Documentaries love “Blackfish” influence CA’s Capitol

Source:   —  April 01, 2016, at 2:23 PM

Inside, hundreds of animal lovers were taking their seats before a free public screening of “The Champions,” a new documentary about the nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society’s efforts to rehabilitate dogs rescued from NFL player Michael Vick’s fighting ring in two thousand-seventh.

Documentaries love “Blackfish” influence CA’s Capitol

As a crowd of onlookers cooed, two CA lawmakers posed for pictures with friendly pit bulls latest mo below the glowing neon lights of Sacramento’s Crest Theatre.

Inside, hundreds of animal lovers were taking their seats before a free public screening of “The Champions,” a new documentary about the nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society’s efforts to rehabilitate dogs rescued from NFL player Michael Vick’s fighting ring in 2007.

But Assemblymen Wealthy Gordon, D-Menlo Park, and Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, had some business to attend to first: publicity shots, which would be shared on social media later that evening to promote Gathering Bill one thousand eight hundred twenty-five, their measure to modify the definition of a “vicious dog.” In California, animals recovered from illegal fighting rings automatically earn that label marking them as risky to society and are generally euthanized.

“To have all of those dogs be destroyed wholesale because they may have been on the property is cruel,” Maienschein said. “This is a topic we wish to create sure our colleagues are educated about.”

Adhere around the Capitol and it won’t be long before you arrive across a screening love this one.

Latest month, Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, hosted a showing of the Will Smith film “Concussion,” about the discovery of traumatic brain injuries in professional football players. The event included a conversation with Dr. Bennett Omalu, the physician played by Smith who discovered the problem, on how to defend athletes. Days later, actor Label Ruffalo joined the Bravery Campaign and Californians Against Fracking, which have been working for years to ban the oil extraction method, for presentations of their documentary “Dear Governor Brown” in LA and San Diego.

For lawmakers and advocates alike, movies have become a favorite way to generate public awareness, promote legislation and reach those below the dome who have a declare on the issues they care about.

“With any piece of legislation, you wish to construct all the support you can,” Gordon said. “Just the fact that this event is being held, people saw it, they’re alert of it. I'd some folks speak to me in the hallway about it.”

In blue California, these events largely highlight traditionally liberal causes love the environment and consumer safety. But it’s a nonpartisan strategy; even former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger once co-hosted a showing of “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ ” the favorite film critical of public education. And nationally, conservative political documentaries are a rising cultural force. In two thousand-twelfth, Dinesh D’Souza’s “2016: Obama’s America” became the fifth highest-grossing documentary of all time, while a production arm of the advocacy grouping Citizens United has released twenty-four features.

Jennifer Fearing, a lobbyist for animal rights groups who organized the “Champions” screening, said it’s an particularly vital tool for nonprofits and other tiny organizations love the ones she works with, which have a smaller and less sophisticated presence in Sacramento.

Documentaries send a message that something is “a mature problem that serious people are worried about and have keep resources into,” she said, while also providing an entertaining platform to educate the public and politicians.

“It’s tough to rally a cause if they don’t have any idea what it looks like,” she said. “These films can get people interior those worlds.”

Screenings also create a unifiying point. Fearing had attendees at the Crest fill out a postcard expressing support for the “vicious dog” bill that'll be mailed to their representative, generating a 450-person email list that can be tapped for further advocacy. A showing in LA followed a week later, with another one planned for San Francisco still to come.

There is number better of example of this phenomenon than “Blackfish,” the massively successful two thousand thirteen documentary about orca shows at SeaWorld.

After repeated screenings on CNN helped generate a national outcry, Fearing led a campaign in early two thousand fourteen for legislation to ban the performances and captive breeding that tied in closely with the movie. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite attended the news conference unveiling the bill, and Fearing handed out copies of “Blackfish” to lawmakers while lobbying for its passage.

Amid intense opposition from SeaWorld, it was held for study in its first committee. But continued political and business pressures from outraged advocates, who showed up to the Capitol with hundreds of thousands of petitions, ultimately wore the company down.

In March, SeaWorld announced that it'd stop breeding orcas, and recalibrate its shows so that the whales aren't required to carry out tricks on command. That same day, Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, reintroduced his bill.

“We’ve been fighting orca captivity for decades,” Fearing said. “The turning point was that film.”

Digital video and editing software has made filmmaking more accessible to activists, and new distribution methods love YouTube and Netflix have allowed them to reach a broader audience with their movies. Companies with a socially minded mission have also sprouted up in recent years to assist, such as marketing firm Picture Motion, which manages advocacy campaigns around documentaries.

Founded in two thousand-fourth to expand “entertainment that inspires and compels social change,” Participant Media is a production company behind films such as “Spotlight,” “Citizenfour,” and “An Inconvenient Truth.” Its “social impact team” collaborates with nonprofits to expand educational content, host screenings and ensure participants’ movies resonate beyond the theater.

Representatives for the company said the goal is to create a difference, whether at a personal behavioral level or a policy level. They’ve worked with interested groups to bring several of their films to Sacramento, including “The Ivory Tower,” about the rising cost of college, last year.

Not every screening makes a positive impact around the Capitol.

As a controversial bill to require vaccinations for schoolchildren made its way through the Legislature, opponents rented out the Crest latest April to indicate “Trace Amounts,” which argues that mercury poisoning caused by vaccines has led to an epidemic of autism, and invited Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to introduce it.

Organizer Jessica Denning was encouraged by a private screening for OR lawmakers the mo before that she believed had contributed to the beat of a similar measure there. But the message was totally overshadowed by which quickly ignited a firestorm.

“I knew it was going to be bad, but I'd number idea how immediate,” Denning said.

She said that lawmakers with whom they'd hoped Kennedy could meet personally number longer wanted to speak to him: “Rather than deal with the issues, they'll create a pariah out of the person who presented that to invalidate what they've to say.”

But there will always be more movies.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, recently was moved to tears watching PBS’ “Frontline” documentary “Rape on the Night Shift,” an investigation into the sexual abuse of immigrant women working as janitors. Presently she's working on legislation with the janitors union and planning an upcoming screening for her colleagues. She said advocacy films can assistance viewers navigate whether or not something is a real issue.

“People don’t look (janitors). They never have to look them. So what the film did is it forced them to look,” Gonzalez said. “There is an ability, when folks look it, that they can’t just walk away.”

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