By Monica Rubalcava
Mexico City, Jun 14 (EFE).- A documentary exploring the current situation of freedom of expression and journalism in democratic countries was what directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady wanted to create in “Endangered,” a film that portrays the day-to-day difficulties of four reporters in three different countries, including Mexican photojournalist Sashenka Gutierrez, who works for Agencia EFE, Spain’s international news agency.
“I would like at some point for everything to improve and for our work to be respected, to be well-paid, but as I see things, it’s very complicated and very sad,” Gutierrez, the recent winner of the Ortega y Gasset Prize for best photography, said in an interview with EFE.
Because she doesn’t like it when they say “no” when she asks permission to take a photo was why Gutierrez agreed to be part of the documentary, which will air on June 28 on HBO Max.
Without knowing anything about the work of the 2007 Oscar nominees Ewing and Grady, she agreed to have cameras follow her as she went about her daily work as a photojournalist for EFE.
The negligence of the government amid the first deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, the takeover of the National Commission on Human Rights office by the Okupa feminist group as well as the feminist marches and the violent confrontations with Mexican police are some of the events Gutierrez witnessed and recorded during the filming of the documentary.
Nevertheless, the project also tells the story of three other journalists working in the United States and Brazil.
“They are three different countries, but we experience the same thing. In our case, the indifference of the president to what is happening in our country is shown, along with the issue of violence against women,” Gutierrez said.
Threats, harassment and violence by the authorities permeate the daily activities of the reporters who are featured in the film, and that represents just a small part of the world of injustices that press workers must endure.
In Gutierrez’s specific case, she recalled the harassment she experienced after a confrontation with police on the Mexico City metro after a feminist protest.
“That time I endured several days of fear because when I went to the marches they said, ‘They are the ones from the metro, right?’ to scare us and that threw me off. It was a way of saying: ‘We’re coming for you,'” she said.
The executive production of the project was put in the hands of investigative journalist Ronan Farrow and he began filming shortly before the start of the pandemic, but the idea for the documentary was conceived a year earlier.
“We wanted to talk about freedom of the press but we knew that that was very broad, so we limited it to democratic countries, what these governments do regarding freedom of expression and not looking for it in places where repression could be obvious like in Russia or Cuba,” Ewing told EFE.
Besides telling Gutierrez’s story, the film also tells about the experiences of Patricia Campos Mello, a Brazilian reporter who was harassed and attacked by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro; photo journalist Carl Juste, who documented the Black Lives Matter social movement protests; and Oliver Laughland, a reporter tasked with covering the 2020 US elections, in which Donald Trump sought to remain in power.
Laughland said that he thinks that the documentary is a very honest portrait of the life of the reporters and the things that are not very common that they have to do, but also it’s about the increase in threats that comes with devoting oneself to this profession.
In the film, Laughland constantly shows society’s disinterest and lack of sensitivity to journalistic work.
Campos, meanwhile, exemplifies the difficulties female reporters face, having experiences insults with misogynistic and sexual comments after uncovering information about the government of the Brazilian president.
“I was very scared about what could happen if I agreed to be a part of it, but later I saw that the attacks on reporters weren’t going to stop and so it was better to show this to the world,” Campos said.
Finally, Juste said that his and his colleagues’ experiences cannot be seen as isolated incidents, and that if Ewing and Grady have managed to achieve anything it was in merging the four voices into one.
He said that the directors understood that these multiple voices had to create a single chorus, adding that he thinks that this is Ewing and Grady’s greatest achievement. They didn’t take away anyone’s voice, he said, or elevate the voice of anyone in particular, and so when the four reporters say something, in effect, they say it loudly.