Yesterday, I walked over to our new community-run Rep Cinema, to watch a free screening of a new Torontonian documentary about Garbage. I mention this film here, primarily because of its unconventional approach to production and distribution. Mostly self-financed, the filmmakers seem to be working outside the conventions of the Canadian documentary industry in interesting ways. It’s taking its lead from the alternative distribution methods of our US colleagues.
From what I can tell, this film is being distributed primarily off the internet, driving in the hits to their website through a great mainstream media PR campaign. On the site, the filmmakers are encouraging audiences to host screenings, where they then sell the DVD for 10 bucks.
I thought the film was gonna be about a family that goes completely garbage-free. It’s not quite that radical, its more like the the “supersize me” of the garbage world. The filmmaker challenges a [sub]urban family of 5 to hang on to their personal garbage production for 3 months - and to store it in their garage.
The film is funny and informative, though, with its smartly composed tangents about the different kinds of waste we produce. I’ve always wanted to see where our city-wide composting programme sends our wet stuff. And I had never given consideration to the fact that our own corpses, when we die, are actually potentially toxic.
But I have actually lived in a completely garbage-free household for a month [in Prague], and that’s probably the most urgently needed challenge for us all, permanently.
December 10th, 2007
Oh, what did I learn from the Brits at Sheffield Doc/Fest last week?
Scariest Thing: As a planet, we only have 5 years before we reach runaway climate change, according to the scientists to whom Franny Armstrong has been talking for her film, currently titled Age of Stupid. She screened 45 minutes of her rough cut for us. Ambitious, important work. But the clock’s a tickin’. Hope she gets her film out soon to push governments around the world for massive oil rations.
And so after that, what else really matters? Let’s see. Well, not that much. Just the demise of documentaries as we know them.
Big Picture Thing: Adam Curtis gave a keynote address about how the crisis in documentary is linked to genre’s inextricable historic relationship to politics. (Remember Mr. Grierson?) Curtis says the public doesn’t trust documentaries anymore, because they don’t trust politicians. He says we have moved into the age of the ideology of the self. Hyper-individualism and consumerism. Me me me. And that’s threatened our trust in documentaries, in the whole political process.
British TV Thing: For now, our U.K. documentary colleagues have saved Storyville, the “it” strand for documentaries on BBC TV. But perhaps that’s a little like the little dutch boy’s finger in the dike, ’cause there’s a big tidal wave of change coming. BBC is slashing jobs in the thousands across the board.
British Digital Thing: Meanwhile, BBC is investing millions of pounds into commissioning documentary and factual programming in New Media. So is Channel Four. And the DigiDocs stream of panels and discussions at the fest gave some sparks of hope for Documentary re-emerging after the flood, but in radical new forms and styles. Paula from Magic Lantern gave a nice list of bookmarks of early examples.
Innovation Thing: And finally, the Grierson: Sheffield Award for Innnovation, for which our on-line documentary website was nominated, went to the v. moving short film, Talk to Me, made out of 20 year’s worth of the filmmaker’s personal telephone messages and photographic snaphots. Its a strong emotional story, and maybe, just maybe, the online world is too cold and fragmented a place, to easily — or ever — attain this kind of documentary emotion.
So what will we gain, and what will we lose in the digital documentary future? I guess we’ll all check back in 2012. That’s if we’re not some of the 6 billion dead.
One Last (small-ish and hopeful) Thing: The Brits are moving a little on their commitment to their rail system, and public transport. The photo above is my snap of the spanking new refurbished St. Pancras Train station, officially opening today. The clock’s a tickin’ but it sure is pretty.
November 14th, 2007