The Ninth Annual Media That Matters film festival premiered to a sold out theater in Chelsea June 3. It was the second year in a row that I covered the premiere and left inspired.
From environmental degradation to cultural misrepresentation, the festival’s twelve short films artfully publicize and humanize contemporary struggles. Especially effective was Exiled in America, a documentary about five Mexican-American siblings whose mother, a legal resident, was deported. Knock Knock Who’s There was an Indian public service announcement encouraging citizens to take action against domestic violence in their neighborhoods. The jury prize winner, and my personal favorite, was The Next Wave, a beautiful documentary about the sinking of the Carteret Islands – and the Islanders’ culture – due to global warming.
Teenager Skyler Dees worked on Will I Be Next, a documentary by high school students about gun violence in Chicago. “The impact is mind-blowing – to see something so set in your mind gain exposure.” “In Jordan, we don’t have freedom of speech,” said Jackie Sawiris, director of the Jordanian film Bits and Pieces. But the candid voices of Jordanians – a gay man, a DJ and a bartender, to name a few – will now be heard around the world. Festival organizer Leah Sapin noted, “screenings have already been set up in Rome, Sudan, and throughout the U.S.”
The motto of this year’s festival is “screen, act, impact.” Media That Matters works not only to screen these films to a wide audience, but to get that audience involved. The program I received listed four actions one could take, each with a corresponding website, to further the films’ cause. After seeing The Secret Life of Paper, I took the Fair Share Paper Pledge at shrinkpaper.org.
As a global citizen and documentary filmmaker, it’s my pleasure to support and endorse the Media that Matters film festival. To view the films, or set up a screening of your own, visit mediathatmattersfest.org.