Filmmakers Take a Stand for Social Justice

brandy-alexander

This post is part of Benevolent Media’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. For more information, read “The Benevolent Guide to the Sundance Film Fesitval.”

What would it take for you to put everything on the line?

At the Sundance Film Festival’s Filmmaker Lodge, a panel talk called “Taking a Stand” featured the subjects, rather than the directors typically invited to these conversations, of three feature-length social impact documentaries, covering a range of topics, such as human rights, faith, due process and climate change.

The panelists included lawyer and public defender Brandy Alexander of “Gideon’s Army,” Rev. Kapya Kaoma of “God Loves Uganda,” and author and environmentalist Mark Lynas of “Pandora’s Promise.” The discussion was moderated by Jennifer Robinson, an Australian human rights lawyer and legal director for the Bertha Foundation in London.

Gideon’s Army – He is a Kid from Dawn Porter on Vimeo.

“Gideon’s Army” attempts to portray public defenders in America’s Deep South in a more positive light, revealing their sense of empathy and sense of duty.

“We’re so much more than people who have a high case load; we actually do care,” said Alexander. “Everyday we go into court and we’re literally fighting for people’s lives.”

She said she wants the film to show people that public defenders are doing a public service, much like firefighters, teachers or police officers, and because of that, they deserve to be paid more and trained better.

“I was thrown into the deep end of the ocean and told to swim,” Alexander remembered of her early days of defending clients.

The documentary films represented on the panel help to debunk common misconceptions about certain groups of people.

“I agreed to be part of this film to show the world that not all religious persons preach hate,” said Rev. Kaoma of his role in “God Loves Uganda,” which tells the story of an evangelical campaign launched by missionaries from America’s Christian Right to fight against “sexual immortality” in Africa.

The reverend spoke of his dismay at white American religious extremists exporting their values into Uganda, spawning a violent homophobic movement that portrays the lesbian, gay and transgendered community as child molesters and killers.

“A human being is an image of God and I would not allow any other person to demonize the image of God,” he said.

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While many documentary films focus on societal problems, “Pandora’s Promise” aims to show the potential of positive thinking.

“I’m focused on solving problems, rather than just wishing they weren’t there,” said Lynas, the protagonist environmentalist in the film.

His sense of conviction about the controversial benefits of nuclear power alienated him from both his professional and personal relationships.

“I went from hero to zero in a very short time,” he said. “The best man at my wedding – we don’t talk anymore.”

The film attempts to show that the fear and psychological devastation caused by nuclear radiation can actually be more crippling than the physical contamination itself.

“Go look at the evidence yourself. You don’t have to trust us, but don’t trust the public interest campaigns, either,” Lynas said. “Make up your own mind.”

Erica Schlaikjer

About the Author Erica Schlaikjer

Erica Schlaikjer is the Creator and Curator of Benevolent Media. She lives in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @benevolentmedia and @eschlaik.

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