Monthly Archives: May 2007

Amita Vyas

Amita is an Assistant Professor in the GW School of Public Health.

She’s the one mentioned in the earlier post who took a trip to India with YouthAIDS.

We had a great meeting this week. She has an amazing vision for making aid money in India more accountable. She is working with grad students this Summer in a planning workshop.

This is totally consistent with interdisciplinary praxis pedagogy and provides a new (huge) window to study and participate in the use of media for charitable goals.

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Documentary & Journalism pt. 2: Issue Advocacy

To the discussion of documentary and journalism, I want to add the not-for-profit communications that I discussed in a previous post. When we make videos for cause related charities – tear-jerker fundraisers and retrospectives, we use every documentary technique in the book. However, I would not call these videos documentary.

I would call them corporate non-profit videos or issue advocacy, but why?

One reason is that the agenda of the organization is paramount, and I think that a true documentary should have an independent voice.

If the best fund-raising video for an AIDS prevention organization leaves out gut-wrenching scenes of poverty and prostitution or scenes of condoms being handed out, so be it. That video has a specific purpose and a specific audience.

Does that mean that a not-for-profit can never make a documentary? No. It depends (IMHO), on the Independence of the voice making the film. Can this become a slippery slope? Of course. Are there grey areas? Of course.

Consider, a comparison between An Inconvenient Truth and The Fog of War, both winners of the Academy Award for best documentary feature. Both are well executed films, but An Inconvenient Truth is much closer to issue advocacy, where The Fog of War has much more of an independent voice.

I don’t think that either one of these hold up as journalism, but I think both are great films . . .

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Ricky Williams and Michael Vick

Not exactly sure why, but I have begun to follow sports much more as an adult. This is a bit strange to me, because I didn’t play, or even watch much sports as a kid. Now, I see sports as a microcosm where moral, ethical, political, racial, and now bio-ethical issues play out in sharp contrast.

This week, two NFL football stars were caught doing something “bad.” Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons was connected to a dog fighting ring, and Ricky Williams, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, tested positive for marijuana. I’m not exactly sure how many positive marijuana tests this makes for Williams, but it is more than 2 and his drug use has already had him suspended from the league.

It is not yet clear what the consequence will be for either player, but, especially because he is a multiple offender, the early talk is that Ricky Williams’ career in the NFL might be over. Vick may or may not face a suspension, pending an investigation. William’s excuse is that he has a medical/psychological problem that marijuana helps him deal with. Vick’s explanation is that it was family members who were responsible, and he was unaware.

Much of the reason that the moral and ethical aspects of sports are magnified is the idea that these people are role models. So, sorry for the cliche but, are we telling our children that using a medical treatment that is not approved by the government is on par (even possibly worse) than participating in or condoning animal cruelty?

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Michael Moore in Cuba

I am not the biggest fan of Michael Moore. I think he has given doc makers a bad rep. I do think that Roger and Me is good, and Bowling for Columbine is actually a great film. Most of his other work, I can take or leave.

Anyway, Moore is in the news again this week. It seems he went to Cuba for his latest film, and the now the Bush administration has begun an investigation into whether he violated the Cuba travel ban.

Now, IMHO, the travel ban is one of the sillier things this government has done in the last 50 years. In this case, the administration seems to be giving an adversary exactly what he wants: publicity.

There is a parallel here to some more important issues. Today, Michael Moore is beside himself with joy, knowing that his place in the spotlight has been assured. On the day we invaded Iraq, Osama Bin Laden was similarly beside himself with joy, knowing that the war he sought to ignite would sustain for years to come.

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Book Contract

Well, we finally received an official offer from Focal Press.

Very exciting. More soon one this!

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