Every week Link TV's Documentaries team gives their unique insight into the doc industry, and also Link TV's own programming. Look for notes from Lorraine Hess, Link TV's VP of Acquisitions and others working to bring you the world's best films.
The countdown is on with little time remaining until Americans choose the next President of the United States. Most of us have already made up our minds who we will vote for when we enter the booth on November 4th. But if you are still on the fence or just need some reassurance that you are making the best decision, we have put together a week of programming to help you seal the deal. Instead of following the nightly horse-race that you’ll see everywhere else on TV, we thought we’d try to bring you a wider, global perspective on all the major issues the candidates are selling. So each day, from now until the fourth we will be featuring programs that focus on the issues, like the Economy and Globalization, the Environment, Voting Law (and fraud), Iraq and Foreign Policy, Civil Rights, Immigration and Healthcare. The films and programs featured will give you an in-depth, international perspective that we hope will help to fill in the gaps left by mainstream media.
Some of the films you may have already seen on Link - films like In Debt We Trust which we first aired in the winter of 2007 - way before anyone else was talking about a global economic meltdown. And Iraq’s Missing Billions, which documents the immense wealth gained as a result of the Iraq War, by independent contractors like Halliburton. And of course, The Planet, our popular 4-part series on Global Change. This hard hitting series lays out the environmental cost for human enterprise and consumption. In this alarming series, scientists and environmental specialists across the globe agree that the health of our planet is at stake. Increased emissions, diminished rainforests, depleting resources, species extinction and environmental refugees are among the issues they directly align with the breakdown of the earth’s systems. Scientists suggest that it will take about 50 years for the earth to replenish its natural resources and to reverse the damage caused by man. But not unless we are willing to sacrifice some of the practices and pleasures of life as we know it.
In the coming days we will also present some exciting new films. One not to miss is the broadcast premiere of The Corporal’s Diary: 38 Days in Iraq. One of the most poignant films you will see on Link this year and one that perhaps more than any other film, will make you question the decision to go into Iraq. This heart-wrenching film tells the story of Corporal Jonathan Santos from Fort Bragg, Connecticut, who documented his own tour in Iraq with his home video camera. Tragically, what starts out as an intimate glimpse of a young man full of fear yet hopeful for the future, ends up his final testament. And we in the process, bear witness to the futility of war and the waste of young lives. Stealing America, Vote By Vote, examines the irrefutable evidence that proves there were voting inaccuracies and suppression in US elections as far back as 1996 to the election of 2004. And The Warning, a first film from Truth to Power TV (T2PTV), an independent media org that shines the light on the critical issues the mainstream media chooses to ignore. In The Warning, five prominent political thinkers come together to expose the forces at work in the deteriorating transformation of our democracy into an “unconstitutional form of American government”.
So as Election Day 2008 approaches, take some time to carefully prepare yourself for one of the more important decisions you will make this year. Be sure that you and those you know are registered to vote. Locate the voting polls designated for your residential area. Then tune into Link TV for a clear understanding of the critical issues this election rests upon. From the extraordinary selection of programs we present as we countdown to the election you can get the facts and know the issues and feel right about the choice you make on Tuesday.
For a full schedule of all our election programming visit our Election Countdown and know the issues before you vote.
-Posted October 31, 2008 by Anne Kovach and Lorraine Hess
-Posted October 22, 2008 by Taryn Charles, Acquisitions Intern
I have a passion for volunteer work. Since arriving in New Zealand 10 years ago I have worked with a number of non-profit agencies, contributing what I can to their cause. When I made plans this summer to spend some time with a friend in New York, I decided that this would be a great opportunity to experience volunteer work in the USA. So I registered with volunteermatch.org and I was very excited to find Link TV. Visiting the website, I was immediately drawn to the concept of “Television Without Borders”. I felt I could bring an interesting and personal perspective to this idea - having grown up in South Africa before migrating to New Zealand as a young girl. I now live in Wellington where I work as a Negotiations and Policy Analyst in the Office of Treaty Settlements. The office is part of the Ministry of Justice and is responsible for settling historical Maori claims over land that was unfairly taken by the Crown.
It was 1998 when my family moved to New Zealand. We were a part of a mass migration of South Africans disillusioned by the instability of a nation in flux. Like many immigrants, we headed straight to Auckland, the biggest and most multi-cultural city in New Zealand with the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world.
We settled in Auckland. With rose-colored glasses, we looked forward to sleeping with our front door open and walking safely through the city at night - finally living a life free of racial prejudice. But the reality of New Zealand is something very different. On Bro’town (New Zealand’s popular animated comedy series) the South African character Joost van der Van Van says, "We came to New Zealand to look for milk and honey, but the milk was sour and the honey was yuck."
