This also starts with education, and documentary films have a crucial role to play in that as well. Not only because they have so much to teach us about the world around us, but more importantly because documentary films need to be fearless by confronting our world and challenging us to look deeper. They teach us that stories are not things to be spoon-fed and treated at face value. Instead, they represent a search for truth and a collaborative effort that requires mutual respect and openness. These values are crucial to a healthy democracy and an even healthier cinema.
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Finally, Canadians need to fight for better support for public broadcasting. It is public broadcasting that defines our media landscapes and shows us how to transcend the shallowness of corporate media. Poor funding leads to a timid public broadcasting culture that does not respect the true purpose of an independent body reflecting the stories of a diverse nation. Instead, poor funding leads to a meek propaganda tool for a shallow consumerist culture. We can and should do better.
Ultimately, a healthy documentary culture is a reflection of a healthy democracy. When independent and diverse voices are respected, then both institutions will flourish. However, when one is weakened in the name of austerity, the other begins to wither as well. We can't have a healthy Canadian cinema if we don't have a healthy public broadcasting system. Likewise, we can't have a healthy democracy without a media landscape that emphasizes a diversity of voices and perspectives. The two are one and the same.
I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the recent passing of director John Kastner, a four-time Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker and an important voice in Canada's documentary community. His films include Four Women (1978), Fighting Back (1980), The Lifer and the Lady (1984) and Life With Murder (2010).