This year has been — and continues to be — a monumental moment of dissent and revolt, and we've watched with a mixture of excitement and hope as we see documentaries based on current events surface and thrive on our site. Mirroring daily headlines, these film projects provide a place for interested communities to connect, support, exchange, and grow as historic social and political events unfold in real time across the globe — and they're uniquely positioned to inspire activism not only as finished creative products, but throughout the course of their production.
These documentaries have been a refreshing alternative to the 24-hour cable news cycle. They're still reporting to you 24/7, but they also offer the opportunity to actively participate, not just tune in, drop out, and await your Google alert. Creators are sharing their experiences as events unfold, bringing a new level of urgency and engagement to their audiences as history is made worldwide. Creative acts are in themselves a critical form of dissent, and we're thrilled at how Kickstarter has been able to play a small part in some incredible, still unfolding events.
Here are just a few of the feature documentaries on this year's front lines.
What began as a biographical documentary turned into present-tense thriller, as director Alison Klayman found her subject suddenly detained by Chinese authorities. Internationally-acclaimed artist and political activist Ai Weiwei is perhaps best known for designing the Bird's Nest stadium of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. As Klayman originally described him, Ai Weiwei was "the fieriest and loudest internal critic of China, yet somehow he is not in jail." However, by April 3rd, 2011 Klayman's project description was no longer accurate, and the ensuing 80 days of Weiwei's detention publicly and dramatically altered the course of her project. Klayman appeared on the Colbert Report to talk about Weiwei and her film, and she continues to post updates on Weiwei's status. Weiwei was released on bail on June 22nd for an alleged confession and promise to pay all former fines and back-taxes.
Monumental LGBT rights have certainly been making headlines most recently here in New York, but we are undoubtedly in a new revolutionary era for Queer acceptance all over the world. In Call me Kuchu, filmmaker Katherine Fairfax Wright and journalist Malika Zouhali-Worrall document the lives of LGBT activists in Uganda — a country where homosexuality is against the law and ruling party members have proposed death by hanging for HIV-positive gay men. Called “kuchus” by locals, the queer community in Kampala is battling a highly oppressive, aggressive, and pervasive homophobia. Covering the rise of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the landmark lawsuit surrounding a tabloid outing homosexuals, and the 2011 murder of activist David Kato — one of the country’s first publicly gay men — Call Me Kuchu portrays the empowerment and persecution that continue to persist side by side in 2011 Uganda.
The Arab Spring is undoubtedly one of the most heavily reported stories of the year, and through a variety of journalism, photography, and film projects, Kickstarter saw an abundance of courageous and inspiring coverage. Project creators traveled to Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and back to share urgent personal and political narratives of history in the making. Ruaridh Arrow's How To Start a Revolution explores the life and work of Gene Sharp, whose From Dictatorship to Democracy: a Conceptual Framework for Liberation and 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action are credited as inspiring the non-violent overthrowing of dictators across Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Spending this past February sleeping in Tahrir Square, Arrow's film explores how Sharp's theory was put into practice, capturing the incredible journeys of tryanny-fighters who rose up against oppression.