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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, Summer 2012

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

It's a quadrennial ritual in America: the culmination of that years-long, billion-dollar bonanza known as the US Presidential Election Campaign. As the world continues to simmer with the revolutionary fervor of 2011—here, with the Occupy Movement; in the Middle East, with the Arab Spring; in Europe, with uprisings mounting against the teetering economic crises—the stakes seem higher now than in 2008, when hope and change carried the day.

An election year throws into sharp relief the question of, and quest for, true democracy; the struggle for pluralism and plurality; the addressing of justices and injustices, and rights and wrongs; the unveiling of the darker truths about freedom and opportunity. And that's where the power of documentary filmmaking is most manifest: where the beauty of storytelling converges with a clarion call to action.

In that spirit, and particularly in this epochal year, we look at some of the change agents—those key players that have helped shore up documentaries with a robust foundation of partnerships, outreach and education, and an overarching strategy for impact. The Sundance Institute's Documentary Film Program has, since 2002, helped scores of filmmakers—supporting their work through the Documentary Fund, shaping their storytelling prowess through the Edit and Story Labs and forging strategic alliances through initiatives like Stories of Change. Daniel James Scott talks to Cara Mertes, the director of the Program, as well as some of the artists who have benefited from Sundance's endeavors.

Sundance is part of de facto network of organizations committed to social impact through documentary. The London-based BRITDOC Foundation has worked with Sundance to bring The Good Pitch to festivals around the world, linking documentary filmmakers with like-minded organizations around a given social issue. Working Films, in business since 2001, strengthens these and other partnerships through full-on outreach and audience engagement campaigns. Amanda Lin Costa sat down with BRITDOC Foundation's Jess Search and Working Films' Robert West as they shared the missions and objectives for their respective organizations.

BRITDOC Foundation also funds docs, in both the UK and the US. Michael Galinsky profiles three other leading funding entities—Ford Foundation and its new JustFilms initiative; Chicken & Egg Pictures; and The Fledgling Fund.

Participant Media has played a vital role in not only financing nonfiction work, but developing sophisticated social action campaigns around this work. Joseph Jon Lanthier talks with Wendy Cohen, Participant's senior director of film campaigns, and Chad Boettcher, executive vice president of social action and advocacy, about the process of achieving the "double bottom line"—commercial success and measurable social impact.

Finally, over the years, a handful of practicing attorneys have applied their jurisprudential sensibility and lawyering skills to documentary filmmaking, convinced that their media work can foster change in the justice system. Mary Moylan talks to Rebecca Richman Cohen, Chico Colvard and Susan Saladoff about their respective career shifts.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White