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Sundance film panel: Make movies to tell truth, improve humanity

Published: Sunday, Aug. 2 2015 8:58 a.m. MDT

PARK CITY — When they are not watching films, participants in the 2011 Sundance Film Festival are talking about them.

Just mention the name Michael Moore and you know he's someone who is not afraid to speak his mind. And that's what he did as a member of the Film Movement Panel, which also included singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte.

They talked of storytelling that influences society.

"Artists are the caretakers of truth," said Belafonte. "We look at life and imagine what could be and that we also look at life and fully realize what is. And it's through our power that we try to communicate what we can do to help enhance our common humanity."

Belafonte is the subject of a documentary that opened the festival Thursday night, "Sing Your Song." During Friday's panel discussion, he shared some advice he received early in his career.

"Get them to sing your songs, they'll want to know who you are and that will be your quintessential moment to use that platform and that power to illuminate and make sure that your purpose never ends the search for truth."

Moore's approach has always been more forceful.  In the movie "Sicko," he attacked America's health care system.

"It's wrong to live in a country where if you get sick, it's not a human right to be able to see a doctor without having to worry about paying for it," Moore said. "So I think that's the challenge … and it should be the challenge of everybody who works in films."

Moore also challenged filmmakers. He told them documentaries shouldn't be boring. He said, "If you are not making an entertaining movie, you shouldn't be making documentaries."

"Radical thought, I think, is the energy of the universe," Belafonte said. "If we dare be radical, we can dare hope to see this earth evolve into something that it should be and we are responsible for."

He said to mute radicalism is to mute freedom, to mute challenge, and "never has our universe been more in need of radical thinking and challenge than it is at this moment."

Part of the problem filmmakers are facing is getting funding for their project. Moore told the audience that he refused to have his photo taken in front of the Sundance blue curtain because Chase Bank's logo is on it.

"The news this week that Chase was caught overcharging members of our service families for their mortgages. They purposely jacked their mortgages, knowing that the husband or the father was away in Afghanistan or Iraq … and then started throwing them, evicting them, foreclosing their homes."

Fourteen service members were forced into foreclosure but JPMorgan Chase is issuing millions of dollars after overcharging 4,000.

About 60,000 people are expected to participate in the 2011 Sundance Film Festival over the next 10 days.

E-mail: cmikita@desnews.com, vvo-duc@ksl.com

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