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hot docs talks: Social Impact
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Hot DocsTalks
Transcripts from interviews conducted at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, April 25 - May 4, 2003

Theme 8: Social Impact
Are new technologies of documentary production also instruments for social change? Can they challenge the media monopoly?

Sara Diamond and Peter Wintonick
Sara: Let's talk about the impact on communities that a lot of these makers are concerned with in terms of new technologies. We're not only looking at documentary producers using digital media, we're also very concerned about how people within society use digital technologies. Any comments on what you've seen there?

Peter: Well really it's been my kind of preoccupation for the last couple of years - to really look at the way that new technology and cell phones and digital wireless worlds can actually help protect and transform micro states and micro nations, and communities and neighbourhoods, from the imperial powers and destruction, ecologically and otherwise, of the world. So I think that, armed with these tools, there is a way to fight back against those forces.

Aerlyn Weissman
The other button that gets pushed in almost every case are these anxieties about who controls women's sexuality. Sorry folks, we still live in patriarchy, these issues are still at the bottom of a lot of this. And I think that's guiding me in my investigation of this phenomenon. You need to ask that question: Is this the same? Is it new, is it wonderful? Or is it the same old stuff, and we're actually just folding in all of our stupid ideas about sexism, ageism, racism, etc. but in a more high tech form? That's our challenge: to really reinterpret stuff. We're given a new platform, a new place to play, and we should be really creative and really as open-ended as the technology will let us be, challenging a lot of the old social assumptions.

Erica Pomerance
We are lucky to have access to this stuff. And I think that some of the people in the developing countries need access, because communications is a really important sector to develop - just as important as drinking water and food and agriculture. African people watch television, they must communicate with each other. They don't necessarily know what's going on in the next country. And the fact that there will be more sorts of available production... what for me is interesting about it is not the expensive high tech end, it's the low end that is really going to make it a very democratic revolution.

Ben Jones: I think that technology redefines all forms of media, whether it's documentary or whether it's animation or whether it's drama. The fact that the technology is filtering down to everyday people, and is being incorporated into everyday objects, means that the act of film production and the act of filmmaking is changing.

Fee Plumley: And everywhere you look, the user is becoming a producer. So your key point is that, wherever you go, you can document your life. You can be the voice of yourself and other people everywhere in the world, and hopefully this will stop the monopoly the media has at the moment.

Monique Simard
The genre which is documentary to put forward social or political issues and use them - not only point of view filmmakers - but also to use them as social tools to raise issues, to debate issues, this is what we like. Of course, we always produce documentaries that will go to a wide audience through television - we've always done so. But we also always want our documentaries to go into the communities, and to be seen by as many people as possible as instruments of social change. I think that's really what we like and what we do. We do also some fiction, but in the same spirit. We mostly do documentaries, and documentary is really about showing the cinéma du reél as we say in French. But the cinéma du reél is a lot about what's happening in reality, and what should be changed in our social reality.

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