Censorship. Distortion. Profit. And a group of people willing to put their jobs on the line to expose the corruption. It reads like the abstract of a corporate-political thriller, but in the context of filmmaker Jean-Philippe Tremblay’s 2012 documentary Shadows of Liberty, it’s more like a present-day red flag.
Shadows of Liberty uncovers the media manipulation of news for profit and how mainstream reporting is filtered through US and global media conglomerates. Notables such as Julian Assange, Danny Glover, Dan Rather and a wide assortment of other journalists, activists and researchers contribute stories of their experiences of and investigations into corporate control of the media.
With terms like “net neutrality” and “mainstream media” commonplace in contemporary vernacular, it is clear that Tremblay has caught on to a relevant and timely topic. “It was important to come up with a new feature documentary film that really exposed what the problems were with the media monopoly,” he said. “How does it detriment our freedoms and democratic society?” His goal for the film was to introduce the issue to more people and incite change. Furthermore, he wanted to give journalists the opportunity to be heard on the subject.
The very nature of his documentary meant that Tremblay faced the challenge of finding sources. While many journalists had stories about media manipulation to share, few of them were willing to share them in front of a camera. “They were scared to lose their jobs, they were scared for their own security, and they were scared for their own families,” Tremblay explained. “When you’re exposed to such stories about corrupt power, your duty and obligation to journalism of integrity says you need to report on them. But there are numerous instances where that power brushes aside not only the reporting but the actual journalist.”
Finding willing contributors wasn’t Tremblay’s only obstacle. Shadows of Liberty was featured at about 30 film festivals in an array of different countries, with one notable exception: the US. “It’s incredible,” Tremblay remarked about its lack of US distribution, “especially when you see in the film that these corporations are all based in the United States.” To combat this lack of coverage, Tremblay and his team have begun a grassroots USA Screening & Action Tour, and thousands of people have turned out to view the screenings. Tremblay hopes his documentary will raise awareness of honest, independent media outlets that don’t manipulate news for the bottom line. “It’s not about feeding profits into corporate pockets,” he said of those groups. “That’s the kind of media we have to invest in.”
Shadows of Liberty will be screened at 7pm on June 5 at the Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center. Admission is $3 and a discussion will follow the film. For more information about the film, its subject and a list of independent media outlets, go to www.shadowsofliberty.org.