While European New Zealanders still make up the majority, ethnic minorities (including Asian, South African and Indian migrants) are growing in number and the country now struggles to adopt a changing identity. With a population of 1.3 million, over 300,000 are of Pacific Island or Maori descent. Though Maori (Indigenous) New Zealanders comprise 12.5% of the population they make up half of the country’s prison population. Pacific Islanders and Maori experience the most significant deprivation of any population in New Zealand and are more likely than any other group to be both a victim and a perpetrator of a serious crime. It is in this world of hardship and deprivation that Bro’town is set.
Bro’town has attracted a great deal of attention, both locally and abroad. It has been lauded as a rare example of local comedy that didn’t elicit the usual cultural cringe. Language like ‘peow peow’ is now a part of New Zealand’s lexicon. Immigrant culture in New Zealand is often marginalized, feared and treated as the ‘other’ and a show that so honestly and entertainingly represents that ‘other’ is a breath of fresh air for the nation. My family and I love the character of Joost van der Van Van. Seeing our South African culture so truthfully parodied on such a popular show is a great feeling. I imagine this is a similar for those from other cultures represented on the show. But when anything is startlingly and instantaneously popular, there will always be criticism and some critics have accused the show of reinforcing widespread and unwelcome social stereotypes.
It is easy to see where these criticisms come from. Bro’town is not subtle. It is filled with toilet humor and explicit use of racial stereotypes. “Jeff da Maori” has 8 fathers, sleeps on the front lawn and has poor personal hygiene. Vale and Valea’s father is a self-interested alcoholic, a compulsive gambler and an appalling parent. “Encouragement and praise is good? Beating kids until they lose consciousness is bad? Fascinating!”. These characters represent heartbreaking stereotypes. For about 3 years, I worked with an organization called Preventing Violence in the Home. Most of the women I worked with are mothers from ethnic minorities. Not only are they victims of domestic violence but their situation is compounded by the social isolation that often comes with being and immigrant. In recent years the country has been rocked by the deaths of the Kahui twins (six weeks old), Nia Glassie (two years old) and a multitude of other children. All were of Maori or Pacific Island descent and all were victims of horrific neglect and torture at the hands of abusive adults. For a country dealing with this kind of guilt and sadness, Bro’town humor can be unspeakably painful. For me the experience is mixed - I laugh, but at the same time I feel deeply sorry for the women and children who endure such abuse.
However, this is the reality and we must accept it. Bro’town humor is not based on the fantastical imaginations of the Naked Samoans, the creators of the show. Rather, it is based on the everyday reality of many New Zealanders. On the trivial side, kids in my school in South Auckland used the term “peow peow” on a regular basis. We all know at least one Pakeha (European New Zealander) who tries to be politically correct but comes off as nothing but patronizing (Ms Lynn Grey to Jeff da Maori – “I marvel at the Maori and their extended “whanau”… (Family).”) On the serious side, a number of my Maori and Pacific friends in high school were pregnant before the age of 15. In the episode Zealander, Jeff da Maori gets addicted to “P”, the New Zealand term for crystal methamphetamine. The widespread use of this drug has New Zealand gripped in one of the biggest drug-use epidemics in the Western world. Bro’town, however candidly, presents the real and often ugly side of New Zealand life.
The real strength of Bro’town, however, is the way the show turns the ugly into something positive. New Zealand has a great culture of ‘taking the piss’ or making fun of ourselves. In the 1980s Billy T James, New Zealand’s best loved comedian, demonstrated the success of this formula to great effect, “I’m half Scottish, half Maori. Half of me wants to get pissed, the other half doesn’t want to pay for It.” Through humor, he tackled social inequalities, stereotypes and colonial history and got people talking about these issues in a constructive way. Bro’town continues the spirit of Billy T James. In the episode, ‘A Maori at my Table’, Maori culture is simultaneously parodied and embraced. The ‘tangi’(funeral) for Auntie Queenie shows both the often-confusing nature of Maori protocols but also the open and heartfelt emotion of these ceremonies. We have pride in our Kiwi-ness, yet can laugh at and critique the bits that we aren’t so proud of. Being able to laugh at ourselves, and at our follies, is an essential part of the New Zealand experience. Bro’town has brought the truth of this experience to mainstream New Zealand, in an honest voice and an entertaining medium. And Link TV has brought Bro’town to the USA by removing the boarders.
To see more episodes of Bro’town streamed in their entirety, click here...
