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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, Winter 2021

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

The online edition of the Getting Real Documentary Conference, held last fall to a global audience of 3,100 attendees from 54 countries, catalyzed what has been one of the most tumultuous years of the past century. Within our community, the ongoing reckoning on systemic racism has spurred a collective self-examination among filmmakers, media arts organizations and the gatekeeping apparatus of programmers, funders, commissioning editors, distributors and exhibitors.

Among the many takeaways from the digital confab were the keynote addresses from filmmakers Maria Agui Carter, Zeng Jinyan and Sam Feder, which we have published here. Carter relates her own narrative, growing up Latinx, Chinese and undocumented, and witnessing the inequities in America firsthand, particularly in her chosen career. She makes a provocative proposal: media reparations for BIPOC communities. Zeng offers a China perspective and a feminist point of view in discussing her career, much of it spent under house arrest and round-the-clock surveillance and otherwise marginalized for challenging the patriarchy through her efforts to center the power of working women.

Sam Feder’s film Disclosure has caught the doc world’s attention not only for its scintillating examination of how trans lives have been depicted throughout cinematic history, but also for Feder’s revolutionary production model of hiring, training and paying trans people to work both in front of and behind the cameras. The filmmaker walks us through this model and how cultural equity can best manifest our filmmaking practices.

Besides Getting Real, there was also Creative Futures, the brainchild of Chi-hui Yang and his team at the Ford Foundation. Yang reached out to a cross-section of artists, documentary filmmakers and journalists and commissioned them to craft essays about where we ought to be heading in these unsteady days. The result is, as the Foundation puts it, “a series of provocations to reimagine” the respective fields.

We have republished six of the essays here, along with artwork by Sawsan Chalabi, and we greatly appreciate Yang and his colleagues Tolu Onafowokan and Theo Torre-de Castro for reaching out to us as a second home for this work.

Yours in actuality,
Tom White