Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wider angle

Last Sunday I got back from a working trip - having spent nearly a week watching the best of European television. I still need to watch the winning documentary of Prix Europa, a BBC documentary on alcoholism from Paul Watson. I saw people - top professionals in the TV field - coming out of the screenings with watered eyes. But even without it, I was inspired, shocked and moved.

The best thing I saw at the festival from David Okuefuna's documentary called Racism: A History. Without the need to create a happy ending, Okuefuna showed how brutal and cruel we the whites have been towards blacks in places like Congo, South Africa and the United States. The pictures of lynchings of blacks or of a young black man beaten to death with his face bloated after having spent weeks after his death in the bottom of the river do not leave my mind. I felt guilty for being white and rightly so.

So on Sunday I crashed on my sofa with a pizza delivered to my door and instead of watching the Dutch talent competition for the main role in Evita, I ended up spending two hours watching the CNN documentary God's Warriors on Christian Fundamentalism in the US. Even if in the beginning the subject sounded slightly too heavy, I was glad that I pushed myself through it. Christiane Amanpour's incredibly powerful take on the misuse of religion is part of a three-hour series and a year of work covering fundamentalist Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Best of all, Amanpour's dedicated investigation - as well as Okuefuna's documentary - remind me how there still is a great need for journalism which is not only about speed but also about depth. All these makers were able to show something to me that I did not know. They had spent a year doing these programmes and it shows. They were able to move me and they made me talk about the issues they covered. This is something that a news bulletin or an SMS is never able to do.

1 comment:

TH said...

"there still is a great need for journalism which is not only about speed but also about depth."

I completely agree. The thing is, how to get these in-depth stories across, when people are making themselves busy with the speednews?

My impression is that for many people (me included), being constantly bombarded with news updates and headlines is a defense mechanism. We know the world is complicated and huge, and it gives us a sense of being in control when we see or hear a constant stream of headlines from around the world, browse through countless off- and online papers and news sites and blogs.

But to go from seeing, hearing and browsing to looking, listening and reading is difficult. We say we are too busy, but also we don't want to lose the sterility and distance that the superficial reporting gives. If we let the problems of the world get too close to our skin, we start to worry, attach emotions to them, empathise with the people in the news. Which is exactly what we should do, because only that gives us motivation to change things.