Since 1966 Jill Godmilow has been producing and directing non-fiction and narrative films including the Academy Award nominated Antonia: A Portrait Of The Woman (1974); Far from Poland, (1984) the post-realist documentary feature about the rise of the Polish Solidarity movement; Waiting for the Moon(1987), a feminist/modernist fictional feature about the lives of the literary couple Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein (1st prize, Sundance Film Festival); Roy Cohn/Jack Smith (1995), a cinematic translation of a theater piece by performance artist Ron Vawter; What Farocki Taught, a replica and interrogation of a short film by German filmmaker Harun Farocki about the production of Napalm B during the Vietnam war, and most recently, a 6 hour, DVD archive, Lear ’87 Archive (Condensed) about the work of the renown New York City theatrical collective, Mabou Mines, at work on a fully gender-reversed production of Shakespeare’s “King Lear”. Among others, she has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations. In 2003, Antonia: A Portrait of The Woman was added to the prestigious National Film Registry at the Library of Congress.
WWJD? (What Would Jill Do?)
Filmmaker Jill Godmilow has made some bold statements about documentaries, especially their shortcomings in compelling audiences to act on the social issues that they present. In the spirit of documentary films, our group molded our response to Jill Godmilow’s presentation “Staying Out of the Torture Room: The Post-Realist Documentary” as a short documentary, where we used Jill’s own words to create questions. We interviewed people in New York City and Philadelphia, and we asked them for their own opinions about what a documentary should be.
In response to Jill Godmilow’s texts and her presentation for Understanding Media Studies, we have created a documentary film doctrine. Each student was tasked with writing manifesto points, and we have organized them into a visual roadmap. This illustration provides a collection of ideas about documentary filmmaking and offers a critical view of Godmilow’s own dogma published in her paper “Kill The Documentary, As We Know It,” printed in the Journal of Film and Video in 2002. Our roadmap demonstrates the multiple decisions documentary filmmakers face in their practice and the many diverse approaches to the form. While some of us will heed Godmilow’s warnings about what to avoid and what to embrace in filmmaking, others will remain firmly opposed to her approach. Our doctrine reflects views that are consistent with Godmilow’s, as well as ideas that contradict her ideology. We hope that this roadmap will enhance the debate Godmilow sparks in her tenacious criticism of the form.
The Media and Racially Motivated Crimes: From Selma to Ferguson
Andrew Uroskie’s presentation on Selma Last Year is a revealing look at the American media’s role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The images of those who marched and the savagery of how they were treated while doing so put faces on the movement. They were front and center in the viewing public’s field of vision and allowed the public to acknowledge something outside of the typical white American experience, while simultaneously presenting identification for African-American viewers who shared experiences of oppression with those who marched. The media’s evolution in presenting racially motivated crimes since the events at Selma has been that of reporting not only the initial crimes and larger backdrops to them, but also events that at first seem unconnected yet actually grow out of these initial events. Within this media evolution there is a regrettable issue of decentering the victims of these crimes in the continual reporting on the events that follow by making the crimes the context for later events rather than being the main issue themselves. While this shift of focus does not necessarily represent an intentional movement away from African-American issues in the media, these shifts are an unfortunate side effect that audiences must be conscious of while reviewing the primary events (the crimes) and the secondary outcomes of those events (the larger contextual story) that unfold afterwards.