The Camera Doesn't Lie: Social Change via Documentary Filmmaking

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Rory Kennedy

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy will deliver the final lecture in the fall 2007 series Bearing Witness.  Kennedy’s passions for social activism and human rights inform her professional ventures and filmmaking.  She will focus in her lecture on the power of documentary work and the ways in which documentary filmmaking spurs on social change. 

Kennedy’s most recent documentary, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, was the first film to focus on the controversial Iraqi prison located some twenty miles west of Baghdad that has been linked to prisoner torture and military controversy during the ongoing war in Iraq.  During the political reign of Saddam Hussein, the prison was known to many in Iraq because of its awful conditions, tremendous overcrowding, and ongoing executions.  Abu Ghraib became a United States military prison shortly after the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.  General Janis Karpinski, an Army reserve brigadier general who was the only female commander based in Iraq, was given oversight of this prison and of all military prisons in Iraq.  Abu Ghraib, one of the many Iraqi government sites pillaged following the American invasion, was soon inhabited again.  American military police were stationed there and the inmates who soon numbered in the several thousands included Iraqi teenagers, women, and men.  The jarring images of scenes featuring Iraqi prisoners and American military personnel that emerged from Abu Ghraib in the fall of 2003 prompted a flurry of congressional inquiries and military investigations, and shocked many in and beyond America.

In her documentary films,  Kennedy uses the camera to bear witness to current dilemmas and to the past that shapes our present day.  Her works include the Emmy and Independent Spirit Award-nominated American Hollow (1999), Epidemic Africa (1999), America Undercover: A Boy’s Life (1999), The Changing Face of Beauty (2000), the Emmy-Award nominated five-part series Pandemic: Facing AIDS (2003), Indian Point: Imagining the Unimaginable (2004) and Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (2007).   She also produced The Execution of Wanda Jean (2002) and in 2006, Street Fight, a film for which she was executive producer, was nominated for an Academy Award for documentary feature. In this Bearing Witness lecture, Kennedy will consider with us the routes to truth and the ways in which the tools of documentation—especially the camera—are powerful for what they can confirm and reveal.

Event Details

Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Time: 7:30 pm, Book/DVD signing to follow
Speaker: Rory Kennedy
Place: Gamble Auditorium, Art Building, Mount Holyoke College
Admission: Free and open to the public