The 2011 Sundance Film festival wrapped last week and by all accounts the word among industry, insiders and critics alike on Park City’s picturesque Main Street was that the new crop of indy-docs and international features outshone the narratives and documentary premiers hands down.
Two documentaries received a lot of pre-festival buzz came from Sundance alumns –Pamela Yates’ Granito and Steve James’ The Interruptors — were the must-see documentaries in the festival and sold-out before the festival began. Granito is the personalized follow-up to Yates’ 1984 expose When the Mountains Tremble on the Guatemalan government’s genocide against the region’s indigenous people. James’ The Interruptors is an unflinching look at a group of ex-gang members turned community activists in the Chicago area who are trying to break the cycle of violence in their neighborhoods.
For those of us festival folks who couldn’t get a seat at these films, we did have one other opportunity to hear from the directors and ask them questions. Yates and James were on a Sundance’s Filmmaker Lodge panel “The Aha! Moment: Making Change Sticky . The panel discussion centered on new media outreach strategies and how to break new ground in extending social change outreach for documentaries. They were joined by documentary filmmaker and physician Dr. Maren Grainger-Monson and producer Ted Richane from social change outreach partners Cause and Effect.
All of the projects highlighted by the panel took a long view in measuring the social impact of documentary filmmaking. The panelists agreed that it was no longer possible to effect change by just having a documentary shown in front of an audience (if this was ever really a path to serious impact to begin with). Yates introduced her project by issuing a challenge to documentary film makers: “I want to send out a challenge to everyone here: It is not acceptable, if you are going to make a film about social issues or human rights, not to think about outreach and audience engagement at the outset of making your film … you are going to shortchange yourself as an artist if you don’t get involved from the very beginning and see it all the way through to the finish.” Continue reading New Digital Outreach Strategies Debut at Sundance 2011