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POV (US television’s longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films on PBS) recently hosted IDA’s Doc U on the Road to examine the question “Can Your Doc Really Change the World?” with a panel of documentary heavyweights and the conversation continued afterwards with a Q&A and reception.
The panel included Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence), Rachel Libert (Semper Fi: Always Faithful, Boomtown), Diana Barrett, founder of the Fledgling Fund, and Cynthia López, Executive Vice President and Co-Executive Producer of POV.
“When I was tackling the big issue, I could have gotten lost in it. But I realized I have to tell the most compelling, engaging story I can to get people to watch. It has to be about the story first.”
– Roger Ross Williams, director of Music by Prudence
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams took to the microphone first to set the stage for a clip of his 2010 short film Music by Prudence.
“I didn’t set out to make a film that would change the world,” said Williams. But that’s exactly what ended up happening when the film was picked up by HBO and then shortlisted and nominated for an Academy Award.
When people who had watched the Academy Awards began contacting him wanting to know how they could engage more with the issues, Williams realized he needed an actual campaign. Fledgling Fund made this possible. Williams partnered with Human Rights Watch to bring the subject of his film to the US and give her media training to become an effective advocate for the issues that were important to her. The UN, the World Bank, and UNICEF signed on as partners.
Williams believes the biggest impact the film and its campaign had was in Zimbabwe. When Prudence arrived back in her country, hundreds of journalists were on hand for her return. Her father was there, crying and apologizing for abandoning her. She made a speech about the wasted potential of disabled children strengthened by her media training. The two major newspapers in the country had editorials taking the position that Zimbabwe had to change the way disabled people were treated.
Read the full report on the event at documentary.org