Full Frame is committed to encouraging a robust discussion and ensuring a safe and open forum for an international community of filmmakers, participants and audiences. The festival condemns harassment, discrimination, sexism and other forms of disrespectful behavior.
The Durham-based event is returning this April 4-7 after it was held virtually from 2020 to 2022 during the pandemic. Passes and ticket packages are now on sale.
What to Expect
As always, Full Frame brings together world-class documentary filmmakers with audiences hungry for fresh perspectives. One of the great moments at this year’s event was a tribute to director Steve James and his landmark film Hoop Dreams, whose staying power exemplifies the kind of stories that documentary can tell.
Another example is the film Robert, Mary & Katrina, in which a Dutch couple speaks directly to the camera about their personal experiences during and after Hurricane Katrina. In a time when so much of our media is overheated and divisive, Full Frame reminds us that documentary can be a unifying force.
Sadie Tillery and Emily Foster, the festival’s associate interim director and marketing director, respectively, sat down with me to talk about this year’s films and what’s happening at Full Frame in general. The festival will be on hiatus in 2023, but organizers are taking this opportunity to evaluate the program and plan for the future.
Full Frame showcases more than 100 films over the course of four days and offers a range of screening options. Films in competition are eligible for juried awards offering a total prize package of $55,000. The festival also presents curated thematic programs and hosts panels.
Some of the featured films have strong local ties to North Carolina. “Stay Prayed Up” follows gospel singer Lena Mae Perry, an original member of the group the Branchettes, as she records a new album. The movie travels to Newton Grove, Durham and Raleigh. Another feature film takes the audience to Princeville, an African American community in rural eastern North Carolina.
One of the broader themes this year is how we’re shaped by history. Dawn Porter’s Gideon’s Army looks at the current work of public defenders in Georgia, many of whom are still overwhelmed by an unfair system that pays lip service to the 1963 Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright.
Full Frame is one of the world’s premiere showcases for nonfiction cinema. Dedicated to supporting the documentary form and its community, it fosters conversation among filmmakers, film professionals and a diverse audience each spring. This Academy Award(r)-qualifying event is renowned for its curation, offering an international mix of new films and established classics.
Filmmakers and attendees connect in formal conversations, but also interact organically over the course of four days. Some of these interactions lead to future collaborations, such as the feature RBG about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which won Full Frame’s top prize and went on to win an Oscar.
Despite being a small festival, Full Frame’s intimate landscape makes it unique in the world of film festivals. It takes place in a few downtown blocks, with the Carolina Theatre at the center and additional venues like the American Tobacco Campus and Durham Central Park hosting screenings. It’s a setting that filmmakers appreciate, says Foster.
Full Frame brings together filmmakers and audiences in a community that’s as diverse as the world of nonfiction film. The festival is fun, accessible and welcoming, qualities that reflect Durham itself, says Emily Foster, co-director of the event and a documentary professor at Muhlenberg College.
One of the highlights this year was a tribute to Hoop Dreams, a film that continues to resonate two decades later. That’s a sign of the power and longevity of this genre, which is thriving at this moment.
This year’s festival included a powerful film about child soldiers in Africa, as well as a poignant piece about the US legal system. Another standout was Dawn Porter’s portrait of a group of public defenders in Georgia, who face an extraordinary overload of cases while still trying to honor the 1963 Supreme Court decision Gideon v. Wainwright. These films and others address a broad array of topics, including issues of race, class, gender, politics and the environment.
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Documentaries are a powerful way to raise awareness about social issues, share personal experiences, and entertain. They can also spark a dialogue and change minds. To get the most out of your documentary, you need a compelling narrative and interesting characters.
A good place to start is by doing a free screening for friends and family. This will give you a sense of how your audience responds.
For all the talk of it being an epic war film, Midway proves to be an oddly polite movie. Its director, Roland Emmerich, can crack the whip on computer pixels like nobody else, but in sacrificing a reckoning on the human toll of war for cardboard characterization and showoff fx, he’s left an empty space where the soul of the film should be.
