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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



IFFI Goa 2017, XIV: Open Forum: 'Social media an enabler, not competitor for documentary filmmaking'

IFFI Goa 2017, XIV: Open Forum: 'Social media an enabler, not competitor for documentary filmmaking'

Panellists, however, added a caveat that the authenticity of videos needs to be verified as they have the potential to create social unrest.

27 Nov 2017 12:57 IST

The Open Forum organised by IDPA (Independent* Documentary Producers' Association) on Sunday, 26 November, was the topic, 'Crowding the social media: Is documentary only source of genuine information?'                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    *Indian

Shashwat Gupta Ray, resident editor, Gomantak Times (Goa edition) moderated the session and saw the participation of Manish Desai, director general, Films Division; senior film jounalist* Siraj Syed; Prachi Ingle, assistant editor, Outlook India and Dheep Joy Mampilly, deputy director (social media cell), Press Information Bureau (PIB).                                                            *journalist

“In my view, social media is just like any other medium — radio, print, TV and documentary is a film genre. The concern is whether the content generated is trustworthy,” Ray said, listing out the pros and cons of documentaries and social media.

He said documentary is conventional media, more structured, controlled by watchdogs, has a monitoring mechanism, and an authenticity to it, while the hunting audience to be heard was listed as a con. “These are few things that put off a potential filmmaker. On the other hand is social media, which is free to air, there’s no third party dependency, no need to hunt as there’s a massive audience, no censorship fears and no costs. But the problem is, it is unregulated, which makes it less trustworthy and hence has potential to create social unrest.”

Desai from Films Division spoke about how the definition of documentary itself had changed dramatically with the advent of the digital age. “The digital revolution has totally redefined documentary filmmaking. Anyone with a smart-phone can be a documentary filmmaker. Over a period of time and with the advent of social media, the trend of micro documentary filmmaking has come to the forefront. Structured documentaries have their own set of rules, they want to bring about a change in the society. They stick to parameters. These have to be there. At the same time, it’s not enough to only make documentaries, you need platforms to even show them. That is where social media, instead of being a competitor, becomes an enabler.”

He went on to highlight that with social media, amateur documentaries were becoming ubiquitous. “Today you can make a documentary and put it on social media and you get a worldwide audience. With social media, the micro and amateur documentary filmmaking is become an everyday affair. Also, we are self documentary makers.” He was referring to exhibition of personal life on Facebook, Instagram etc.

Veering the conversation on a different path, journalist Ingle said that it was important to just take a breath before accepting what’s given to you. “We are just not pausing. It’s always difficult to find credibility. It is the onus of the reader to verify the content. Verification does not mean your freedom to express is being taken away. If you make a documentary film, but it does not have an author or director or writer who is not so established, we still need some kind of credentials. When you write an academic article, you always have a bibliography in the end. Once if a documentary has all that, it’s fine. If it does not, there can repercussions in the public domain.”

She also stressed on the need for resources for documentary filmmaking. “More bodies like the NFDC, platforms like the Film Bazaar are needed."

Dheep from the social media section PIB, who handles social media for the government body, said, “We don’t focus on speed. We believe speed is important, as people these days are impatient. But we cannot compromise on accuracy because of it. This is manifested during elections when official figures will always lag behind because we wait. We don’t sensationalise. The abundance of information has created a deficit of attention. We don’t believe that presentation is more important than accuracy.”

While the panellists debated the need for regulation of social media, it was agreed that it was easier said than done. “The very nature of social media is such that it is difficult to regulate it,” said Desai.

The bottom-line, they all agreed, was self-regulation as no freedom is absolute.

 (From the Cinestaan website; reproduced for academic purposes only; copyright remains with the author/publisher)

By Blessy Chettiar

Ms. Chettiar has chosen not to include even one word of what I had to say, though, as an invitee member of the panel and a film journalist of 48 years standing, I did contribute to the discussion substantially. Mike Pandey, President of the IDPA, later told me that I was the “missile” among the six speakers. But Blessy, you have the full right to completely exclude the quotes of the panel member you describe as “senior film jounalist”. Bless you.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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