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Neutrality Bites

So, you're in the woods camping one weekend. It's just you and your loved one under the stars, with some marshmallows toasting over a roaring fire, when you suddenly think: 'Man, would I love to dump 400 pounds of liquid mercury into that lake.'
February 1, 2002

So, you’re in the woods camping one weekend. It’s just you and your loved one under the stars, with some marshmallows toasting over a roaring fire, when you suddenly think: ‘Man, would I love to dump 400 pounds of liquid mercury into that lake.’

It could happen. At least some seem to suggest it.

In 2000, a mining company spilled that much mercury in Choropampa, Peru, and a local prodco, Guarango Film and Video, has almost finished a film on it. Unfortunately, the producers have already heard (as have so many before them) the dreaded ‘A’ word used in reference to their film: advocacy. That most deadly of epithets. The profanest of the profane. The Scarlet Letter of the film age.

So, I wonder: is there a pro-mercury spilling lobby out there we’re afraid of offending? Will someone, somewhere, in big boots and a Stetson, vehemently object if this film goes to air?

Is it viewers or broadcasters who think non-fiction filmmakers have failed if they’re not neutral observers? (It isn’t the filmmakers, is it?)

The problem is epidemic. Last month, I watched a CNN roundtable in which the neutrality of the U.S. press was questioned over coverage of the events of September 11. I found myself screaming at my television (which, to be fair, happens with alarming regularity…) when a holier-than-thou BBC face used his time on air to tsk-tsk the Yanks for their behavior. Please stand by for the bbc’s new landmark series: Why I like the Irish Republican Army. I love the Beeb, but slant wasn’t a byproduct of the American Revolution.

Not that Americans have anything to crow over. Bill Maher, host of Politically Incorrect, nearly lost his show because he called the U.S. cowardly for using Cruise Missiles to do their fighting. A remarkably stupid statement maybe, but is this man a threat? (And anyway, the show is called Politically Incorrect…)

Are we so afraid of opinions that we have to pretend we don’t have them? (And, I know. I’m Canadian – the land that backbone forgot.) When will we stop acting as though hiding behind a mask of righteous neutrality has merit?

There are only degrees of bias, so why disable a film with the moniker ‘advocacy’ as though coming down on one side of the fence or the other was a symptom of naïveté or poor judgement?

Brendan Christie

Editor

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