Changing the World through Film

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Jointly presented by the 2009 BigPond Adelaide Film Festival, the Australian International Documentary Conference and The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre at UniSA

Audio transcript available here 

Some filmmakers pick up cameras in an effort to lift the lid on injustice, or to suggest new ways of responding to the social and political issues of our day. In short, they want to change the world. This social activist filmmaking has become a vital strand in international documentary, and it includes some of the most memorable films in this year's program. This forum brings together three festival guests to share their personal experiences of socially committed documentary. Pamela Yates is the Director of the Sundance Award-winning When the Mountains Tremble, and Emmy and Academy Award winner on the documentaries Loss of Innocence, and Witness to War. She is presenting her latest film The Reckoning about the International Criminal Court.

Kiran Bedi is the subject of Megan Doneman's Yes, Madam, Sir. Bedi is India's first woman to become a senior police officer. She brought in radical reforms against all odds, and is now one of India's most remarkable, beloved and controversial women. For Megan Doneman, telling Bedi's story has become a long term project.

Speakers: Pamela Yates, Megan Doneman and Kiran Bedi
Chair: Peter Wintonick - independent documentary filmmaker and former Adelaide Thinker in Residence

Pamela Yates Megan Doneman Peter Wintonick
The Reckoning Yes, Madam, Sir


Chair: Peter Wintonick, Producer-Director-Docmedia Activist
Necessary Illusions

Peter Wintonick is a Canadian filmmaker, producer, critic and docmedia activist. Well known around the world as a documentary diplomat, he spreads the gospel according to reality through his films. (pilgrIMAGE; Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media; Cinema Verite: Defining the Moment; Seeing is Believing: Handicams, Human Rights and the News, Second Sight; etc). He is a former Thinker in Residence to South Australia premier Mike Rann. He won the Governor-General Media Arts award - Canada's highest such honour. He advises festivals, organizes conferences about cross-platform docs with non profit organizations like He promotes greenmedia issues with He holds workshops with emerging filmmakers, from China to Indonesia, from Mexico City to Montreal, his homebase where he operates as Necessary Illusions. He is currently developing several films with partners in Sweden, Canada and Asia.

Panel members:

Pamela Yates (Director - The Reckoning) is the recipient of a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship. She is the Director of the Sundance Award winning "When the Mountains Tremble", the Producer of the Emmy Award winning "Loss of Innocence", and the Executive Producer of the Academy Award winning "Witness to War".

She has most recently completed "The Reckoning", a feature length documentary film and educational initiative about the International Criminal Court. Filming took place on 4 continents and in 6 languages. Previously she directed "State of Fear" (2005), a feature length documentary that tells the epic story of Peru's 20-year "war on terror" based on the findings of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. "State of Fear" has been translated into 48 languages and broadcast in 157 countries. Before that she directed "Presumed Guilty", a two hour primetime PBS special about the ethical and moral dilemmas faced by the San Francisco public defenders in their quest for justice. She produced, directed and co-wrote "Cause for Murder", which was commissioned by the PBS international series "Wide Angle" (2002). The film explores the cost of political bravery in the lives and deaths of two young Mexican lawyers, Digna Ochoa and Marigeli Tames. In 2000 she produced and directed "Brotherhood of Hate" a study of violent white supremacy, broadcast on the Showtime Networks. "Brotherhood of Hate" and "Cause for Murder" were both co-productions with The New York Times.

Pamela also produced and directed (with Peter Kinoy) a trilogy of films about poor peoples' movements in America called "Living Broke in Boom Times". The films were: "Takeover", (Official selection Sundance 1991) "Poverty Outlaw", (Official selection Sundance 1995) and the Independent Television Service presentation "Outriders" on PBS (1999). She directed what is thought to be the first music video made in China, "No More Disguises", with troubajor Ciu Jian, which was filmed in Tianamen Square at the dawn of the democracy movement. It was named by Rolling Stone as one of the 10 best music videos of 1989, and had its U.S. premiere at the New York Film Festival's opening night.

Pamela is a co-founder of Skylight Pictures, Inc. She is a member of the Director's Guild of America (DGA) and The Writers Guild of America (WGA).

Megan Doneman (Director - Yes Madam, Sir) studied a Bachelor of Business Communications majoring in Film at the University of Technology, Australia. Her final year film, a short docu-drama portraying the grieving process of a woman who tragically loses her brother (which she produced, directed and wrote), won the Classic Cinema Award for "Most Promising New Filmmaker" at the Pacific Queensland Film and Television Awards in 1998.

On the basis of the success of her first short film, Megan was hired to work on Alex Proyas film "Dark City", initially for a nine-week stint as a runner for the editing department, headed by Academy-award nominated editor, Dov Hoenig ("Heat" and "Fugitive"). Her hard work and dedication led to her working on the film until its completion nine months later, training as an assistant editor, upon Hoenig's recommendation.

Megan continued her career as assistant editor on movies such as George Miller's "Babe 2"; Jane Campion's "Holy Smoke"; John Woo's "Mission Impossible 2"; Samantha Lang's "Monkey's Mask"; Michael Rymer's "Perfume" and "Queen of the Damned"; and Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy as well as "King Kong".

While working in the editing department of both large and small budget feature films, learning the creative and technical aspects of filmmaking and storytelling, Megan also produced, directed and wrote another successful short film, "Till Morn Do Us Part" selected for "Best of the Rest" screening at Sydney's prestigious Tropfest Short Film Festival.

She also acted as one of the cinematographers on Channel 4's TV documentary, "Kirosawa: The Last Emperor", filming director John Woo's interview segment.

In 2001 she moved to London, where she spent 18 months, running screen-acting workshops for London theatre actors, at the prestigious Sadler's Wells Theatre in Islington. These intensive eight-week courses allowed her to share the information she learned from years of working on films and in editing with up and coming actors who found the experience invaluable. Megan would direct, film and edit two-hander scenes given to all the actors upon completion of the course. It was during this time, she decided to pursue her long time goal of making Yes Madam, Sir, an undertaking that would take her six years to complete, in between working on paid industry jobs on major feature films.

Kiran Bedi (subject of documentary - Yes Madam, Sir) Kiran Bedi, Ph.D, is India's first and highest ranking (retired in 2007) woman officer who joined the Indian Police Service in 1972. Her experience and expertise include more than 35 years of tough, innovative and welfare policing.

She has worked with the United Nations as the Police Advisor to the Secretary General, in the Department of Peace Keeping Operations. She has represented India at the United Nations, and in International forums on crime prevention, drug abuse, police and prison reforms and women's issues.
She has also been a National and an Asian Tennis champion.

Recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award (also called the Asian Nobel Prize), and several other decorations, Dr. Bedi is an author of several books, anchors radio and television shows and is a columnist with leading newspapers and magazines. She is a sought after speaker on social, professional and leadership issues.

She is the founder of two NGOs, Navjyoti and India Vision Foundation, which reach out to over 10,000 beneficiaries daily, in the areas of drug abuse treatment, schooling for children of prisoners, in addition to education, training, counselling, and health care to the urban and rural poor.

Kiran Bedi has been voted as India's most admired woman and fifth amongst all Indians.

For more information on her visit

In polls conducted by the "The Week "(2002) Kiran Bedi was voted as the most admired woman in the country, 5th most admired Indian and one of the 15 Indian Icons of 2006. 

While the views presented by speakers within the Hawke Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Hawke Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: strengthening our democracy - valuing our cultural diversity - and building our future.

While the views presented by speakers within The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia, or The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy - Valuing our Diversity - Building our Future. The Hawke Centre reserves the right to change their program at any time without notice.