Joshua Oppenheimer (Documentarian, "The Act of Killing") and Allison Bechdel (Cartoonist, known for the 'Bechdel Test' for storytellers) ask existential questions about media - and doubt their role model status.
In one of the panels I visited in the crowded convention center – entitled “Storytelling Superheroes“, the name “Oppenheimer” flashed up on stage. If you ever want to see a deeply traumatizing and tragically beautiful film about genocide, Joshua Oppenheimer is who you should study. Joshua made the groundbreaking 2012 documentary “The Act of Killing” and screened the companion piece “The Look of Silence” at South by Southwest in 2015 – in his hometown of Austin, Texas.
Does a fictional work  contain two (named) women, who  are talking to each other, about  anything else but men.
After discovering the test and measuring it against my own films – failing miserably by the way- it shook my up in my storytelling approach, and I try to tell as many other filmmakers about it as possible. I can’t go on making films that are adolescent at best in their self-reflection. I had great intellectual admiration for Bechdel to popularize this test through her comic, and suddenly I got to meet her, unexpectedly, at SXSW2015.
Moderating the panel was Maria Hinojosa, who leads the documentary series “America by the Numbers”, a statistics-oriented PBS show about US-American challenges around ethnicity.
Explorer VS. Storyteller
Oppenheimer feels that even during the editorial process, the first two thirds of editing are all about exploration and discovery – finding the “golden nuggets” is more important than to craft a cohesive idea of what you’re looking for in the footage. Essentially, staying completely open-minded to what this film could be until a few months away from picture lock. Only THEN is it appropriate to become the active storyteller that shaves off pieces and funnels the story and characters in a designed fashion. It’s the last third of editorial where you can translate your insight into story.
The Camera as a Weapon of Truth
Oppenheimer explained at the SXSW panel, and I am paraphrasing:
I use the camera as bait to make things visible that were not; I create situations and confrontation that didn’t exist before.
Conflict of Journalistic and Artistic Truth
This is an essential dilemma with filmmakers as well as politicians – which kind of truth should you project out into the world, and how can you hold yourself accountable?
In television for example, the product is not the show, as we might think. It is you, the audience member, that then can be sold for cash to adverisers.
For us artists, there is an importance of doing nothing, of creating spaces and times of silence – in order to find inspiration.