-Posted October 3, 2008 by Taryn Charles, Acquisitions Intern
We were honored when filmmaker James Longley offered LinkTV an exclusive window to bring you his special report about The MEK (AKA the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq). James's award-winning film 'Iraq in Fragments' made a profound impression on me so I was fascinated to see his Special report about this little-known organization and very proud to be able to bring it to you. You can watch the premiere of the report streamed here on LinkTV.org and it will also be airing on the channel on 25th September at 9pm Pacific/12 Eastern, and October 30 at 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, ‘The U.S. State Department lists the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq as a terrorist organization for its association with Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime until the dictator’s ouster by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.’ It also states that ‘the MEK was blamed for Western targets in the 1970s and for supporting the 1979 American embassy takeover in Tehran. Over the last two decades, however, the group’s continued presence on the U.S. terrorist group list primarily involves its activities directed from Iraqi territory against Iran. After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the MEK was disarmed and confined by American forces to the grounds of a former Iraqi military base. Still, the 2007 State Department report says that MEK maintains “the capacity and will” to attack “Europe, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, and beyond.”
We talked to James earlier today about his film:
Why did you make the film?
First of all, I don’t really look at this project as a “film” per se -- this is more like a special report, made exclusively for TV broadcast and Internet. I made the decision to put this report together because I think the subject matter is important; it has a strong impact on US-Iran relations although it’s a subject of which few in the United States are aware.
Are these former MEK members who gave interviews in any danger?
I was able to make contact with the former members of the MEK through an NGO in Tehran called the Nejat Society, which is an officially-sanctioned organization that helps the families of MEK members currently in Iraq and also provides support to former MEK members who have returned to Iran. Though I am sure the MEK itself might pose a danger to former members who speak about their experiences inside that organization, it’s important to recognize that I made these interviews with the blessing of an official organization in Iran, and not in secret. None of the participants in my report expressed any fear about giving interviews, since the Iranian government is already fully aware of their identities and history.
From what I can gather, it is now the position of the Iranian government to allow former MEK members to return to Iran without charging them with any crime, except for those who were in leadership positions inside the MEK or personally carried out terrorist acts - and there are relatively few of these people. In this way, the Iranian government hopes to dissolve the organization by allowing most people to leave it easily, and making it more feasible to shut down the main MEK Ashraf base in Iraq.
How did you come across the characters?
I contacted most of the former MEK members through the Nejat Society in Tehran. The journalists and historians I interviewed because of their published work on the MEK. People like Hans von Sponeck, who had been working for the UN in Iraq in the 1990s, I was able to interview just by chance. I was also able to interview the FBI agent in charge of investigating the MEK in the United States during the 1980s, though it took a long time to arrange this interview. I also contacted pro-MEK organizations such as the Iran Policy Committee, but after initially agreeing to an interview they eventually refused to go on the record. I also contacted Ali Reza Jafarzadeh - the former spokesperson for the MEK who now works for Fox News - to request an interview, but he never responded.
What are the characters in the film up to now?
Arash Sametipour, the main character in the report, finished his prison sentence and has been married for several years, living in Tehran where he works in a private company that teaches English to Iranians. Ronak, who was held against her will by the MEK in Ashraf base from the age of 14, is now in her early twenties and lives with her mother in the Kurdish area of Iran. Babak Amin, who carried out a number of terrorist operations in Iran including firing an RPG at the Ministry of Defense building, served a prison sentence and is now pursuing an engineering degree in Tehran. Yavar, the former MEK member who killed a young security guard in Esfahan after the 1979 revolution, served a long prison sentence and was saved from the death penalty by clemency granted by the guard’s mother, according to the Iranian legal system which allows family members of murder victims to pardon the murderer. Yavar adopted two young girls orphaned during the Iran-Iraq war and raised them as his own.
Have the MEK acted on any recent threats to the Iranian government?
During the 1980s and 90s the MEK carried out a number of terrorist operations against Iran, and even launched a land invasion in 1988, at the end of the Iran-Iraq War. However, since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the MEK has been largely disarmed and is no longer in a position to carry out large operations against Iran. Instead, they have been lobbying the US government to take military action against Iran, hoping to inspire a “regime change” that would allow themselves to come to power.
Has the U.S. government’s policy changed at all concerning the MEK?
My understanding is that there are deep divisions of opinion inside the US government regarding the MEK. On the one hand, the State Department, CIA and FBI all seem to regard the MEK and its lobbying efforts with a great deal of skepticism, because they understand the history and nature of the organization. After all, the MEK remains on the State Department list of designated foreign terrorist organizations, and they continue to be investigated by the FBI up to the present day. However, it is also clear that the MEK has managed to gain some favor both inside the White House and the Pentagon. Because of this overt and less-overt support, the MEK - a terrorist organization, according to the US government - is able to continue operating a base in Iraq under US military protection, and is able to continue fund-raising and lobbying efforts in the United States. So the MEK has come to represent a kind of hypocrisy on the part of the US government, because of their inconsistent enforcement of US anti-terrorism laws when it comes to the MEK.
Is the MEK an Islamic fundamentalist group like the Taliban?