The story centers on a hunky squadron commander (Ed Skrein), who loses a friend at Pearl Harbor and is eager to take the fight to Japan, even though his family awaits him back home. Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore and Darren Criss round out the cast of familiar faces.
In a post- Saving Private Ryan, post-Dunkirk landscape, it’s astonishing that anyone is still making movies like this. But Midway isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. This choppy bore is saved by its cast and the director’s competence at helming extravagant aerial views of pyrotechnic destruction.
The company is committed to producing artistic, challenging and socially relevant independent media to strengthen human rights and the quest for justice. Its notable works include When the Mountains Tremble, which won a special jury award at the Sundance Film Festival in 1984.
Pamela Yates, founder of Skylight Pictures, has been a filmmaker for 30 years. She has produced a number of critically acclaimed documentaries and is the creator of SolidariLabs, a series of creative labs designed to engage activists in addressing global challenges.
Yates is currently working on “State of Fear”, a documentary that tells the epic story of Peru’s 20-year war on terror, based on the findings of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She will also direct the upcoming feature film 500 Years, the third installment in the Resistance Saga trilogy. Skylight Pictures is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The company is committed to equal employment opportunities for all qualified employees. This includes the application process, hiring, promotion, transfer, layoff, firing, compensation and training.
Allison Argo Productions
Allison Argo Productions is an award-winning documentary film production company that specializes in films about endangered animals and the people who care for them. The company has produced over two dozen films that have been broadcast worldwide and received multiple awards. They are committed to producing films that inspire compassion and understanding of all animals. Whether they are searching for chimpanzees in the mountains of Tanzania or combing the rainforest for frogs, Allison and her team make sure that their audience sees the story from an animal’s perspective.
After an acting career that included starring roles on Broadway and television movies, Allison Argo founded her own production company to focus on documentaries that promote human kindness towards animals. Her first film, narrated by Glenn Close, was The Urban Gorilla, which called attention to the excruciating lives of captive gorillas. This film led to many other documentaries, including Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History, Frogs: The Thin Green Line, and Extraordinary Dogs.
The Documentary Project
Whether the subject matter is skateboarding, Korean War, tofu, or something else entirely, making a documentary requires extensive research. This research is necessary for obtaining the raw visual materials that make up the documentary as well as the information that will provide context for your subject. It is also important for bridging your documentary’s storyline and helping you organize and plan your footage.
Once you have a good understanding of the historical context and content of your subject matter, it is time to find the interview subjects or talking heads for your documentary. This will require further research including conventional library and online research, artifact finding, interviews, observations, original photography and film clips, and re-creating situations and environments.
Box office analysts have noted that documentaries are becoming increasingly popular as a genre. This is due in part to the increased availability of lightweight digital video cameras that enable people of all backgrounds to capture their own experiences and share them with others.
The financial crisis of 2008 had a serious impact on the economy. It led to the loss of millions of jobs and homes. The crisis was caused by the indiscriminate expansion of the finance sector without proper regulation.
These documentaries explore the root causes of the 2008 crisis. They also examine the responsibilities of the people involved in this catastrophe.
Too Big to Fail
Based on a New York Times bestseller, this film traces the near collapse of Wall Street and the federal government’s mammoth financial response. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (Hanks) and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke are among the powerful players featured in this dramatization of events that threatened a global economic meltdown.
William Hurt, Ben Affleck and the rest of the cast deliver compelling performances. A classic scene features Paulson locking the chairmen of large banks in a conference room until they agree to accept TARP funds.
TBTF refers to the notion that certain corporations, particularly financial institutions, are so vital to a country’s economic health that they must be protected from failure because the consequences to the nation would be too severe. This film rekindles the debate on how much risk is acceptable in a free society. It also raises the question of whether the brash greed and reckless behavior that took place in the boardrooms of Wall Street and at the offices of Washington, D.C., have direct repercussions on the daily lives of families like yours.
A tense, coolly absorbing drama set on the last night of Wall Street prosperity, Margin Call takes place at a fictional investment firm where drastic damage-control measures are underway. This is the directorial debut of screenwriter J. C. Chandor, who has made documentaries and commercials but this is his first feature.
