Docs

It was the best of times…

'There is a Chinese curse,' declared Robert Kennedy in 1966, 'which says: 'May he live in interesting times.' Like it or not, we live in interesting times.' Kennedy's statement captured the flux of his era so precisely it found its way into our societal lexicon. Thanks to recent events it resurfaces more frequently now, as people pine for the banal days of yore - hours touched by neither anthrax nor terror attacks.
December 1, 2001

‘There is a Chinese curse,’ declared Robert Kennedy in 1966, ‘which says: ‘May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not, we live in interesting times.’ Kennedy’s statement captured the flux of his era so precisely it found its way into our societal lexicon. Thanks to recent events it resurfaces more frequently now, as people pine for the banal days of yore – hours touched by neither anthrax nor terror attacks.

The real irony is that the curse has its origins not in China, but in Western media. Evidence points to it making its first appearance in a story called U-Turn by science fiction writer Eric Frank Russell. But, the curse isn’t diminished by a less exotic origin. Anything but. Its connection to the media world only serves to heighten its suitability for our times – an age in which CNN demands ‘what went wrong?’ because a ground war lasted more than four weeks without the other side begging for mercy. (Leaving Ike and Churchill to spin in their graves…) The only thing worse than a curse, it seems, is the ironic extrapolation of a curse. These are interesting times.

In this issue, we tackle the year that was. Happily, our mandate confines us to the world of documentary film and television, which means we have at least a small chance of encapsulating 12 eventful months into only a few pages. We decided that the best way to accomplish this was to turn to you, the reader, for your opinion on a number of topics: Which is the most courageous broadcaster? What do you think was the most important innovation in the history of documentaries? Where do you see us headed in the future? We tried to cover as many bases as we could.

Most of the lists were compiled via an online survey. Some lists we wanted to run, but couldn’t – like the best doc and most promising newcomer – because everything suggested people simply voted for themselves. No one ever said doc-makers don’t know how to work a room, even if it is a virtual one. Some of the lists were complied by the RealScreen staff, such as the biggest news stories of the year, and the most influential people. In these cases, it was a matter of our opinion, and your choices might be different from ours. We’ve tried to provide a convincing argument for our selections.

So, this is the year that was. May the year to come bore you to tears.

Brendan Christie

Editor

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