Friday, June 23, 2017

Streaming debut: Brian Knappenberger's doc, NOBODY SPEAK: Trials of the Free Press

Brian Knappenberger is the guy who gave us one of 2014's best documentaries, The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. He's back again this year with an equally important and worthwhile doc, NOBODY SPEAK: Trials of the Free Press, which is a warning about how and why one of the (always problematic) pillars of our (less and less) free society continues to crumble beneath us.

The approach of Mr. Knappenberger (shown below) is three-pronged: He shows us

the trial involving Hulk Hogan's sex tape and the news/scandal site, Gawker (and what lay beneath it), the sudden take-over the Nevada's foremost newspaper by billionaire Sheldon Adelson; and finally Donald Trump's ongoing war against the press, truth and facts.

The result of this trio of events points clearly to the increase in danger to a free press in this country, with the filmmaker marshaling his evidence well and presenting it in a focused, meaningful fashion. The result should leave you further aware and frightened.

How you may feel about the late Gawker, its owner Nick Denton (shown below) or Hulk Hogan (shown further below) does not matter here (I was a fan of neither), but the threat to a free society by a billionaire bankrolling a lawsuit he had absolutely nothing to do with (as we learn most definitely happened here) in order to put a news source out of business does indeed matter -- and in fact sets a bad precedent.

Knappenberger lets us meet a number of the fine journalists, as well as the editor, who worked for that Las Vegas newspaper and have now had to depart, due to its utterly compromised position in terms of journalism, and the filmmaker's round-up of Trump's various lies involving the press all add up to a depressing view of these current times and the disappearance of former standards. What's to be done? As we continue to see, in both narrative films and documentaries, no easy answers -- hell, any answers, save the violent overthrow of government, since honest elections are now a thing of the past thanks to gerrymandering, voter restriction, and probable vote tampering -- are forthcoming. Good luck to us all.

Distributed via Netflix and now streaming on that site, as well as opening today in theatrically in New York City (at the IFC Center) and the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Monica Film Center, the documentary is worth your time, energy and discussion. 

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