November 03, 2009

“Sanctuary mixes genres, but not message”

Date published: 11/03/2009
Publication: Troy Record

By Bob Goepfert

This Is What Democracy Looks Like dvd coverThe Sanctuary for Independent Media has a curious name that makes the organization sound a bit spiritual and at the same time a bit rebellious.

That is appropriate as the not-for-profit is located in an old church at 3361 Sixth Ave. in Troy.

Too, the films, performances in the field of music and dance, poetry readings and exhibits of visual artists presented at the Sanctuary are usually outside the mainstream and tend to have political points of view.

The Sanctuary defines itself as “a telecommunication production facility dedicated to community media arts.” To support this aspect of its mission, they offers facilities and classes that help people understand the techniques of cutting edge media technology.

If you really want to know what the Sanctuary for Independent Media is about — stop by on Saturday between 2 and 11 p.m. During the afternoon there is an Indymedia Film Festival titled “Where Do We Go From Here?” and at 9 p.m. there will be a performance by Persian singer Haale. Between the films and the music there will be a pot luck dinner starting about 6 p.m.

The 2 p.m. film is “This Is What Democracy Looks Like.” It is a documentary about what has been referred to as The Battle of Seattle. It covers the huge 1999 protest that tried to stop the WTO meetings held in the city. Indeed, this day-long event is timed to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the protest.

If you are not familiar with the details of the Seattle protest, Piece says you are not alone. Besides running the Sanctuary, he teaches an ethics course in the Engineering Department of RPI and says that whenever he raises the topic of the Battle of Seattle in class, few of his students are aware of the event and hardly any grasp the scope of the protest. “Many refuse to accept it ever happened,” he says.

“The fact that over 50,000 people took to the street for days to protest this event went virtually unnoticed by traditional media outlets. Many people who were there insist the mainstream media reporting was distorted,” he says.

He explains that at the time there was already a number of “active grassroots journalists” and many of them covered the protest which resulted in over 300 hours of video footage of the event. That video is the source of material for “This Is What Democracy Looks Like.” The film is narrated by Susan Sarandon and is scored by Rage Against the Machine.

Pierce says that just as important as the event and the documentation of the protest is the unity it brought to grassroots journalists. “For a long time people realized commercial media could not be objective when reporting about topics that were about the people who owned the media outlet. Can you imagine an in-depth negative story on G.E.’s interests running on a television station owned by G.E.? Of course not.”

Pierce believes the coverage of the Battle of Seattle dramatized the flaws in the commercial world of media and jump-started what Pierce refers to as “a media movement away from news as a commodity to news as a cultural format.”

He says, almost wryly, “I prefer to get reports from people who say I was there and this is what I saw and experienced.

Certainly there is a bias in the reporting, but the concept of objectivity is a myth anyway. Uncensored points of view are extremely valuable.”

Also on the film festival’s schedule is a documentary on the life of Bradley Roland Will, an anarchist, filmmaker and journalist with Indymedia in New York City, who in 2006 was shot and killed in Mexico during a teachers strike.

Other organizations similar in scope to Sanctuary for Independent Media will attend the celebration on Saturday and will show some of the work produced by their organizations.

There will be a general meeting on Sunday at which the organizations will net work, share ideas and discuss the future of independent media. It gives credence to the film festival’s theme — “Where Do We Go From Here?”

“Where Do We Go From Here?” at Sanctuary for Independent Media. Film festival 2 -6 p.m, tickets $10. Haale at 9 p.m. tickets $10. For information call 272-2390.

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