Truth and Power 1: Control Room and Other Stories

Speaking truth to power has never been more vital, nor as fraught as it is in the post-Trump world. This year at Document, we consider a battle being fought on two fronts. Governments and non-state actors are increasingly bold in undermining previously sacrosanct ideals of freedom of speech and individual privacy. Meanwhile, news organisations that challenge the status quo or displease powerful entities are being marginalised, undermined and even destroyed. In this first of two connected strands, we consider how governments across the world block information and invade privacy to undermine democracy, while what used to be called propaganda, what used to be called spin, is being spun and propagated with increasing audacity. We pay particular attention to the case of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, screening in solidarity films originally programmed for the banned 11th edition.

Filter

A Filmless Festival

Overnight, the 11th annual Beijing Independent Film Festival in the capital city of China was banned. It ended before it ever began. We follow the rapid sequence of events from the cutting off of the building’s water and electricity supply to the seizure of all festival property. What exactly threatens the organisers of cultural events in a country where artistic liberty is considered a crime? Will they succumb or will the screenings still take place? A look behind the scenes of the festival organisation and the steps taken after it was cancelled is tensely recorded using authentic footage, mainly from the mobile phones of the organisers, film makers, activists and passers-by.

Info

Event: Film

Director: Wo Wang

Year: 2015

Country: China

Date: Saturday 21 October

Time: 2.30pm

Running Time: 1hr 19m

Location: CCA Theatre

Control Room

‘I’m not saying it’s the truth,’ director Jehane Noujaim once said of her award-winning film, ‘it’s our truth.’ Control Room provides insight into the Arabic network Al Jazeera’s presentation of the second Iraq war to their worldwide audience. Noujaim’s film follows the journey of three characters from Al Jazeera and US Central Command through the beginning of the Iraq war, in order to tell the larger story of how truth is gathered, presented, and ultimately created by those who deliver it. Control Room calls into question many of the prevailing images and positions offered up by the US news media, while exposing the institutional bias on both sides.

Info

Event: Film

Director: Jehane Noujaim

Year: 2004

Country: USA

Date: Sunday 22 October

Time: 4.00pm

Running Time: 1hr 24m

Location: CCA Cinema

I Want To Be A People’s Representative

Can a documentary camera be a tool for democracy in China? Jia Zhitan certainly thinks so, and wields his camera like an anti-bureaucratic weapon. Jia, a member of Caochangdi’s influential Villagers Documentary Project (organizer Wu Wenguang has been training local villagers to use digital video cameras to record their participation in ultra-local politics), wants to run to be a delegate to the National People’s Congress. He wins the first round, but is deemed unqualified by officials for reasons they keep to themselves. As the irrepressibly scrappy and stubborn Jia seeks explanations and redress from ever higher levels of authority, he records their interactions scenes that would play as entertaining satiric comedy if they weren’t so frustratingly real.

Part of the cancelled 11th Annual Beijing Independent Film Festival.

Info

Event: Film

Director: Jia Zhitan

Year: 2013

Country: China

Date: Saturday 21 October

Time: 8.00pm

Running Time: 1hr 18m

Location: CCA Cinema

Kim Jong-il’s Comedy Club

A journalist with no scruples and two comedians travel to North Korea with a mission – to challenge the conditions of the smile in one of the world’s most notorious regimes. On the pretext of being a small theatre troupe on a cultural exchange visit from Denmark, The Red Chapel was given permission to travel to North Korea with the objective of performing at special events for selected audiences. But in reality the small troupe was comprised of a group who had no such intentions.

Presented in collaboration with Matchbox Cineclub.

Info

Event: Film

Director: Mads Brügger

Year: 2009

Country: USA

Date: Friday 20 October

Time: 10.00pm

Running Time: 1hr 28m

Location: CCA Cinema

Panel Discussion: The Control Room & Other Stories

Panellists will discuss role of government in imposing narratives on filmmakers and the populace, dealing with the undermining of the concept of objective truth and “expert” testimony. With the rise of subjective opinion above scientific fact and the struggle to provide counter-testimony to mainstream narratives, how do we combat the weapon of media manipulation and control?

Info

Event: Panel Discussion

Date: Saturday 21 October

Time: 4.00pm

Running Time: 2hr

Location: CCA Creative Lab

SPIN

Donald Trump’s denunciation of “fake news” has been so effective a rallying cry it would be easy to conclude – and no doubt he’d do little to dissuade you – that his administration had pioneered the concept. Depending on who you ask, the denunciation of “fake news” is either an antidote to propaganda or simply next-level manipulation. Brian Springer’s 1995 documentary, which uses pirated satellite feeds to reveal US media personalities’ contempt for their viewers, puts the concept of fake news and a gaslighting presidency in context. TV outtakes appropriated from network satellite feeds unravel the tightly-spun fabric of television – a system that silences public debate and enforces the exclusion of anyone outside those who manufacture the news.

Info

Event: Film

Director: Brian Springer

Year: 1995

Country: USA

Date: Saturday 21 October

Time: 11.30am

Running Time: 57m

Location: CCA Theatre

The VaChina Monologues

“Vagina….I’ve said it!” Leading Chinese queer filmmaker Fan Popo chronicles the past 10 years of performances of Eve Ensler’s famous feminist episodic play throughout China following its debut by The Chinese Department of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou in December 2003. At times banned and partly censored, performances have taken over university campuses, theatres, cafes, villages, streets and public transport. Popo’s film portrays its growing popularity as a process of self-awakening, of learning and of localisation, the ten-year look-back showing the many ways in which it has played a vital role in giving people courage to find their voice.

Part of the cancelled 11th Annual Beijing Independent Film Festival.

We will be joined after the screening for a Q&A with filmmaker Fan Popo.

Info

Event: Film

Director: Fan Popo

Year: 2013

Country: China

Date: Saturday 21 October

Time: 6.30pm

Running Time: 28m

Location: CCA Cinema