Digital Documentary and Undocumented Workers

Tasha Oren’s In Media Res post, “After Macaca: Virginia’s Next YouTube Moment,” alerted me to the fascinating documentary project, 9500 Liberty, which bills itself as an “interactive documentary” focusing on the politics of immigration, especially as these debates play out in Prince William County in northern Virginia, where the county’s Board of Supervisors passed some of the harshest measures against undocumented workers in the country (and where those officials are now running for re-election). As we’ve seen in the exchange at the recent Democratic debate over Elliot Spitzer’s plan to provide undocumented workers with drivers’ licenses, this issue isn’t going away any time soon and the discussion is likely to be fueled by fear and misinformation.

The documentary’s YouTube channel offers what they describe as a “real-time, interactive documentary page,” where the filmmakers can quickly post videos and make them available for public comment and debate. While the filmmakers making the documentary have their eyes on eventually creating a feature-length documentary, this project looks like a welcome and timely intervention into this heated political issue, a very effective use of the features available on YouTube. The videos themselves often serve to challenge the fear and hostility that have come to characterize the debate around this issue. In addition to the video cited by Tasha, I found this video, “Fighting Illegals and the Gospel,” to be especially powerful in critiquing the ways in which scripture has been used to justify some of the harsh treatment of undocumented workers.

There’s also a 9500 Liberty blog where you can find more information about this project.

Update (12/11/07): I just noticed that someone living here in Fayetteville, presumably one of my students who has a final exam tomorrow found this page in a search for the term “interactive documentary.”  I should clarify that I am not using the term here in the way that Bill Nichols explains it in Introduction to Documentary (or in the way that I have discussed it in class).  I’ve changed the title of the entry to avoid future confusion.

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