Festivals are always calls for celebration, and with the first edition of the Investigative Film Festival Skopje we aspire to celebrate ideas, courage and the neverending quest for truth. While dedicating a festival solely on investigative films is a rather recent concept, and IFFS is certainly the first of this kind in the region, channeling an investigative report onto the screen is a well-known and well-received method of journalistic storytelling. Documentary films and investigative exposés are often intertwined, and even beyond that, the success of feature films such as Spotlight and Citizenfour show that the public is eager to know the process that leads to uncovering the inconvenient facts.
The role of a journalist is never isolated from its surroundings, each and every inquiry, examination and investigation is rooted in society and every question raised is advancing our world, whether it affects millions of people or gives a voice to a single silenced individual. This is why we believe the screenings, workshops and discussions at IFFS will appeal to both professional and aspiring journalists, as well as audiences interested in truth-seeking storytelling.
As the focal point of the first edition of IFFS we chose the heroes among us – the whistleblowers, the courageous individuals who ignite change and shed much-needed light on the hidden maladies in all segments of society. IFFS 2017 will open with the screening of Being A Whistleblower, by Benoît Bringer, followed by the discussion Whistleblowers – ‘secret’ players that can change history where we are pleased to announce the renowned investigative journalist Betty Medsger, who wrote about one of the most notable episodes of civil disobedience in American history, the burglary and public distribution of classified documents from an FBI office by a group of whistle blowers whose identity remained a secret for forty-three years. Approaching the subject of whistle blowers and the impact of their actions, it’s critical to point out that one of the speakers on the debate is the former Macedonian security official Gjorgji Lazarevski, who handed over the government’s illegally wiretapped recordings, which influenced the rise of Macedonia’s ‘colorful revolution’ and the changes that happened in the country. We are proud to announce that our program also includes The Medal of the Loud, the first regional documentary film on whistle blowers.
Creating this festival we remembered Bob Woodward’s “The central dilemma in journalism is that you don’t know what you don’t know” and concluded that we indeed want to find out and understand more about a number of different subjects including the privatisation in Croatia (The Boss) and the British secretive tax havens (The Spider’s Web: Britain`s Second Empire); the survival of print media in a digital world (New Journalism, Old Journalism) as well as battling air pollution (Black Lungs; Pollution: Skopje has reached Beijing) and inspecting illegal bird hunting (Flatland without Birds?).
Among today’s most pressing issues no story is too big or too small. With the first edition of the Investigative Film Festival Skopje we made a point to include an array of the diverse challenges that journalists are facing today, so we welcome Craig Shaw who will discuss the importance of freelance investigative journalism; Dario Juričan and Sasa Paparella who will explain how to use crowdfunding campaigns for investigative journalism films; Robb Montgomery who will lead a workshop on how to make a low cost investigative documentary with your smartphone; Barbara Schiavulli who will share her personal experience and specify what it takes to succeed as a female journalist reporting from high risk zones; Alessia Cerantola and Benoît Bringer who will detail their work on the Panama Papers investigation as members of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that won the Pulitzer Prize; and journalists from Macedonia, Serbia, Albania and Slovenia who will explore the challenges regarding the investigative journalism in the region.Having our country be named “the fake news capital of the world” it is our obligation to tackle the fake news phenomenon, so on the festival’s closing day we’ve scheduled an exclusive debate with a 19-year-old teenager from the Macedonian city Veles, who makes a living as a fake news author and may have influenced the American presidential election. He will discuss the tactic, ethics and repercussions with data journalists who are in direct opposition with his choice of work.
We hope IFFS will contribute to strengthening the relationship between film and journalism. Presented through the language of cinema and television, an investigation can reach a broader audience, impacting spectators from all over the world. Being able to see the issues fortifies the abstract topics as definite and tangible parts of our joint reality, making it harder to turn the page and ignore the undeniable problems. Fortunately, it’s never been easier nor cheaper to film, produce and distribute video content to audiences throughout the world.
Our mission is to build IFFS as a platform where journalists, movie and media professionals from the region and around the world can connect and develop future stories and films as well as educate and inform the public about the importance of the free press and the obstacles that stand between the truth and the people.
This year the Investigative film festival – Skopje is happening in Kino Kultura from 03 to 05 November. IFFS is an international festival and the work language is English. The entrance to all the events is free.
Yours truly, IFFS team
Platform for investigative journalism and analyses – PINA [pina.mk]