Thursday, October 13, 2005

Participant Cinema

Activist cinema
The producers of George Clooney's latest film, "Good Night, and Good Luck," have asked me to blog for the movie's Web site. The film chronicles the Cold-War era conflict between television newsman Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

It is still in limited release (11 theaters nationwide as of October 7) but will open on Friday in more venues across the country. Thus far it has received considerable press attention, with articles in the New Yorker and New York Times drawing obvious parallels between the meek journalism of the 1950s portrayed in Clooney's effort and that of the post 9-11 era.

The film's producers, Participant Productions, back movies that are steeped in social issues. Other projects include Luna, which canonizes environmental activist and tree squatter Julia "Butterfly" Hill, Syriana, which looks at the human consequences of the oil industry's pursuit of wealth and power, and the upcoming North Country, about a single mother who takes on abuses at her hometown mining industry.

Participant would like their films to serve as catalysts for citizen activism. Viewers are encouraged to go from the theaters to a film's Web site, where they are directed to actions related to its theme. The Web site for "Good Night, and Good Luck" asks people to file stories in their community that mainstream media ignore; Web site participants will rate the work and the best pieces "may be broadcast to a much wider audience by our media partners, PBS,, and XM Satellite Radio."

My candidate for most undercovered story in the mainstream media is the story of the mainstream media. Big media companies and their lobbyists are among Washington's most powerful players. Despite spending tens of millions of dollars to influence legislation and bolster political candidates, mainstream media's news operations present themselves to the public as neutral observers of our political processes. Every news mention of a piece of legislation or a politician that receives big media support should be accompanied by full disclosure of the parent company's less than objective stance on the issue.

More about Participant Productions from Eli.

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