The movie doesn’t demonize any of its characters, nor does it absolve them of their sins. Instead, it reveals, without judgment or anger, how our financial crisis came about from a combination of human greed, hubris and myopia.
The film’s chief strength is its cast, with relative newcomer Zachary Quinto holding his own among screen veterans Kevin Spacey and Stanley Tucci. But the movie is also monologue-choked and prone to oversimplifying financial jargon into meaningless stalemate. Ultimately, it fails to prove that a fictional story can explain the meltdown’s causes better than a documentary. But it’s an admirable effort. For that reason alone, it deserves a look.
The Big Short
The Big Short, directed and co-written by Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights), is both a righteous condemnation of fraud and a black comic romp with cool amoral dudes and rebellious outsiders. The film is based on Michael Lewis’ best-selling book about the financial crisis.
The movie stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling as investors who saw the coming disaster. They guessed that mortgage-backed securities were a house of cards that would collapse when the housing market imploded, and they made millions betting against them.
During a visit to Washington in January, director McKay and some of his cast spoke about the film. They used vivid and colloquial ways to explain complex financial terms and tools, including collateralized debt obligations, tranches, and mortgage-backed securities. They also touched on the need to keep the public informed about greed and the causes of financial crises.
The 2008 global financial crisis was the most severe economic event since the Great Depression. Predatory lending, reckless risk-taking by banks, the bursting of the United States housing bubble and many other factors combined into a perfect storm that led to catastrophic losses for everyone. Inside Job lucidly explains how these events happened and shows finance professionals how to identify potential crises.
Hard rock sister trio The Warning exploded into the music scene with their viral cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” That success gave them the opportunity to open for a Download headliner, and Dani Villarreal Velez and her younger sisters Paulina and Alejandra haven’t looked back since.
Their new song, “MORE,” is a high-octane, stadium-ready banger that proves they’re not afraid to push the limits. And their debut album Error has enough powerful lyrical content to cross the generation gap and resonate with older listeners as well. Using sounds from the 80’s, 90’s and today, The Warning manage to create a fresh sound that feels like it could come from any era.
Streaming documentary film has seen explosive growth. According to data from Parrot Analytics, demand for these series soared by 63% between 2019 and 2021.
While the COVID-19 pandemic halted narrative production, streamers raced to acquire true-crime and investigative series. One seasoned director was prevented from interviewing family members of a murder victim by nondisclosure agreements.
The new Docurama app offers a curated selection of award-winning documentaries, films and TV series that explore impactful true-life stories. The app is free to use and offers a simple interface that allows users to browse titles by category and read a synopsis of each film.
Many documentary films rely on first-hand accounts from people who have experienced the events or issues being filmed. They also use archival footage or other secondary sources to help viewers understand the topic at hand.
The Docurama app is part of a larger collection of Cinedigm Corp. digital channels, which includes lifestyle network CONtv and the faith-based Dove Channel. Those channels are available on Comcast Corp.’s Xfinity X1 platform for a monthly fee. The service is available on more than 165 million devices, including connected televisions (Samsung, Sony, RCA), set-top boxes (Roku and Tivo Roamio) and tablets.
HBO is a premium cable network that has long produced world-class documentary films. Its docs range from true-crime to social justice and exposes.
Its acclaimed docuseries include Band of Brothers about the company that fought with the 101st Airborne Division during World War II and John Adams about America’s second president. The network has also aired many movies and made many original series, including Seth Rogen’s comedy Search Party and three-part Amy Schumer documentary Expecting Amy.
In addition to its regular one-hour documentaries, it has created a number of recurring series such as Real Sex (frank explorations on a variety of mainstream and non-mainstream sexual topics) and Autopsy (forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden examines criminal and suspicious deaths). The service’s HBO Max streaming platform offers access to many of the channel’s best nonfiction titles.
Dedicated to the best in documentary filmmaking, DocCom TV highlights the real-life stories that inspire and motivate audiences. It features the most creative, informative, and provocative documentaries from every era. It also includes foreign and domestic projects that explore a variety of topics and perspectives.
DocCom TV is a curated subscription video on demand (SVoD) channel aimed at passionate documentary fans. Its content is sourced from the world’s top production houses, ensuring quality and reliability. Its unique aggregation approach means users get the highest quality content at the lowest price.
