DOX visited a panel at Sunny Side of the Doc and checked out recent examples of the genre.
Prince Charles may become king of the United Kingdom one day – and should remain politically neutral. For Channel 4’s “Dispatches”, David Henshaw (Hardcash Productions) recently revealed the extent of Charles’ political interference, the silencing of critics, and questionable financial arrangements. The Prince of Wales, of course, was not amused, and launched a 21-page attack on the programme before it was even broadcast. Even after 15 years of making investigative docs, Henshaw admits “it’s still hard to make a living”. He finds them “very difficult to get off the ground, because they’ll cause trouble.” And they’re “incredibly expensive”, in regions beyond EUR 300,000, often due to pricey archives.
“In France we don’t have such freedom to make films about people in power,” says Paul Moreira about “Charles – The Meddling Prince”. Moreira was the creator of the investigative “90 minutes” slot on Canal+ which is now defunct. He explains how it’s in the nature of these programmes that “you can’t pre-write them, you can’t guarantee anything.” When Ric Esther Bienenstock set out to make the highly-acclaimed “Sex Slaves” (CBC, C4, PBS), she told her crew, “I don’t know where we’re going, I don’t know for how long, I don’t know if we’re going to eat.” The aim of “Sex Slaves” was not to tell a victim’s story in retrospect. The filmmaker wanted to find out how trafficking really works: “Why don’t these girls run away? Why aren’t they stopped at the border? Why don’t they go to the police?” While she was following an unfolding story in Ukraine and Turkey, TV channels couldn’t rely on the delivery. “We blew all broadcast dates by a year,” the director admits.