“Here’s a man who plays hide and seek with the secret police and cuts his prison cell bars to escape as he faces the gallows”, says Guto Harri in this 60-minute documentary about St John Roberts (repeated on Sunday, 3rd April at 10pm on S4C with English sub-titles). “He acts more like James Bond than a saint. The issues underlying the history are echoed today, dealing as they do with someone considered to be a religious extremist, living abroad and considered a threat to the very fabric of the state.”
This blog appeared on 10th July 2015 on the IWA’s clickonwales blog site.
For the second time in five years Government Ministers have backed the BBC into a corner, issued a ‘money or your life’ threat, walked away with a big chunk of the licence fee and left a Director General making as good a public fist of defending ‘the deal’ as he can. Has this been a fair trade between a willing buyer and a willing seller? Continue reading BBC licence fee raid ̶̶ The consequences for Wales→
On New Year’s Day this year the Western Mail published an article by the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales, Saleem Kidwai. He claimed that a precious achievement in Welsh cultural life is in jeopardy and that a generation have felt ‘rejected by their fellow Welshmen’.
Welsh-Muslim youth who thought themselves like any other Welsh person got a rude awakening post-9/11— a sort of cultural shock that they were not like any other Welsh person. Overnight, they were the other, the enemy…
As Mr Kidwai set out the traumatic ramifications of this tragic dissociation I felt the force of his appeal that, “As a society… We have to reject any attempts to marginalize Muslims as second-class citizens” but I was perplexed as to how to go about that.
Until I perceived a potential response from the world of journalism itself – from journalism in Wales.
On Friday 29th May Documentary Wales/ Dogfen Cymru is holding a symposium in Cardiff:
to discuss the future of documentary film in Wales. Drawing together a range of talent from Wales and beyond, the day will be an opportunity to meet a diverse collection of individuals who share your passion for documentary. The focus of the day will be on:
Strengthening the community of documentary film makers currently working in Wales
Exploring ways of building the audience for documentary film in Wales
Discussing future plans for supporting documentary film within the Welsh production sector
Without good policy no social endeavour flourishes as it might. Structures start from policy. Policies are not made by machines but by people and people have beliefs and values and prejudices, all of which can be discussed, debated and shaped into principles on which actions are based. Those actions influence both what is possible in the social sphere and what becomes impossible.
In the hour-long class I gave to Michigan State University students we had to use a large teaching room in order to have space to dance. On the back wall are four posters which I designed last year for the teaching I did on the Documentary Pathway which is an option on the M.A. in International Journalism at Cardiff University. I stopped teaching on this course last year but the posters are still there so I took advantage of them briefly. The posters were an experiment in displaying some basic principles of practice. I’d like to focus on one of them here. It’s from an interview given by the late great American documentarian, Albert Maysles (Salesman, Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens et al).
He addresses something which documentary-makers do not, in my experience, speak about often or readily. Maybe this is merely symptomatic of the fact that I’m of a generation that learned on the job and that revered good practice but talked little about theory. (Perhaps I’ll get a chance to explore that in the upcoming Wales Documentary Day, of which more in another post.)
Continuing the hour-long class I gave to Communications students from Michigan State University, we took a look at the notion of witness in Documentary. This was done in admittedly very simple terms.
The role of a documentary-maker involves serving the circulation of life within the community and delivering the Real and the True. One of the ways of doing that is by means of facilitating witness. Continue reading What exactly IS empathy, butt?→
Some municipes at work on a Green Bay Media documentary shoot!
In the previous post I outlined the first half of an hour’s class I gave to students of Communications from Michigan State University as part of their British Mass Media Programme visit to the UK. Having considered how the ‘I’ of the film-maker interacts with the ‘You’ of other people, who are the subjects of the film, to create the ‘Us’ of the viewing community, we moved on to reflect on what Communication is, and what it is for, and furthermore what the role of a professional communicator might be – all in 20 minutes! Continue reading Munificent Documentary→
On May 22nd I gave a class for students of Communication from Michigan State University. Every year the university organises a trip to the UK for students to learn about the media here. For the last four years I’ve given the group an hour about documentary in Wales but since by now I’ve formed the impression that for most of them documentary is not an area that is high on their agenda I also offer a sort of basic consideration of what documentary is and what it can do.
When Stephen Crabb, the Secretary of State for Wales, stood up on 27 February to proclaim a (fragile) cross-party consensus on further powers for Wales, he did so only hours after Ofcom, the media regulator, had closed its consultation on the future of public service broadcasting. Ofcom’s review and the Crabb ‘consensus’ represent potentially important milestones for broadcasting in Wales.
What the premature St. David’s Day agreement (a Sunday announcement was never on the cards) had to say about broadcasting, unsurprisingly, made no headlines, but it laid down an important marker for the coming debate on the BBC’s Charter and for the need to deepen Welsh involvement in media policy. There is a huge amount at stake both for viewers and for our television production industry.
Apparently, all four parties are now agreed on proposals that the IWA has supported and promoted for some years past in various publications, and in the evidence that it submitted to the Silk Commission by the UK’s Changing Union project in which it has been an active partner. It did so again last week in its response to Ofcom’s consultation document.
A WORKSHOP for CARDIFF UNIVERSITY GRADUATE COLLEGE
This is the fourth year I’ve presented this 3-hour workshop. I designed it as a contribution towards bridging the gap between the media and academia. I believe it still to be an unusual offer amongst university training because media training offered to academics is usually in the area of short-form and news-related input, not in long-form documentary. Between these two forms there are significant differences in working practice for journalists and, from the academics’ perspective, the skills needed to have a happy time as a contributor to a documentary are different to those that will produce a snappy sound-bite.
Academia and the media are two worlds which can intersect very fruitfully. However, when they don’t understand each other’s priorities and practices there are sometimes tears before bedtime.