Mar 11, 2012

Is "KONY 2012" a documentary?

P.O.V.'s blog has an interesting analysis of the viral phenomenon of KONY 2012, the 30-minute film on Ugandan guerrilla group leader Joseph Kony that's been viewed more than 80 million times since it was posted on YouTube and Vimeo on March 5, written by guest blogger Heather McIntosh of Documentary Site.

Invisible Children, the advocacy organization that produced the film, "labels KONY 2012 a documentary, and it is one that falls squarely into the propaganda/persuasion traditions developed in the work of Frank Capra, Leni Riefenstahl, and Pare Lorentz," McIntosh writes. "But KONY 2012 pushes the boundaries of these traditions. It attempts to go for the heart strings and not just tickle them but instead rip them out and stomp on them. The emotional appeals throughout this piece often overwhelm, and they run the risk of alienating a more questioning audience."

One commenter identified as "Dr. Doc" pointed out: "As a documentary filmmaker, I am disappointed to see the KONY 2012 video included in my genre, especially on this site. It is many things: an advocacy piece, a motivational speech, a stemwinder, and an emotionally-charged, very personal fundraising trailer. However, it falls far short of certain journalistic standards to which documentary filmmakers must adhere, even with our comparatively greater degree of freedom to adopt a particular perspective than traditional news reporting."

UPDATE: More on KONY 2012 from The Takeaway on Public Radio International.

NBC didn't think "Downton" would be a hit

NBC turned down Downton Abbey, which is produced by NBCUniversal's Carnival Films in London, "believing that American audiences wouldn't have the appetite for a very British historical drama set in a country manor in Edwardian England," reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

An NBC official told the paper that the decision was made under previous NBC leadership, and it's pleased that sister company NBCUniversal found success with the show, which was picked up by Masterpiece on PBS. But that exec acknowledged that even the current NBC brass could have overlooked Downton's potential. "The official said it was hard to imagine any network — including PBS — thinking Downton would become a hit," the paper said.

Gareth Neame, Downton executive producer, told the paper although the series is a historical drama, it's told in a modern style. In fact, one model for the program was The West Wing, he said.

As for PBS, Neame added, "they have always been there for British producers. They don't have the biggest checkbook, but they are consistent."