We all want to be seen and heard and our stories to move and mobilise whether told at a fireside, starlit gathering or huddled around a laptop any where in the world. And, if you’re like me and you’re producing documentaries with anything you can get your hands on, most film festivals and broadcasters, through which you will want to reach new audiences, will generally find your work unacceptable. The AGITPROP International Film Festival on People’s Struggles, on the other hand, is an exception.
AGITPROP is one of the few screening events that curate films that aren’t necessarily produced with the highest of production values. As long as stories are well told and significant issues are presented clearly supported by strong evidence, and if you’ve got reasonably decent production skills why shouldn’t your work be screened? Surely the issues are more important than screen resolution, right?
That’s certainly not always the case. In todays competative, mega-tech, high-definitian world, expectations for documentaries that reflect the standards creative industries believe you must strive for, leave many filmmakers at odds with funders, festivals and broadcasters. Even with ready access to excellent low-cost HD cameras, if you’re still working in the old 4:3 standard for instance, your chances of getting seen offline seem to be getting slim by the hour.
But just as some folks are discarding their Facebook accounts and others, I’m told are forgoing their mobiles for cafe conversation and hard-copy journals, audiences are eager for content that moves regardless of how it’s made. The success of Youtube isn’t a result of high production values, it’s home grown content and lots of it.
With film festivals such as AGITPROP recognising the need to spaces to screen work that tell strong stories regardless of how they were made, the potential for public impact is increased significantly. Producers who have to make do with anything they can get their hands on now have more than just the internet to ensure their works reach wider audiences.
In addition to screening my “made with anything” micro-docs series, Sarawak Gone, AGITPROP provided EngageMedia with an hour’s worth of program time to curate. We selected several short-format documentaries from EngageMedia.org that tell meaningful stories regardless of the resources available to produce them.
If you were in Manila over the first weekend of July 2011, and you attended AGITPROP, you will have seen a diverse selection of home grown and high-end documentaries side-by-side and so it should be.