The Watchdog Film FestivalAll about celebrating quality film-making on topics of social and societal importance.


Investigative journalism is dyingFilmmakers can help society!


FILM IS POWERFUL!

The notion behind Watchdog Film Festival is genuine. Quality investigative journalism is dying and our societies, communities, and humanity is suffering as a result. This downfall started with massive redundancies of journalists and photographers followed by the synchronization of media in all forms. We are hearing the same stories on prime time TV news, newspapers, online, and radio with many of the stories originating with a concerned citizen filming with their mobile phone. Henceforth, journalism is no longer fulfilling it’s duty as a watchdog over society.

In some cases, citizens are filling some of that void by doing their own investigations into wrongdoings in society (i.e., see Dark Justice on YouTube for an example). However, in many cases, citizens are filming basic first-hand events and sharing these videos on social media without giving a wider context of the issue at hand or using expert techniques. Media pick up on many of these eye-witness films and report these as news. Most media outlets are regurgitating content which further erodes the journalists’ role as an investigator, analyst, and reporter hence society being less interested in traditional media than in former years.

While it is not a replacement for journalism, we have skilled filmmakers in the community who have the capability of covertly reaching politically and socially disengaged audiences who value entertainment over civic engagement. Some of these filmmakers create films that cover social issues but mainstream TV channels rarely broadcast these films and distributors seldom see the opportunity to make profit. These gatekeepers are preventing Watchdog-style films from becoming credible change-makers thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophecy (where films are not given airtime because they are not deemed of interest to the public) and stifling the growth of this type of film in the industry. 

We all know film is a powerful mass communication medium capable of exposing matters of public significance and stimulating change within ourselves, our societies, and our communities and want to provide a platform for filmmakers who care about social justice and social change.

However, the outlook for film is also not bright for those who value film as a medium of social change. We see many mindless films being pumped into the box office made by the same few directors (usually white males), using the same handful of actors (also usually white and mostly male leads), telling a similar story line about some fictions superhero/superhuman. This form of film caters to those who want to escape for a few hours and numb the reality of their world. As film-makers we can ignore the issues in society or tell those issues in a way that stimulates engagement from the wider society and stimulates change. That is why Watchdog Film Festival was started – to showcase film and filmmakers who make fictional, true story, and documentary films that contextualize issues within society and stimulate discussion for social change.

Some of these types of films have made money and stimulated change in society but more needs to be done especially by up-and-coming filmmakers who are still in touch with the general populous.

Also, Watchdog Film Festival encourages citizens, filmmakers, and journalists to take the next step beyond filming the witnessed event on their mobile phone and turn it into a documentary or film that provides greater context of the issues that we face in our society. This can be done via documentary or fiction film as there are many ways to address the same issues.

Once individuals start conceptualising societal issues through the lens or pen they become watchdogs over society, a very important role in a world where “alternative facts” (i.e., lies) are spread as news. We aim to celebrate excellence in watchdog-style films in the hope that citizen filmmakers and journalists aspire to improve their work and society.

While there will be many award categories at this festival that celebrate quality investigative exposés, documentary, corporate and social responsibility, local talent, students and so on, we also aim to highlight the importance of witness and citizen filmmaking. We often see short clips on social media that people have filmed using their mobile phones. They have an eye-witness account of events and provide a first-person-view (FPV). Most of these videos go online without context and nothing usually eventuates aside from online discussions.

With a little tweaking, interviews, fact checking, and narration, some of these clips can be transformed into powerful documentaries. Think films of racist tirades on a train transformed into a short documentary on racism versus inclusivity (eg., https://youtu.be/ZBdYvN49eRU?t=122) (https://youtu.be/Dkm9CWiphWU?t=129) and moving into inclusive multiculturalism.

These smartphone films should have an important message or investigative framework but most don’t. We invite the average citizen to transform their smartphone clip into a short film and submit it to the Watchdog Film Festival.

Can’t make it? Donate!

All donations go towards funding all operations costs for the Festival.