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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, February 2002

By Tom White

Post-September 11, we have trained our senses on other corners of the world, and on ourselves. In “Short Takes” this month, we cite two initiatives, 9.11 Moments, producing by Independent Television Service (ITVS) and War & Peace, a project of the D-Word Community, as examples of how our community is responding. In addition, New York-based collectives Third World Newsreel, Paper Tiger Television and Independent Media Center are all producing media works that examine the schism between how Americans really see themselves and how the America mainstream media and government would like us to be. We will monitor these and other endeavors in future issues.

In this edition, we look at those documentary filmmakers who have ventured to the hot spots of the world, pre- and post-September 11, to get the real story from the people who have experienced it first hand. We profile Saira Shah, the British journalist whose recent documentaries Beneath the Veil and Unholy War showed the world a searing and unflinching look at the repercussions of war in Afghanistan. She earned IDA’s first-ever Courage Under Fire Award at the IDA Awards Gala in December for her commitment to getting the story under the riskiest of circumstances. In other articles, Michael Rose talks to producers at National Geographic, who are venturing beyond their familiar slate of natural history, science and wildlife documentary programs to take viewers to “the world’s political, social, cultural and environmental battlegrounds.” Laura Almo profiles such filmmakers as Meena Nanji, who is making a documentary about Afghani women in refugee camps in Pakistan; Gerard Ungerman and Audrey Prohy, who traveled to Iraq to explore the origins and controversial issues of the Persian Gulf War; and Alan and Susan Raymond, whose 1999 film, Children in War, took them to some of the most volatile locations of the 1990s: Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Israel and Rwanda.

Also in this issue, we look at science documentaries, including The Secret Life of the Brain, the new PBS series from David Grubin, best known for his profiles on American presidents. Brian Kubiak talks to filmmakers about how they’re utilizing different shooting formats for their science and nature docs. And Jane Snyder and Pat Aufderheide check out the World Congress of Science Producers.

Finally, we continue our examination of funding that we began last issue. Yasha Husain has sought out various filmmakers—Doug Pray, George Butler and Charles Guggenheim among them—who have looked beyond the foundation/government agency/credit card/family and friends route and found some fertile territory in some unlikely places.

Now, before I go, I want to urge you all to stay tuned for next month, when we celebrate IDA’s 20 years in business with a splashy commemorative issue. We’ll hear from some of the prime movers of the organization, who will take a look back, forward and beyond, reminiscing, pontificating and prognosticating. Let 2002 be the year that docs rock!


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White