We can theorize all we want about why North Korea represses its people. We can debate whether someone should be allowed to sell a piece of their body to a stranger. We can ponder how climate change is going to transform our world in the next century. But we inevitably struggle to grasp the gritty reality of the problems as we consider them from the comfort of our homes, offices, and classrooms. This sense of remove makes it harder to produce analysis that is useful in practice, not just in theory.
Documentary films bring us closer to the issues because they force us to think about the people who are actually getting caught up in the “balance of power dynamics" or the ones driving the “emerging norms” and “global trends” to which we devote so much attention. This enriches our analysis – most IR students will tell you that watching Thirteen Days made the Cuban Missile Crisis real in a way that reading Graham Allison could not.
Today the development of new media platforms is allowing documentaries, and the messages they seek to convey, to be distributed more widely than ever before, and to to offer more interactive and immersive experiences.
This affects their ability to influence the social activism campaigns they document, as well as their capacity to engage an ever-growing audience with issues as diverse as the reintegration of child soldiers, Internet privacy, and sustainable development.
For twenty years, the Canadian international film festival Hot Docs has been bringing world-class documentaries to Toronto. This OpenCanada In Depth highlights six of this year’s films. We interviewed directors who explored themes related to human security, the environment, and the global economy, and whose work captures the power of film to challenge our beliefs and deepen our understanding of international relations.
The Anatomy of the Organ Trade
Ric Esther Bienstock, director of Tales from the Organ Trade, on what it was like to enter the morally ambiguous world of organ trafficking.
Dan Krauss, director of The Kill Team, on the stark choices that confront soldiers in war.
A Survival Guide for the Global Crisis
Matt Anderson, director of Fall and Winter, on his exploration of the origins of the coming global catastrophe and the attitude changes that could avert it.
From Fear to Freedom
Ann Shin, director of the The Defector, on the risk and hardship that must be endured in order to escape North Korea.
Breaking the Banks
Corey Ogilvie, director of Occupy, on the social movement that may define our generation.
Khoa Lê, director of Ba Noi, on immigrating to Canada and the connections to the family left behind.
Patrick Reed, director of Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children, on his new film with Romeo Dallaire.