Sheffield goes bananas
21 Jun 20120 comments
Last Friday I went to speak at a panel in the Sheffield Doc /Fest - the UKs biggest documentary film festival. The panel, which was called Stories lead to action, was organised by Working Films, a USA based organisation which links filmmaking with activism. I shared the panel with two members of Working Films and with independent filmmaker Fredrik Gertten, who made a film – Bananas!* - about a lawsuit against a banana company and was eventually sued by the company for defamation. In turn, he turned the lawsuit against him into another film - Big Boys Go Bananas!**.
Fredik Gertten talked about his experience of finding himself in the centre of an enormous controversy, an incredibly expensive lawsuit, a PR storm and, eventually, a good story for using his freedom of artistic expression. The CEO of Working Films argued to a mixed audience of filmmakers, producers, activists and would be filmmakers how NGOs could be a good source of funding and promotion of independent factual filmmaking. As for me, I explained the work of ARTICLE 19 and tried to convey some points:
- Filmmakers are protected under international standards of freedom of expression (albeit with the big proviso that the existence of international law does not mean that it is actually respected by national governments)
- Using a functional definition of journalists, factual filmmakers could fall into that category (big proviso again).
- On defamation cases, such as the one discussed in the film, the focus should always be placed on Freedom of expression because the discourse is quite often shifted.
After some Q &A time which focused mainly on how to get funding for a film or how to promote it once you have it, arcane subjects on which I did not have any useful knowledge to offer, the session ended and I rushed back to the station to catch the last train to London.