Toward a political economy of activist documentary
Selheim, Megan Elizabeth.
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Documentary film has long been a tool used by progressive political and social movements to raise awareness of an issue or advocate for action to create change. Unfortunately, these films and filmmakers often miss the mark, compromising or oversimplifying their message. I argue that these missteps are due to the fact that these films are reliant on the dominant culture for funding and distribution, and that culture will neither fund nor distribute any product that challenges its ideology too much. The discipline of political economy looks at how power structures determined and maintained by capitalism direct how media contacts the public. I analyze three environmental documentaries using the basic theories of political economy, and investigate how economics has affected the political goals of activist documentary. I argue that the internet offers both an opportunity to engage with the complexity of an issue through interactive design, as well as a way to potentially circumvent the more restrictive hurdles of a capitalist society.