No. The MEK can not really be compared to the Taliban - they are very different. Prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the MEK was a pro-revolutionary group that used many methods, including bombings and assassinations, to advance their goals. They espoused a philosophy which they called “Revolutionary Islam” which combined Marxist ideology with Islam. After the revolution when the the MEK was forced into exile, they became a personality cult under the leadership of Massoud and Mariam Rajavi, the husband and wife duo that has led the MEK since the 1980s. At that point, the actual political ideology of the group became secondary to the personality cult of the Rajavis.
Why isn’t the MEK well known in the United States, especially in the press?
Though the MEK has maintained an organized presence in the US since the 1980s and been under almost constant investigation by the FBI, they are not well known in this country since most of their activity has been focused inside their base in Iraq and their operations into Iran. The face they have presented in the United States is one of a democratic opposition group fighting for human rights in Iran, and they have been able to sell this image successfully among many members of Congress. The MEK has received some occasional press attention, but I think they are generally ignored because their story is quite complex and requires a great deal of explanation and background to tell properly, and US journalism tends to shy away from stories that cannot be told in sound-bites.
Why is it important for our viewers to see your film now?
Right now the US is faced with two vastly divergent paths that it can follow in terms of policy toward Iran. We can either go down the road of diplomacy and negotiations with Iran, or continue to build up a policy of sanctions and threats, and possibly war. The MEK is very much bound up in this choice, since if we choose to go down the diplomatic road with Iran then clear decisions have to be made to end all support for the MEK, whose main goal is the overthrow of the Iranian government, and to continue tacit support for the MEK clearly worsens relations with Iran and makes diplomatic efforts more difficult. To take a clear position to end US support for the MEK would ameliorate US-Iran relations and make negotiations on other issues far easier.
From an interview with James Longely, September 23rd, 2008. LinkTV.
For additional information on the subject of the film, the MEK, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PMOI
Also, James has put up additional video and audio about the group here: http://www.daylightfactory.com/MEK/
James Longley Biography
James Longley was born in Oregon in 1972. He studied Film and Russian at the University of Rochester and Wesleyan University in the United States, and the All-Russian Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow. His student documentary, Portrait of Boy with Dog, about a boy in a Moscow orphanage, received the Student Academy Award in 1994 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
After working as a film projectionist in Washington State, an English teacher in Siberia, a newspaper copy editor in Moscow, and a web designer in New York City, James traveled to Palestine in 2001 to make his first feature documentary, Gaza Strip. The film, which takes an intimate look at the lives and views of ordinary Palestinians in Israeli-occupied Gaza, screened to critical acclaim in film festivals and U.S. theaters.
In 2002, James traveled to Iraq to begin pre-production work on his second documentary feature, Iraq in Fragments, which was completed in January 2006 and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded prizes for Best Documentary Directing, Best Documentary Editing, and Best Documentary Cinematography - the first time in Sundance history a documentary has received three jury awards. Iraq in Fragments went on to win the Nestor Almendros Award at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, the Nesnady + Schwartz Documentary Film Competition at the Cleveland Intl Film Festival, the FIPRESCI International Critics Award at Thessaloniki, and the Grand Jury Award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2007.
James Longley's short film, Sari's Mother, premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2008.
James is currently working on projects in Iran.
-Posted September 24, 2008 by Lorraine Hess with contributions from Deepak Unnikrishnan
If you are a documentary film lover, and you have a few days free, you might consider a trip to Orlando for one of the most interesting film festivals I have found. The 6th Annual Global Peace Film Festival takes place from September 17th – September 21st in select locations throughout Orlando and Winter Park. For LinkTV documentary lovers, I think you will love their program as it features films from all over the world, many of which we have aired over the years, or will hopefully be airing in the future.
The Global Peace Film Festival was established ‘to utilize the power of the motion picture to further the goal of peace on earth. With a mission to expand the definition of peace beyond anti-war, ideology, activism or specific causes, the Global Peace Film Festival films and events suggest a more personal message as reflected in the daily lives of individuals and communities the world over.’
The GPFF presents films from around the world and global discussions that highlight the power of the extraordinary medium of film as it relates to new peace issues. Attendees can see films from around the world, attend educational panels, meet filmmakers and special guests, hear from local activists about their work and get involved.
That mission will sound familiar to avid LinkTV viewers and this is what I love so much about the choice of films and why I think the GPFF shares a lot of common programmatic thinking with us here at Link.
According to Nina Streich, GPFF Executive Director, ‘the 2008 program explores community in its myriad forms’ This year, the program presents feature length and short films telling powerful stories from around the world. Forty-seven films from nineteen countries in six continents make up the program that includes six films from the state of Florida.
