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Celebrating the impact of investigative storytelling at the Double Exposure Film Festival

By Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival

Next week, Double Exposure (DX), a project of the news organization 100Reporters, will open its doors to celebrate the newest documentary films inspired by investigative instinct, combining public screenings with a professional symposium for journalists and visual storytellers.

Media Impact Funders members receive a special 15% off discount on passes with the code DX17IMF. Register now while passes last.

Now in its third year, DX does much more than just identify and celebrate a new genre of filmmaking. With hard-hitting films, panels featuring top industry leaders, workshops and special initiatives, DX strives to connect audiences with this important body of public interest work, and connects groundbreaking storytelling to policy changes. On Saturday, MIF’s Research Director Jessica Clark will be on hand to demonstrate how filmmakers and reporters can use the Impact Pack to develop effective engagement strategies.

As DX 2017 approaches, the importance of investigative reporting for a vibrant democracy has never been more urgent—particularly in Washington, the epicenter of the assault on verifiable truth. Parallel to the current climate of disinformation, there is a rebirth of relentless investigative reporting alongside exciting new forms of hybrid storytelling that mix journalism with film, multimedia podcasts, virtual reality and even poetry. These diverse media forms synergize and multiply the impact on critical social issues, with palpable success.

In fact, in a 2016 report on “The State of the Documentary Field,” 92 percent of professionals surveyed were optimistic about prospects for the social impact of documentary films. The report was conducted by American University’s Center for Media and Social Impact and the International Documentary Association.

Here are some films to keep an eye on:

One of Us
Filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady take a deep and moving look at the lives of three people who have chosen to leave the insular world of Hasidic Judaism. The film follows Etty, a mother of seven, as she decides to leave an abusive marriage and divorce her husband; Ari, a teenager on the verge of manhood who is struggling with addiction and the effects of childhood abuse; and Luzer, an actor who, despite having found success in the secular world, still wrestles with his decision eight years earlier to leave the Hasidic community.

Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Grady and Ewing have a long history of crafting films that engage audiences and generate robust public debate. Their previous feature, Jesus Camp, brought nationwide attention to Evangelical summer camps for children and sparked a national conversation over the methods used in such camps.

Produced over three years, One of Us offers unique and intimate access to individuals who are wrestling not only with questions of their beliefs but also with the consequences of leaving the only community they have ever known.

Abuse, trauma and addiction seen through the eyes of three diverse individuals going through different paths and phases of recovery provides a strong platform to generate knowledge, empathy and discussion about the often-overlooked struggles within fundamentalist religious societies. The film creates a framework for a multi-platform, social impact campaign to unveil this often hidden world to American audiences. With extensive footage of Footsteps, a support organization made up of former Hasidim who have left the community, the film will serve as a powerful tool for those seeking their own paths out of ultra orthodox environments.

One of Us will have its D.C. premiere as the opening night film for DX 2017.

The Keepers
Set in Baltimore in the 1960s, The Keepers investigates the unsolved murder of Sister Catherine Cesnick, a beloved nun at Archbishop Keogh High School, who tried to stop the serial sexual abuse of students by the school’s chaplain. Nominated for an Emmy Award, and told in serial form over seven episodes, Ryan White’s remarkable film follows an investigative reporter and two alumni of the school, now retired, who take it upon themselves to unravel the mystery of their former teacher’s brutal killing—a murder that has reverberated through the decades.

The film raises important questions about police involvement in a network of abuse in a town where the archdiocese ruled unchallenged. It also shines a light on the church leadership’s indifference to the suffering of victims, the failure of prosecutors to protect the public, and the subsequent cover-up that allowed a killer to literally get away with murder. The Keepers also exemplifies the distinctive experience of episodic storytelling and a film’s ability to intervene in and directly affect the world beyond the screen.

The Keepers was released on Netflix in conjunction with an ongoing social impact campaign, We Hear You.  The campaign “seeks to arm individuals with the skills to arrest the power of silence by being patient, loving witnesses to the pain of survivors.” The campaign’s website offers a wealth of data and resources for victims, families, friends and bystanders. A call to action outlays numerous avenues for those interested in helping to be actively involved and an institutional reform initiative seeks deep, concrete change in the social, political and legal infrastructures that affect survivors.

The closing conversation will take place on Friday, Oct. 20 at the National Union Building in Washington, D.C., featuring director Ryan White and New York Times editor Gilbert Cruz. White, himself a Catholic, set out expecting the church to eagerly assist in solving the mystery of what happened to Sister Catherine, and was surprised at the resistance he encountered these many years later. The Keepers’ impact succeeded, however, in forcing a reopening of the case, a testimony to the film’s riveting power.

The Rape of Recy Taylor
Nancy Buirski directs a story that, despite its community impact at the time, has been largely forgotten. The film tells the true story of a 24-year-old wife and mother who was gang raped in Alabama by seven white men in 1944. With the case investigated by a then-young activist named Rosa Parks, these and other similar cases helped fuel the civil rights movement.

Courtesy of Augusta Films.

In a current environment where the national conversation around systemic racism and violence against black people has taken center stage in American politics and civic life, The Rape of Recy Taylor is a powerful and engaging portrait of past struggles—with many social impact prospects. It underscores the role of the black press in exposing white violence on black women, all but ignored as an issue by the mainstream press at the time. The film challenges its audiences to delve deeper into our troubled, shared history and offers inspiration for leaders and organizations fighting for equality.

For a full schedule and to reserve your pass, go to doubleexposurefestival.com. 

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