GONE TV will join the family of networks from TV4 Entertainment on Amazon Prime’s SVoD add-on service, including Motorland TV (Motors), Throwback Network (Sports), Nautical Mile TV (Boating), and DocCom TV (Documentaries). This makes TV4 Entertainment the leading provider of networks for this ‘add on’ subscription video on demand platform.
Paramount+ offers a wide selection of movies, including recent releases that haven’t yet hit theaters. It also features a number of popular TV series, including iCarly and the Yellowstone prequel 1883. The service also has a few exclusive series, like Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and The Good Fight.
Unlike other streaming services, Paramount Plus allows you to stream up to three shows at once. It also offers a robust selection of original movies and TV shows, including documentaries and sports. You can even watch some live sports events on the platform.
Paramount Plus was formerly known as CBS All Access, but the service has expanded its content offerings significantly since that time. It now includes a full CBS live stream (CBS, CBSN, and CBS Sports HQ), along with entertainment coverage from ET.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video is a virtual warehouse of great TV shows and movies, including original series from Amazon Studios and major studios. It also includes a variety of documentaries. You can stream in up to 4K resolution, and some titles support advanced audio formats like Dolby Atmos.
One unique feature is X-Ray, which shows you information about the actors who appear in a film or show simply by pausing it. The feature is powered by IMDb, and it’s a great way to discover other films or shows that may interest you.
Another advantage is that you can download Amazon Prime videos for offline viewing. This is especially useful if you’re traveling or if your Wi-Fi connection is unstable. You can download up to two titles at a time.
Despite erring on the drier side this documentary covers many aspects of gaming history from its text-adventure roots to graphical games like Mystery House and RPGs like Final Fantasy. It also outlines how difficult it is for smaller teams to develop a game from scratch.
The King of Kong is a riveting story about a fascinating subculture of arcade gamers and the lengths people will go to in order to protect their world record. It’s funny, baffling and heartwarming.
Atari: Game Over
Director Zak Penn (screenwriter of X-Men and The Incredible Hulk, the film Incident at Loch Ness with Werner Herzog) has a knack for modern mythmaking and he’s not far off with this snappy documentary about the search for Atari’s notorious ET cartridges. The film works as both a whimsical summary of the event and a deeper look into the company’s decline, with a good helping of interesting interviews.
The movie shines when Howard Scott Warshaw (who programmed the Atari 2600 version of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and also worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark) takes a good dig at the game that has become something of a modern Holy Grail, with people making pilgrimages to a landfill in New Mexico to excavate them. However, the film could have delved a little deeper into the complexities of the video game industry at the time that led to Atari’s collapse.
Also, while all the interviewees are interesting, it would have been nice to have seen a more diverse cast of characters represented here, given that there are so many women and minorities involved in modern video game culture. Still, it’s an entertaining and informative film that should be required viewing for anyone who grew up playing video games.
David: This is where Nintendo really starts to flex their advantage over Sega and other competitors in the 16-bit console generation. They’re starting to roll out the DS, with backwards compatibility and other features that are great.
But they also do some pretty dumb stuff, like suing Blockbuster for renting games, which is just kind of silly. And then they’re fighting off a competitor who is called Sega, which is funny because it was originally a portmanteau for Service Games. They were basically gambling or thinly-disguised gambling games that morphed into arcade games for US military services worldwide.
It’s a bit of an era of arrogance bordering on stupidity for Nintendo, but they still have this massive advantage. They just need to find a way to make their systems work for developers. Microsoft figured this out 20 years ago with the Xbox, and it’s working pretty well for them right now. And it’s a model that Nintendo should consider, too.
Get Lamp is an excellent documentary by Jason Scott, who previously made a movie about the rise of computer bulletin board systems. It features interviews with a variety of game developers and players, from a group of Infocom “old-timers” to modern IF authors.
The DVD contains a wealth of information, including two hours of interview excerpts that were cut from the main feature. They don’t feel like the dregs of the cutting room floor, with many fascinating tales about the history of text adventures. For example, the filmmakers explain why a brass lantern is used as the icon for the genre (it’s actually equipment a real caver would use) and the origin of “invisible ink” hint books.