In previous years, the festival presented films that we have also aired on Link. Films like In Debt We Trust, Nobelity and Texas Gold. Many more of the films, (both this year, and in previous years) selected by Nina Streich and Kelly DeVine, the festival’s brilliant Artistic Director, are films we would love to air but they might not always be available to us for various reasons.
This year, we will be showing at least one of the films selected by the GPFF. Our Arctic Challenge was recommended to us by Nina and Kelly and we are featuring it both on LinkTV and streamed as a ‘featured video’ here on LinkTV.com/documentaries.
Highlights of this year’s festival include Playing for Change: Peace through Music (USA, 2007, 76 mins.), a tribute to the unifying power of music. A Soldier’s Peace (USA, 2007, 88 mins) about a soldier returning from Iraq protests the war by walking the length of his home state of Utah, Everest: A Climb for Peace (USA, 2007, 63 mins.) which chronicles the journey of Palestinian and Israeli “peace climbers;” Beyond the Call (USA, 2006, 82 mins.) where three former soldiers travel the world delivering lifesaving humanitarian aid to civilian doctors in some of the most dangerous yet beautiful places in the world and the award-winning Pray the Devil Back to Hell (USA, 2008, 72 mins.) which tells the story of Liberian women, Christian and Muslim, taking on violent warlords and the corrupt Charles Taylor regime through non-violent protest, ultimately winning a long-awaited peace.
In addition to the films, a series of panel discussions will be presented at Rollins College. Subjects include “What is Peace?” and “Making Films that Make a Difference.” The “Peace Pitch” will present a work-in-progress and a discussion of that work. The “Media Day of Dialogue” is an interactive session between members of the media and the audience that focuses on how images and ideas are shaped in and by the media. The festival closes with a panel organized by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida in which representatives from different local faith communities will share how their community connects with caring for creation from a spiritual perspective with some provocative input from the environmental movement.
We are proud to be partners with such a great festival and for those of you who cannot make it to Orlando this year, but are thinking of putting it on your calendars for next, please visit the festival website at: http://www.peacefilmfest.org.
-Posted September 15, 2008 by Lorraine Hess
Note: This article by filmmaker and journalist Hannah Eaves originally appeared at SF360.org.
Earlier this month the Center for Social Media (CSM) and the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) at American University released a report called Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video or, as it was immediately zeitgeisted by boingboing, "HOWTO Make online videos without getting sued." For techies in the online world, "fair use," Creative Commons and net neutrality occupy the same level of heaven as bizarre sea creatures, steampunk gadgets and cryptozoology. But the paper also makes a very handy tool for ordinary Joes experimenting in the new creative freak zone of User Generated Content.
Fair use, for those not already accustomed to mixing and matching their video/text/art, is "the right to use copyrighted material without permission or payment under some circumstances." This legal precedent (see also, this) is particularly relevant to documentary filmmakers whose projects can sometimes become crippled by overwhelming licensing costs, when the footage they’re using is actually essential to their point (for instance, the work of Adam Curtis, like The Power of Nightmares may never be seen commercially and/or legally in the U.S. because of its myth-makingly high licensing fee quotes). But it can also relate to mash-ups and other experiments in recutting, reusing and otherwise recycling content for wide public distribution. Note that fair use applies to both commercial and non-commercial work. This particular aspect just keeps on getting trickier the more that video-sharing sites like YouTube start offering ad revenue shares to uploaders. Proponents of fair use also quite often support other sharing-friendly philosophies, including limited-copyright licensing of creative work, unrestricted access to Internet bandwidth (especially as it relates to peer-to-peer file delivery, and companies that have been caught out secretly choking the bandwidth thereof), open source software, digital privacy advocacy, and the fight against Digital Rights Management (DRM – i.e., the thing that keeps you from putting your iTunes purchased songs on your friends’ computers).
The only place these connections really trip up is when you get to a certain school of precious older documentary filmmakers who get excited when they hear they could potentially use footage license-free (although they don’t really believe it), but would never condescend to make their own work available in any form online, except for maybe a short watermarked trailer or clip. I have worked with these people, and witnessed their strangled, auto-defensive posturing—more like ostriches with their heads in the sand than knights standing in the imagined forts that surround their livelihood. They are going to have to change. Bad luck.
The CSM report may have been released by the East Coast’s American University, but the Bay Area is in the forefront of the fight for filmmaker-friendly practices not only on the Internet, but in all-things-electronic. CSM’s guide (along with this one) may keep you from being sued in the first place, but if you are well intentioned and still push the boundaries over the edge, there’s a good chance that Stanford’s Fair Use Project at the Center for Internet and Society will provide you with free legal support. In San Francisco, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has long supported digital democracy. There has been a drawn out, Hollywood-backed effort to institute an industry-wide "broadcast flag" on everything delivered to you via DTV tuners, which would mean that in the future any TV content coming through a receiver would essentially be invisibly branded (think: the sound of sizzling cow flesh) and trapped there, so that it couldn’t move to any device like a DVD recorder or networked computer that was not officially supported and loaded with the same DRM management restrictions. For more details on this tricky effort click here. Thanks to the EFF’s court challenge, ALA v. FCC, it was thrown out, but the battle will no doubt resurface.
