By: Mercedes Dunn/Media Intern
POLAND – After several months of traveling film festival circuits across the United States, the film “Bad Press” recently made it’s international debut in May. It was featured in the Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival in Poland, and was seen in Warsaw, Wroclaw, and Poznan.
The film “Bad Press” premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and won the Special Jury Award for Freedom of Expression. This film was co-directed by Joe Peeler and Mvskoke citizen Rebecca Landsberry-Baker. It featured Mvskoke Media Director Angel Ellis as a reporter battling for freedom of the press and tribal government transparency.
“Bad Press” is a documentary that displays the significant effects of the Muscogee Nation’s election season after the MCN National Council repealed the media free press law. The film follows a Mvskoke Media reporter, Angel Ellis as a reporter battling for freedom of the press and transparency. It documents the outreach and advocacy for press freedoms that Muscogee (Creek) citizens ultimately voted in favor of.
Ellis was invited by the documentary team to attend the film’s question and answer panels that were held after each screening. Ellis felt this exposed her to the world-wide issue of press freedom.
“It really was kind of an eye-opening situation,” Ellis said. “ What happened in the tribal nation for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation with censorship and freedom of the press has become a world issue.”
The film festival organizers chose Bad Press for the issue of people not getting the information they want. A lot of people in Poland are fighting for rights, and are advocating for press freedom under a state-run media.
“One of the big questions I was asked on the road,” Ellis said. “How do you overcome that?”
Ellis feels that this advocacy and journalism has to be people centric.
“It has to be people-driven,” Ellis said. “ It has to come from the most grassroots effort.”
Ellis and other reporters produce these stories for the people. Ellis believes the news should work for you. The news organization should go out and answer these questions for the citizens, so people can get involved in proper civic responsibilities. Ellis wants to report on all issues for the people and future generations.
“If you address it head on we’re really solving the problem,” Ellis said. “If we sweep it under the rug we’re just leaving that problem for the next generation to figure out.”
Ellis said this film is a valuable blueprint for other communities to rally around local news. The freedom of telling these stories has backed up Indigenous peoples’ image for years. This motivates Ellis to tell these stories and provide the context for citizens.
“We know as Indigenous people how powerful storytelling is, it’s really the only way we have survived,” Ellis said.
The deadCenter Film Festival will be premiering “Bad Press” from June 8 to June 11 in Oklahoma City.