell you all this because I've been pushing his film here.  But I did that because I liked the film and because his style has some linkage to what I try to do here - get video of people as natural and contextual as I can.  I think what I'm trying to say is that I didn't write good things about the film because we did things together, but rather it was the other way around.  I really liked his film and so wanted to talk to him more about it.  (But he'll probably say I did way too much of the talking.) 

As the first set of film makers here have or are now departing, a new set is coming in.  I went to the Bear Tooth to see some of the shorts.  When I got out, the line was forming for Summer Pasture - the documentary about Tibet.  Then off to Out North to see Wings of An Angel and Full Disclosure.  I saw Elias there (I met him last night and put up a video of him) and talked him into staying for Ticked Off Trannies with Knives.  Elias has a vampire an 'infected' movie.  (He corrected me, but I can see now that I'll have to ask him to clarify the terminology.)  So I thought he might be a good person to watch Ticked Off Trannies with.  I'm not into blood and gore, but the title of this move was so good I had to see it.  The transvestites, in the non-violent scenes, were great - outrageous and funny.  And as Elias pointed out afterward - the film makers were constantly breaking all the rules of film making - intentionally.  And as I watched them take revenge on the evil and perverted sadists, I was thinking - how are they any different from the people they were now torturing?  The movie was vindicated when Mama asked the very same question at the end.

So more dilemmas.  Elias wants me to see Ashes Saturday at 10 at Out North and I want to see it.  But it means I can't see Beekeeper which plays at the same time. 

Tomorrow (well, technically, it is already 2 hours into tomorrow) there's lots going on.  But I need to go to bed.  I've been making serious errors in my blogging (like putting down the wrong venue for films) and I'm going to blame it on being festlagged.  I didn't have to fly here, but I'm losing serious sleep time.

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