And, of course, the team at Creative Commons has done a breakthrough job promoting less restrictive copyright licenses for those who are actually excited at seeing what creative work others can do with their content. These come in commercial and non-commercial flavors, and have been adopted even by more well known artists like Hugo and Nebula award-winner Kelly Link, whose fantastic book "Stranger Things Happen," is available for free, non-commercial Creative Commons-licensed, download. If this philosophy were to be widely adopted by commercial concerns, the need for fair use could diminish, as more rights were opened up for free. However, the reluctance of many CC license holders to allow for commercial reuse of their work seems to be a barrier to long term realization of this dream. Lawrence Lessig himself has made his book Code 2.0 available for commercial reuse by others (hear him talk about this on To the Best of Our Knowledge’s recent show Re-Mix Culture).
Link TV, the non-profit satellite television station where I work, has long been a proponent of fair use. While the Peabody Award-winning Mosaic relies on official agreements with Middle Eastern broadcasters, Global Pulse banks on the tenets of fair use. It comments on world news, which is archived in our studio on to DVD recorders. The broadcast flag might conceivably have killed the show, which demonstrates how a law that is, on the surface, about copyright and not fair use, would impact legitimate makers and artists everywhere.
But so far in this article I’ve given you a lot of written words on a subject that just begs for video, so I’d like to present you with some examples of content that I think fits into the six Best Practices outlined in the CSM’s "Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video," a.k.a. How To Make Online Videos Without Getting Sued. If you’re a read-along type (actually, even if you’re not), I recommend you download the report to fully understand the fine and sometimes blurry legal lines detailed within. I’d like to point out that I’m not a lawyer, or even a fair-use activist, but on many levels I’m the audience the report is aimed at. This is my interpretation of the document, and thus I do a neat act of pushing all blame off to the CSM’s wordsmiths if I have misread them. I’m sure these aren’t the best, wittiest or profoundest examples out there—and if I know online communities I’m sure I’ll hear about it – so I invite further suggestions. Please post in the comments section.
1. Commenting on or critique of copyrighted material
I can think of no better example than Kevin Lee’s excellent Shooting Down Pictures project. Kevin calls on his own knowledge, and that of cultural critics and filmmakers, to provide video essay commentary on films that are in the so-called "Top 1000" of all time. Bonus fair use points for diligent attribution, an essential element of all these uses (that doesn’t actually appear in most of my examples).
Shooting Down Pictures #919 (60): Two English Girls
"Featuring commentary by C. Mason Wells, co-writer/co-director of LOL, contributor to The Onion magazine and promotions coordinator for the IFC Center."
2. Using copyrighted material for illustration or example
I couldn’t find anything readily available online that wasn’t a professionally produced documentary with a life outside of the online world, so I’ve stuck with the CSM’s own suggested example. Feel free to post a link if you have one.
"In Refrigerator Mothers, about an era when mothers were blamed for their children’s autism, J.J. Hanley and David Simpson quoted popular films of the era.
They claimed fair use because the film clips, by demonstrating social attitudes of the time, reflected popular culture of the era."
3. Capturing copyrighted material incidentally or accidentally
There is a line between switching on your stereo to play a Beatles number while you’re shooting an interview and being in a bar where someone happens to have selected it on a jukebox playing quietly somewhere off in the distance. If you’re posting your home movie of your trip to Disneyland on YouTube, you will have captured some strictly copyrighted images. In fact, type Disneyland into YouTube and you’ll come up with over 54,000 results. But as the CSM report so poignantly points out, you can’t change reality.
Also check out the Superman logos and other copyrighted imagery in this Comic-Con video.
4. Reproducing, reposting or quoting in order to memorialize, preserve or rescue an experience, an event or a cultural phenomenon
Barack Obama Yes We Can
The use of network news footage of Obama’s speech for this video seems to fit squarely into the "preserving a cultural phenomenon" category. This video has over 13 million views on YouTube.
Bill O’Reilly Freaks Out (NSFW)
This is old news by now, but too perfect to pass up when I read this sentence in the CSM report: "Someone may post a controversial or notorious moment from broadcast television or a public event (a Stephen Colbert speech, a presidential address, a celebrity blooper)." This seems like a fit to me.
Bill O’Reilly Flips Out—Dance Remix (really, really NSFW)
Not so sure about this one, but somehow I can’t leave it out!
