The PBS Ombudsman Responds & The Nature Of Filmmaking

I’ve been doing some work on debunking the well-produced yet fundamentally dishonest film Better This World and a few posts back, I published the letter that I sent to PBS’s Ombudsman. He did some research, contacted the filmmakers Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega and now has published a lengthy and detailed response.

The Ombudsman calls the film ‘flawed’ but doesn’t find the flaw I point out to be fatal. I actually agree with that; my criticisms are not based just on that one problem. I only sent him one criticism and not even the most substantive but we’ve gotten the ball rolling. Galloway and Duane de la Vega even tell the Ombudsman that they are open to discussion, which is awesome to know since they have been ducking me.

But a quick note about the nature of filmmaking, particularly documentaries.

Because I’ve been working on my Pigford documentary for the better part of a year, I give the ethics of filmmaking a lot of thought. I’m intimately involved in every aspect of that film; I conducted the interviews myself, shot them myself, and I’m the one doing all of the editing. This is fairly unique. I’m not saying it’s better but it’s the way I’ve worked so far.

So when I look at Better This World, I look at it as a filmmaker who is versed in every way you can bias a move. Despite all the awards it’s won and the praise heaped on it for the supposedly great journalism that Galloway and de le Vega did, after watching the film several times and doing my own research to verify facts my verdict is that Better This World is as journalistic as a bad American reality TV show.

In fact, the more I look at it the more I think it owes as much to The Jersey Shore as The Thin Blue Line, This may actually be part of the film’s appeal to audiences. It lays out the story it wants to lay out pretty clearly and in a hip, grungy verite style. It’s truthy.
The problem that I have with the film isn’t that they have an opinion – and they clearly do. It’s a film for liberals, no doubt about it. The opening shots of the film show scenes from the Republican National Convention and the filmmakers start immediately by signaling their intent. They show a convention antennae with a Fox News sticker on their hat. They end the film with Brandon Darby on the Gordon Liddy show. These are liberal dog whistles — Things We Are Supposed To Hiss At. The filmmakers don’t need to cue the hiss sign. They know their audience and pander to it.

And I’m okay with that, too.

A conservative filmmaker could do the same simple framing trick — show the Democratic convention and someone with an MSNBC sticker. End with the film’s antagonist on the air with Al Franken, It’s called pandering and it’s super simple to do . It’s the equivalent artistically of the lead singer for a band saying “Someone told me that Springfield is ready to ROCK!!!” Crowd cheers. Easy. nothing wrong with it especially, but let’s call it what it is.

But Better This World deals with a criminal case and as I’ll be outlining in the coming weeks, it gets the facts of the case wrong. On purpose. And there’s a purpose to that purpose — to destroy Brandon Darby

Why? Brandon committed the inexcusable sin. No, not that he was an informant for the FBI. If Crowder and McKay were right wing radicals who planned to throw molotov cocktails at abortion clinics and Darby broke ranks with the right to inform on them, the same crowd that hates him now would throw a parade for him

No, Brandon’s sin is that he crossed the left. That’s it. And because that’s what he did, it’s okay to take him down by any means necessary. And so they did.

Because brandon was on the left, though, I think a lot of conservatives are loathe to defend him, He’s suspect and so he’s been largely left hanging n the breeze. I think that sucks, too.

The more I look into this story, though, the more clear it is just how Brandon has been wronged. Stay tuned and see if I don’t convince you, too.


  1. I really don’t trust any media anymore, TV, film, whatever…

    You always have the BIAS of the person or group behind the lens and microphone. People will still make up their own mind hopefully, but, with the sheepish nature of most of the crowd these days, it is becoming far less common.

  2. Well, luckily we live in an age where we have the means to actually respond…


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