Thursday, January 12, 2012

Last Night's Paley Center Screening: Kevin Breslin's While We Watch

Last night The Corsair went to see a screening of Kevin Breslin -- son of the legendary Jimmy -- and his new documentary on the Occupy Wall Street movement While We Watch. The documentary was absolutely fascinating, the first of its kind, going behind the scenes, into the tents, chronicling what it was like to be a part of that first wave of occupying protesters. The NYPD come off terribly -- not all, but most -- thuggish and authoritarian.
By contrast the protesters themselves -- some of whom are already media players -- are earnest, naive, profoundly stubborn but generally of pure heart and admirable drive. It was a gritty, intense and emotional experience, one gleans from the film. And the cops, at any moment, wrought what can only be possibly perceived as violence on the mostly peaceful protesters.

After the screening there was a panel discussion with the filmmaker, Breslin, and some of the nmore prominent protesters in the film with WFMU New York DJ and Author Pete Fornatale serving as moderator. While Fornutale kept things moving along -- as a moderator ought to do -- he labored the "FM radio to social media and Livestream" to an absurd extreme. And while, clearly, Fornutale, a voice of independent radio, was sympathetic to the demonstrators, nothing expressed the generational gap between the social media savvy protesters onstage and the moderator trying to compare their methods to the now wholly irrelevant terrestrial Radio.

Among the panelists were Alan Capper, President, The Foreign Press Association.  Jesse LaGreca, Writer, The Daily Kos, Journalist. Priscilla Grim, Occupy Wall St Journal, Journalist -- who actually invented a "newspaper"/PR sheet while in the tents. Tim Pool,, Livestream Journalist. And Justin Wedes, Occupy Wall Street Social Media Team. The talk was interesting in that during the time it took to make the film it is obvious that all the players involved -- who now appear on shows like Olbermann and Fox News -- have become extraordinarily media savvy. They sparred with an audience of experienced media types in the Q & A in a manner not short of remarkable. The long nights in the tents have forged a new generation of progressive journalist, it would seem. I spoke afterwards at length with Jesse LaGreca, who seems extremely knowledgeable about the current political scene: the GOP race, the legislative agenda upon Congress' return. And he thinks strategically. The progressive movement is lucky to have him as a new player.

Foreign press Association president Alan Capper tried his best to make the point that without a list of say 5 clear positions -- Bill Clinton's idea as well -- as highlighting their grievances, they will not be taken seriously by mainstream media. The protesters made their point (with an almost withering contempt) that they did not need the mainstream media. They are making their own and using social media that is still in many ways outside of the reach of the MSM. I understood what they meant but it came off as condescending and a bit rude to say that to the President of the Foreign press Association, a man who is so completely sympathetic to the demands of the OWS movement. It highlighted more than anything this evening the generational divide.

In closing, at the reception following the film, Jimmy Breslin -- one of my journalism idols -- silently walked by me and a friend, placed his hand on my belly, and kept walking. Perhaps it is time to hit the gym ...

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