5. Copying, reposting and recirculating a work or part of a work for purposes of launching a discussion
When it comes to online discussion, the Bay Area-based Seesmic is the new cool kid on the block. They’ve even hosted a chat with superstar fair use lawyer and CSM report contributor Michael Donaldson, here.
And so Seesmic was the perfect place to go hunting to find a clip that had been posted for the purpose of starting a discussion. Here, a user has uploaded the closing credits from Brazil with this question, designed to prompt a discussion (not the best one as far as fair use goes, but the overall concept is clear): "Written by Ari Barroso, but does anybody know who sings this version?" Discussion ensues. Watch on Seesmic.
6. Quoting in order to recombine elements to make a new work that depends for its meaning on (often unlikely) relationships between the elements
This one could have been called the mash-up clause.
One of my personal faves is Requiem for a Day Off, benjifilms.
-Posted September 8, 2008 by Hannah Eaves
Andrew Berends, an established, award-winning American filmmaker and journalist from New York, was detained Sunday August 31st by the Nigerian military along with his translator, Samuel George. Andrew entered Nigeria legally in April 2008 to complete a documentary film.
For the latest updates on the situation, go to:
UPDATE: It's a great relief to hear that our dear colleague Andrew Berends, who had been arrested in Nigeria and charged with spying, has been provisionally released by the Nigerian security forces. But it's not over yet. Please read our Andrew Berends Topic at http://www.d-word.com to keep up-to-date.
-Posted September 6, 2008 by Andy Orin
As the Democratic Convention kicks off, the unprecedented hope, excitement and anticipation many are feeling is driven by a single idea: the possibility of Change.
Throughout the Primaries and now in the run up to the election, Change has been touted, shouted, mocked and promised by candidates on both sides. This has been called a Change election and it seems everyone is desperate for it. In a Gallup Poll in December, 70 percent of those asked said they were dissatisfied with the way things were going in the country. And no wonder -- the economy is taking a dive, gas prices are up, over 44 million Americans still don’t have health care and we are still waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan and at risk of getting embroiled in Iran .
Both Obama and McCain are men who are no strangers to Change. If Change also means personal transformation and growth then both have weathered enormous personal challenges and reinvented themselves into men of substance and character. If elected, both have declared they will change a host of major problems, and not only do we want to believe them, we hope they will live up to their promises.
But at the end of the day, Change, however much they promise it, and we want it, is surely more than a marketing gimmick. If we are not careful the word itself threatens, in its overuse, to become almost meaningless. Unless that is, we look at it and reevaluate what it means, what kind of changes we really want, and what sacrifices and rewards we might expect as a result.
For the next two weeks on LinkTV, we are focusing on What Change Looks Like. That means we will be reporting live from the conventions and asking people there what the question means for them. It also means we will be featuring over 35 documentaries and short films that tell stories of change and transformation that serve to remind us, inspire us and encourage us as we endeavor to live up to that lofty idea. Films like The Sermons of Sister Jane, My Terrorist and Super Amigos. The documentaries we have selected show often quite ordinary people simply putting their money where their mouths are and creating extraordinary, positive changes around them. Some films present stories of Change on a local or grassroots level, like the community based initiatives portrayed in The Healing Gardens of New York and Street Medicine. Other films like Nobelity and The Planet tackle Change by looking at a global perspective or the “big picture” of world issues through the lens of some of our world’s greatest thinkers.
I am reminded of how deeply touched I was when I read a quote by Anne Frank from her poignant diary:
"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."
Certainly, we should demand from our candidates that they deliver on the promises they have made. But it is in the spirit of Anne Frank that I hope you will appreciate the collection of documentaries we will be featuring these two Convention weeks. After all, if in their own ways, Anne Frank and the characters in these films are able to muster the courage to make meaningful change, maybe they will inspire us to do the same.
We hope you will enjoy this special presentation of programs we are featuring this week and next. In addition to the titles mentioned above don’t miss The Motherhood Manifesto, Noreena’s Agenda: The New Activism, Suzuki Speaks, The Orchestra of Piazza Vittorio and The New Heroes series - among others. Be sure to check our online schedule for broadcast times.
-Posted August 25, 2008 by Lorraine Hess
Link is excited to be showing the first and second series of bro’Town. The series is a huge hit in New Zealand and Australia and is only now getting to the USA via Link TV. It is also available via the Linktv.org website as all of the episodes are or will be available via online streaming concurrent with the television broadcast. Have a look at the full episodes, both Season 1 and Season 2.
The bro’Town program, now in its fifth year, has been likened to The Simpsons in that it is animated and deals with social questions and concerns with lots of wit and humor. But bro’Town has a style uniquely its own. Bro’Town could be written about in a way that is literally accurate, but which would miss the deep complexity and humanity of the series. For example, the series does feature poor urban youth in Auckland, New Zealand who speak with a dense street patois, and who have a support structure featuring a father who is a selfish drunk, and a school principal who is quite effeminate.
