Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2011 MFF Film #8 - Page One: Inside the New York Times

USA, 2011
Director: Andrew Rossi

Page One is a documentary filmed over one year at the New York Times and its newly created media desk, a group of reporters working to keep the paper in step with the transforming media landscape.

I actually have been looking forward to seeing this film for a couple of months, and it absolutely did not disappoint.  The New York Times is a paper that has built a reputation for not being afraid to print controversial material, from the Pentagon Papers in 1971 to Wikileaks material in 2010.  The media desk is comprised of several reporters who not only track the demise of paper news internationally, but their own publication's struggles as well.  The most featured reporter was David Carr, who is an absolute rock star.  His past includes alcohol and drug addiction and jail time, yet he built up his career after becoming sober to become a New York Times reporter.  He is both the NYT's biggest cheerleader and defender, which is why he is chosen to represent them on discussion panels, where his  raspy voice and tell-it-like-it-is style is always a crowd pleaser.  (It certainly was in the audience I was in as well.)  Bruce Headlam, the media desk editor was also a really interesting guy and personified the classic rumpled, hardworking editor.  He became an instant favorite for me of course, because he had a huge poster of the Italian release of Citizen Kane in his office.

Director Rossi was granted outstanding access to the NYT offices, and he took complete advantage of it, creating a fast paced and action packed film that is sure to serve one day as a historical tool for near future generations, after online news eventually takes over print journalism.  During the course of filming, the Times went through a series of 100 layoffs from their staff of 1200.  Rossi also features interviews with former NYT columnists, including Gay Talese as well as media gadflys and editors-in-chief of magazines, newspapers and online news sources.

Page One is a brilliant composed film; a candid look at an institution that could be reporting on its own demise in the next few years.  It gives an insight into why the New York Times has achieved an elite status in print journalism, and how that reputation has led to criticism, scorn and perhaps envy of some of its peers, and reverence and respect from others.

MFF Ballot Rating: 5 out of 5

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