I’m no movie critic but as I get ready to tune into the Oscars tonight I recall a movie I saw called the Reporter at the Portland International Film Festival and had some thoughts as it relates to the field of journalism and how we continue to develop our businesses; our relationships with developing countries.
If you’re not familiar, The Reporter is a feature documentary about Nick Kristof and his work in raising awareness about world crisis, particularly the issues in the Congo, he takes two lay-people on the trip with him to report and serve as storytellers back in the US (think of it as activating the influencers). Simultaneously, the documentary paints the truthful picture about the tumultuous state of investigative journalism. Indeed, the dual agenda in the documentary was somewhat confusing.
The movie was informative, interesting from the perspective of how Nick covers stories, the lengths he goes to tap into the local communities etc., the risks he takes and how he has developed a thick skin in dealing with emotional topics of corruption, rape and murder etc. It is evident from the documentary that he has a deep understanding of the complexity in helping developing countries flourish, the challenge of corruption and security.
From my professional perspective, the documentary felt quite self-promotional (the way he and his ‘fans’ e.g. Mia Farrow talked about how he single-handedly puts crisis on the world map, Darfur and other places – this was hard to believe).
It was also surprising to me that the story in the documentary did not follow traditional journalistic formulas e.g. I felt it would have been a lot more credible for Nick, if someone like Ban Ki-Moon could have spoken about the impact of his writings in the regions or on policy.
While the documentary lacked some dimension and lacked, in my point of view, a fair and holistic picture of the intricacies of partnerships for engaging with the developing world – the documentary was informative and is worth watching. Truthfully, I know the documentary was about advancing a very specific agenda. As far as Kristof is concerned, the man’s influence, intellect and passion remains undisputed in my mind. That said, I left the theater cautious and curious about how he works with other stakeholders (outside of journalism) in advancing the causes he is passionate about and also how he sees his role as a facilitator of dialogue and democracy within an ecosystem of influence. Also, I recognize that he is a journalist with an agenda, but in the developing world, I walked away questioning the role of US journalists in the developing world (how do they work with local reporters? Does their role differ to that of their local counterparts?). The following scene was a trigger for these question: There is a scene in the documentary where Kristof drives into a village, where genocide has apparently been reported and he is looking for the story of a raped victim – he arrives in a UN vehicle, greeted with joy, laughter, clapping and waving. He finds the victim, ends up helping her although I don’t think the village expected this, I had the impression that they thought he was bringing hope or food. In his eyes, he viewed the fact that he was going to tell their story, as a way to bring hope whereas, in the moment, this was irrelevant to the people. Thought-provoking.