While the Pulitzer Prize has never gone to an undercover reporter, the practice of shedding the status of an outsider to live the story is as old as Sir Richard Burton, who wandered Arabia, and Nellie Bly, who feigned insanity to expose brutality at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island in the late 1800s. In documentary filmmaking, immersive storytelling found its most vivid and persuasive form only in the 1960s, with the parallel direct cinema and cinema verité movements, a mode which has since remained a touchstone of the genre. In our current information-saturated environment, immersive storytelling has the ability to cut through spin and noise to reach more complex and deeper truths. While undercover reporting and clandestine infiltration, along with overt forms of immersion and embedding, may trade authority and distance for authenticity, they bring vulnerability as well—in the gathering of the story as well as its telling. Blending into the background can raise a raft of unanticipated ethical and legal issues, in the physical and virtual world. This panel will explore the process by which investigative journalists and documentary filmmakers approach this critical form of immersive storytelling.
Session Category : 2017