This year, Festival Film Dokumenter chooses the theme post-truth as its perspective. Post-truth is an adjective that, according to Oxford Dictionary, refers to a state where objective facts are less influential to public opinion compared to emotion and personal belief. Post-truth correlates strongly to the power regime holding a claim of truth.
The victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 American presidential election was an example to the power of controversial statements and claims based on racial and religious sentiment over public opinion, even when said statements and claims are without substantial proof. In Indonesia, the closest comparison can be seen in the polarization of views during the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election campaigns. News that wasn’t verifiable were spread and accepted as truth. Feelings and religious sentiment were manipulated, leading to the disregard of objective facts.
The phenomenon of post-truth is now closer than ever in our daily life. Social media increases the chances of factually questionable news to be spread wider and wider. The existed algorithm equals to timeline filled with news that are in similar taste with yours, your friends, and your social circle, helped by like and share features, while at the same time excluding news that are not according to your preferences. The use of tagging pushes this uncontrollable speed of news-sharing even further. As a result, the population’s minds are full with information that may or may not be true, deluding them even further from the facts. The chosen version of truth is not only believed, but also polarized views, attitudes, even movements.
If nowadays post-truth is an everyday phenomenon, then what become of the medium of documentary? Isn’t it documentary constructed on a personal belief and a purpose of shaping public opinion? Case in point, documentary film has been long becoming a propaganda tool of certain regimes, though it is not the only tool. On the other hand, documentary film also reveals realities that are considered to be the alternative truth over what are commonly believed. Documentary filmmakers can choose of whom they represent. In its development, documentary film possesses a tendency to encase realities advocating certain groups, from human rights victims, to covered-up histories. The medium of documentary film is, in short, a battlefield, it can be a propaganda tool on one hand, it can be an alternative media on the other hand.
The discussion on the production of documentary film is closely related to the relation of filmmaker to his or her subject/s. There exist a kind of power struggle. Filmmaker has the power in legitimating reality even without the agenda of achieving a preferred truth. In the era of post-truth, we see the significance of documentary film in offering alternatives, tearing down the general views accepted as objective and true according to the power regime, while also remaining aware of its initial potential as said regime propaganda tool. This is why the position of filmmaker is important in documentary film. Where do they stand? Who they want to defend? Who is involved? What agenda is there other than the visible?
Documentary film in post-truth era is a battlefield on truth. Reality represented in documentary film is a truth constructed by its maker. It can be seen clearly in the documentary that records the conversation in Reddit site about the Boston bombing perpetrator in Watching the Detectives, or the belief of the people of Suzu in the coming of UFO in The Village’s Bid for UFO. Technology has an important role in this polarization of truth, as given in Tell the Prime Minister with its youtube footages, or in Netwars with its showcase on the cyber war.
Curated by Sazkia Noor Anggraini, edited by Irfan Rizky Darajat
Translated by Ukky Satya