9500 Liberty: an issue doc, and also a new model in film distribution

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There are lots of reasons to catch 9500 Liberty this weekend (it plays Fri-Sun at 7 and 9pm). It tackles the timely issues surrounding immigration, it educates you about the debate swirling in Virginia (which strongly foreshadowed Arizona’s recent legislation), and it’s a great movie (The Stranger calls it “Excellent…If a viewer is unaware of the year the documentary was shot, 2007 (near the twilight of Bush’s presidency), he/she will easily think it was made mere minutes ago”).

But the movie is also about the process of documentary-making in today’s fast paced media environment. As the filmmakers discuss in what quickly becomes a meta-documentary, they decided the issue was too important and their footage too contentious to save for a theatrical release, often months (if not years) after the completion of a movie. So they started to release their footage on YouTube, with some clips going viral and getting over 40,000 views in a matter of days.

The editing process became almost open-source, and their YouTube channel became a place for people to comment and watch interview footage in a “safer” environment, rather than the charged atmosphere of public hearings. They then integrated that reaction in their final cut.

It’s an interesting approach, and perhaps one we’ll see more and more often, especially with these tightly issue-focus documentaries. Come check it out, see what you think, and perhaps join the conversation on their YouTube channel afterwards.

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