But while bro’Town is often laugh out loud funny and a sharp and knowing social satire, it is also a highly moral series. Each episode begins with a moral or ethical question, generally generated by God (in this case a humane and friendly Maori figure dressed in a lava lava, an outfit much like a sarong). And audiences are educated along the way. For example, the principal of the school is a Fa'afafine, who are biologically men, but who in childhood choose by their nature to be raised to assume female gender roles. This is not discouraged in the traditional fa'asamoa (Samoan society).
Opening up to alternative cultures can be a tricky process, especially when done with lots of humor. We know bro’Town is wonderfully entertaining and sharp in its insights and takes on human nature and society. But we understand that bro’Town can also push audiences up to and over the edge of what could be considered acceptable representations of race, class, and other potent subject matter.
The talents of bro’Town are an important presence in various communities of New Zealand. In fact, almost every important celebrity or public official in New Zealand has performed a cameo in a bro’Town episode. These include Prime Minister Helen Clark, Lucy Lawless (Xena: The Warrior Princess), and the famous New Zealand rugby team. The bro’Town creator shave also published a useful compendium of work done in various communities in a way that encourages content about the approach and content of the series (PDF).
We want to hear from you if you think the humor pushes the envelope a little too much or if you have questions about the series. Please visit our contact page and someone will respond to you as soon as possible.
The following are some useful reference links if you want to delve further into the culture around this fascinating series:
Bro’Town Home Page
bro’Town Backgrounder in Wikipedia
List of bro’Town Episodes
List of bro’Town Special Guests
bro’Town MySpace Site
-Posted August 20, 2008 by Neil Sieling
With the Olympics underway, steadfast idealists hope sport fosters global unity. Perhaps. But nothing is ever that black and white, especially political compromise, which inevitably has a tendency to walk into sporting arenas. The Beijing Olympics has had its fair share of controversies, the pro-Tibet protests being one of them. Even Nicholas Kritoff of The New York Times delved in on Tibet in a recent op-ed.
But perspective interests us. China rarely receives favorable reviews in the international press about Tibet. Instead of wondering if that's fair, we were interested to know if footage was available about the new Tibet China was allegedly creating. We found a taste of this in A Year in Tibet, a five part series that lays out the conundrums Tibetans face as they culturally adjust to a Tibet very different to the one the 14th Dalai Lama escaped from. Things have changed and then again they have not.
Certainly, the Chinese government is very meticulous in how it governs Tibet. That is more than evident in the other two films airing on Link TV, Dreaming of Tibet, and Beyond Fear. The human rights violations are disturbing and one hopes it ends.
In writer Pico Iyer's recent book The Open Road, he writes of a Dalai Lama constantly in study, evolving, learning, even now. As I read on, I began to wonder what would happen if the Dalai Lama passed and Tibet remained unresolved. Could hate leak into the next generation from the present one? Would it? I don't have the answers. However, it is important to question, to have discourse. One way to do this is to outline the different perspectives people carry about a subject. Link's Eye on Tibet programming, we hope, is a step in that direction. For one thing is certain, there is indeed a problem. Thoughts, comments are always welcome. Do write us.
-Posted August 13, 2008 by Deepak Unnikrishnan
As Vice-President of Acquisitions for Link Media, I would like to welcome you to our newly revised Documentaries web pages. As you can see we have been rearranging the furniture a bit and have added a few new features.
We are delighted that we are now able to provide you with a Featured Video at least twice a week that we will update regularly from our archive. You will find an ongoing selection of content that includes fully streamed documentary films, animated shorts, documentary shorts and in the near future, a selection of viewer generated content as well. We are also happy to present DOC360, an informative new space for connecting the voices of our documentary community. DOC360 will feature a variety of rotating content like doc blogs from a regular slate of contributors, notes from the field (the doc industry), film reviews, staff picks, and a more in depth spotlight on filmmakers. DOC360 will offer you the viewer a chance to contribute your voice to our page with viewer film picks, viewer film reviews, and other information you would like to submit to our editorial team to make a contribution to the world of documentary film.
As we inaugurate our new doc page I would like to also take this opportunity to introduce to you the folks who make documentaries on Link TV happen – our Link TV Acquisitions Team. Anne Kovach, Neil Sieling, and Deepak Unnikrishnan help coordinate most of the acquisitions on Link TV and also handle the scheduling for the channel. They will be contributing to the DOC360 blog in the future, so please do keep checking in for all of the new postings.
We’re excited to be launching DOC360, we thank you for your support, and look forward to hearing from you in the future.
Vice President of Acquisitions and Scheduling
-Posted July 29, 2008 by Lorraine Hess