The disc also includes a music video for MC Frontalot’s catchy nerdcore anthem “It’s Pitch Dark,” and a section that contains a collection of modern-day free, interactive fiction games. The set also includes a numbered collectible coin, reminiscent of the feelies that were included with early game packages to add a tactile element.
Rarity is a studious pony with an obsession for beauty and detail. She’s a skilled seamstress, and she can telekinetically reattach her sheared tail hair to Steven Magnet’s mustache in Lesson Zero and trim tree branches into topiaries in Suited For Success. She also has a talent for repairing objects using magic.
She’s very particular about cleanliness, and she panics at the sight of mud on her shoes in Look Before You Sleep and tries to avoid getting wet in Inspiration Manifestation. Her prim ways and aversion to dirt clash with Applejack’s brashness, leading to their frequent arguments.
She has a sensitive side as well, and she stands up for Spike when Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash pick on him in Dragon Quest. She also designs dresses for her friends, including the wedding dress of Princess Cadance in A Canterlot Wedding – Part 1 and the bridal party dresses in A Canterlot Wedding – Part 2. She takes first place at the fashion show hosted by Hoity Toity in Rarity Takes Manehattan.
In India, documentary films have played a crucial role in exposing injustices and mobilizing resistance movements. But they have struggled to gain traction in the country’s current political climate.
Writing with Fire is an exception, having premiered at a globally revered festival and winning a L’OEil d’or award in 2021.
Documentary Films in India
India’s fractious political climate can make it difficult for documentary filmmakers to find audiences, producers and platforms. Streaming services are unwilling to risk a politically charged film that could be subject to government intervention, and filmmakers are often left with no budget for post-production or promotional materials.
India has long been an alluring subject for Western documentary filmmakers, from pioneering James Beveridge’s 1957 Himalayan Tapestry to the acclaimed 2007 series The Story of India. But more recently, Indian documentaries have gained momentum with the rise of homegrown narratives crafted by indigenous filmmakers.
Formal invention and ambition coalesce in the 2021 L’Oreal d’Or-winning A Night of Knowing Nothing, Payal Kapadia’s lyrical study of India’s rising intolerance that layers archival footage with student protest videos. The film’s amorphous structure and insistence on authenticity speak to the legacy of Indian masters Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy, Ritwik Ghatak, and Mrinal Sen, who employed the camera as an instrument for recording the world around them.
Documentary Films in Hindi
Documentary cinema in India is a hybrid genre: conceived by the British and nurtured in Indian hands. The first generation of documentary filmmakers strained against the invisible shackles of propaganda, and strived for greater creative liberty and honesty.
Directors like Kanwar and Sharma used the medium to chronicle political turbulence in diverse parts of the country. Their films showcased the poetry of tragedy and protest performed by regional artists.
The second generation of filmmakers took documentary to new heights with innovative narratives and aesthetics. Filmmakers like Ranka and Shukla made political-minded documentaries that strayed from the conventions of mainstream filmmaking to chart new frontiers. For instance, Ranka’s An Insignificant Man captured the birth and rise of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, constructing the film like a nerve-wracking heist thriller. Similarly, Shukla’s Writing with Fire followed the editorial team of the Dalit newspaper Khabar Lahariya in Bundelkhand.
Documentary Films in Tamil
Using the camera as their weapon, Indian documentary filmmakers have long struggled against invisible shackles that encircle political activism. FD documentaries like Sukhdev’s AnIndian Day (1967) and Sastry’s The Capture of Haji Pir Pass (1968) portrayed the realities of India’s independence struggle that the government preferred to gloss over, while directors such as Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, and Mrinal Sen pushed for greater creative liberty in exploring ethnographic modes of documentary filmmaking.
In recent years, a new generation of nonfiction filmmakers has emerged, spurred by the rise of intolerance in the country. Shukla and Ranka are among them, with films like Writing With Fire and An Insignificant Man capturing India’s nascent police state. Nevertheless, these filmmakers face challenges when seeking funding for their work. Often, depending completely on foreign support necessitates a dilution of aesthetic and narrative aspects to fit certain criteria. In such cases, the filmmakers have opted to forgo funding entirely and go it alone.
