Anything to Get the Story

Doc-maker Barbara Kopple goes to war for 'Bearing Witness'

 

CP: Did you get the sense that these five reporters cover their stories differently for being women?

 

Why she fights: Janine DiGiovanni at work in 'Bearing Witness'
A&E/Cabin Creek Films
Why she fights: Janine DiGiovanni at work in 'Bearing Witness'

Kopple: I think each one of us--male or female--has an individual approach to telling a story. The film is more about how each of [the women] is different from one another than it is about how they're all different from men. Ultimately, it's about people who take their work extremely seriously while trying to keep the rest of their lives in balance. It's all the things we think about and fantasize about in terms of what it must be like for a woman journalist who wants to have it all.

 

CP: Having it all means having freedom, which for a journalist would mean not being embedded. But that, in turn, means you have less in some ways--less protection, certainly.

 

Kopple: It's funny, though, because embedded journalists pay a price, too. They're in a place where they almost feel they owe something to the [soldiers] they're with, because they've gotten to know them personally. Of course they say they don't let [those relationships] influence them, but...

 

CP: What do you think we as consumers of news in the U.S. can do to help get the truth about the war out to a larger audience? What are we up against?

 

Kopple: Most people in this country have never experienced war firsthand. And the mainstream media rarely if ever attempts to show them what it might be like. So sometimes it's up to documentary filmmakers to try to answer or at least expose the important questions--because we have a lot more freedom. The trade-off is that it's harder to get the work seen: You have to find someone to distribute it, you have to do grassroots organizing to get the word out. It's never easy. But if you have a film that really says something, you figure out other strategies. Look at Outfoxed, for example: That film sold something like 100,000 copies on DVD with the help of moveon.org. You just have to make the film and then get it out any way you can.

 

CP: You've made documentaries in so many different ways--independently, for networks, for production companies and studios. Do you approach the research and shooting of a film differently based on your expectation of how you're going to have to sell it?

 

Kopple: I'm not that calculating [laughs]. I just try to tell the best story I can. I make each film as if it could be my last--so I'd better do it well.

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