Documentary Films in Telugu
Filmmakers like Vishnu Manchu are moving away from the blockbuster mould to create a series of documentaries. The Manchu scion is said to be taking up the project as a fulfilment of his father Mohan Babu’s wish.
In the past, documentary filmmakers in India have had to fight censorship and political pressure to make their films. Manoj Patwardhan, for example, spent his career battling the CBFC for films such as Reason and Final Solution.
Even when documentary makers are able to complete their films, it is often difficult for them to find a platform. For example, Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya’s Cinema Travellers, a riveting look at travelling cinemas in rural India, and Faiza Ahmed Khan’s Supermen of Malegaon cannot be found on any streaming site. Similarly, Abhay Kumar’s A Night of Knowing Nothing and Dibya Kapadia’s Placebo both explore the debilitating academic standards that have spawned mass student suicides in India. Both films, however, take a different approach to the issue.
Sean Penn and his pal Aaron Kaufman went to Ukraine to film a documentary about Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. What they ended up with is a movie that’s both informative and powerful.
A political novice with little traditional experience, Zelensky rallied his nation in its struggle to fight off a nuclear-armed Russia. This engrossing doc chronicles his incredible journey.
What is the film about?
In 2022, actor Sean Penn traveled to Ukraine to learn more about the man who had recently become president. His film, Superpower, follows Volodymyr Zelensky from his days as a comedian to his leadership of the country in its fight against Putin’s invasion.
While it is clear that Penn and director Aaron Kaufman were drawn to Zelensky’s path from movie star to politician, the film is also an important portrait of a nation in crisis. Experts lay out the complexities of the war, while testimonies from the people—including soldiers and a widow who lost her husband during the protests in Maidan—provide levity and inspiration.
In one of the film’s most revealing moments, Penn interviews Zelensky just hours before Russia invaded. Though polite, he is obviously sizing the leader up and is aware of the value this interview will have for his struggle. It is a moment that underscores Zelensky’s media savviness and helps explain his success as both a character and a president.
How did Zelensky become president?
Before Zelensky won the presidency in a landslide, many Ukrainians, including Tetiana Chornovol, saw him as a figure of entertainment. His success reflects the fact that, unlike some other politicians in Ukraine, Zelensky is willing to be honest and speak out, even if it puts him at risk.
He took theater out of Ukrainian electoral politics, rejecting patronage networks that can sway votes. And during the Russian invasion, his eloquence and confidence won him international support.
The challenge now is whether he can deliver on his promises. His team is unclear, and he has given little indication of who will fill key positions, such as finance minister. His close ties to self-exiled oligarch Ihor Kolomoiskiy have raised concerns about his independence. And he has not yet delivered on his promise to fight corruption, which is rife in the country. But his supporters believe he will prevail. He has not lost the people’s faith, and they believe he can be trusted to lead.
How did Zelensky win the election?
The surprise victory of Zelensky reflects Ukrainian frustration with decades of failed political leadership. He campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, lambasting President Poroshenko over crooked deals with rich oligarchs and the raging Russian-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
Zelensky has a clean slate and no clear party structure. Critics compare him to Italy’s populist comedian Beppe Grillo, who rose to power with a similar anti-establishment message and lack of party affiliation.
While many voters were drawn to Zelensky’s anti-corruption stance, they also want dramatic economic change. They fear the country is in a downward spiral after years of bad policy and endemic corruption. They want to see their children grow up with better lives. And, they may believe that Zelensky will bring that change. Zelensky reportedly this week will name his key team, which could offer clues to his direction. That includes naming the foreign and defense ministers and head of the state security service, according to Reuters.
What is the outcome of the election?
In one of the film’s most poignant moments, Zelenskyy talks about his family’s losses in the Holocaust, a painful reminder that Ukraine is still fighting to overcome the vestiges of Soviet dictatorship.
It’s unclear how well Zelensky, whose party, Servant of the People (Sluha narodu or SN), won Sunday’s elections, will govern. He has little prior political experience and didn’t offer a detailed blueprint for his presidency during the campaign.
He also faces a constitutional deadline for dissolving parliament by the end of May. Even if his presidential win translated into a quick victory for his parliamentary party, that would only give him a six-month mandate. Without a full parliament, he can’t form a government. Despite these challenges, he has made clear that he plans to pursue the fight against corruption and defend Ukraine from Russia. He has also promised to make Ukraine a great democracy. That seems like a tall order for a man with no political experience to fulfill.
The BBC’s Documentary on Gujarat Riots is Being censored in India
The Indian government is trying to stop people from viewing a BBC documentary about the 2002 Gujarat riots. The two-part film cites a previously unpublished British government report that found the state government under then-chief minister Narendra Modi “directly responsible” for creating a climate of impunity for Hindu nationalist violence.
The BBC’s India: The Modi Question
After the BBC aired two documentary series critical of Indian PM Narendra Modi’s handling of India’s Muslim minority, officials from India’s income tax department visited BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai for a “survey”. They seized accounts, financial files and phones of employees. The Committee to Protect Journalists said it was an act of intimidation and that authorities should not be harassing journalists doing their jobs.
The two-part documentary, which reopened allegations about Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots that left hundreds dead, provoked accusations of anti-India bias and was met with violence by supporters of his Bharatiya Janata Party. Some BJP politicians even petitioned the supreme court to ban the BBC in India. The petition was dismissed.
But it is hardly the first time that India’s thin-skinned ruling party has been accused of trying to stifle dissent. The government has a history of intimidating journalists and civil society groups, prosecuting them under sedition laws, raiding their homes and imposing censorship on media companies.
The first episode
Two decades ago, when Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, his government sparked communal violence that left more than 1,000 people dead, the majority of whom were Muslims. The first episode of the documentary recounts how a UK government inquiry, led by former foreign secretary Jack Straw, blamed Modi’s government for the violence, saying that senior police officers were told not to intervene.
The episode also claims that Modi’s BJP-led state government encouraged the riots by inciting Hindu nationalist groups and providing them with state resources. Since assuming office, the episode says, Modi and his party have been pursuing a “Hindu supremacy project” through laws and actions that empower party supporters to harass and attack religious minorities.
When the documentary first aired in January, India’s government tried to block it on YouTube and Twitter. But activists, journalists, and even politicians kept sharing links to the BBC series, despite the authorities’ attempts to stop them. It seems that the show has sparked a national debate on what the Modi government is doing to promote Hindutva, and whether or not it should be allowed to continue.
The second episode
The second episode takes up the story of 69 Hindus who were acquitted of charges related to the 2002 Gujarat riots. The riots occurred after the train carrying Hindu pilgrims was set on fire and blamed on Muslims, sparking a spree of retaliatory killings and rapes by Hindu mobs.
Many of those who were acquitted were associated with the rightwing Hindu vigilante groups Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which have close links to Modi’s BJP party. The acquittal was met with cries of “Jai Sri Ram”, a Hindi religious greeting often co-opted and weaponised by Hindu nationalists as a battle cry.
The Indian government has blocked tweets and YouTube videos with links to the documentary, but users have found alternate ways to watch it. The Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, has called the documentary a propaganda piece and said it “seeks to push a particular discredited narrative”.
The two-part documentary revives questions over PM Modi’s leadership during one of India’s most deadly episodes, when he was chief minister in the western state of Gujarat in 2002. More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in what the government called a communal riot.
The BBC cited a British foreign ministry report quoting unnamed sources who said that Modi instructed senior police officers not to intervene in the violence by Hindu nationalist groups, which was intended to “purge Muslim areas.” The documentary also quotes Modi himself rejecting those claims as false.
The BBC was not banned in India, but the government blocked its airing and stopped people from sharing clips on social media. The government used emergency powers under India’s information technology rules, and Twitter and YouTube complied with the directions. The censorship has led to protests by opposition parties and rights activists. The World’s Marco Werman spoke with Rana Ayyub, an expert on the riots and author of the book “Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up.” She has been trying to get a copy of the BBC documentary.
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