SXSW 2017: “Nobody Speaks: Trials of the Free Press”: MOVIE REVIEW

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(Photo via Netflix)

Brian Knappenberger‘s latest documentary might be the most important film about the future of the First Amendment. As you’ve been made aware, the free press haven’t been having it very easy in the past few years. The rise of people such as our current President have seemed to make matters worse for journalists around the world. There seems to be a very unsettling feeling of resentment toward the media, and more than usual. And it’s been threatened like never before thanks to former WWE Superstar Hulk Hogan, who sued the online news organization Gawker for releasing a sex tape and won the case. But that story is just the tip of the iceberg for a larger story. Nobody Speaks will be released later this year on Netflix, and I highly recommend you check this one out.

It all started with a sex tape. Hulk Hogan was being filmed by his best friend/neighbor to have sex with his wife. TMZ had reported on the sex tape, and Gawker was the one that published it all the way back in 2012. But Hogan, who boasted about the sex tape in interviews and in the media, didn’t like that someone had leaked/published the tape, and he was out for blood. He got what he wanted, and even more. a $140 million-plus settlement. But the film isn’t just about this court case. It reveals how this story is connected to Peter Thiel, the billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and how all of this connects to the current occupant of the Oval Office, and how his campaign was very anti-media/anti-establishment. There’s also a connection in here to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and how Vegas hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson purchased the newspaper.

This film sounds the alarm on a terrifying reality. That being that somebody as rich and powerful as Peter Thiel could get really angry at a website for writing about him and sue them out of existence. As they say in the film, Thiel has now opened the door for any rich guy to do exactly what he just did to Gawker. What’s stopping Donald Trump from doing the exact same thing to any news organization he doesn’t agree with?

The film features interviews from former Gawker employees/reporters, as well as former reporters from the Review Journal and concerned journalists from all over the country. According to Knappenberger, he has added and changed a few things since the film’s premiere at Sundance, and up to the end of the film there’s focus on some of the actions by the Trump administration from just a few weeks ago in here. He was working and adding more touches on this film up to the SXSW debut, and I really have to admire Knappenberger for that. There’s a lot of care and detail that goes into this highly entertaining and terrifying documentary, and it shows when you watched the product. I’m not sure if Knappenberger will add anything else to the film right before it debuts on Netflix, but I’d be shocked if he didn’t.

A lot of the information being presented in the film was stuff that I was either already familiar with or was vaguely familiar with and was given more information on. I think I remember hearing about the Review-Journal story vaguely on Rachel Maddow or something like that, but this film dedicates a good chunk to giving us all the details of that debacle, and how the journalists refused to be servants to billionaires who wanted the news to benefit their vested interests. If you were a fan of Spotlight like I was, and admired that love letter to old-school journalism, you’ll really find that section invigorating and fascinating. The same can be said for the entire film.

I was never a fan of Gawker. I felt that some of the stories that they wrote were a little too salacious, a little too dirty/gross for my tastes. But I was really disappointed and sad to hear that they would be closing their doors because of this case. While I wasn’t a fan, I don’t want people’s First Amendment rights being shut down. This case, along with what’s going on with the country right now, should be a wake-up call to journalists and concerned citizens. Buy a subscription to your favorite newspaper to keep true journalism alive (I pay for the Washington Post every month). And you must see Nobody Speaks when it’s released. It’s a wake-up call to let everyone know what’s happening in this country, and we must continue to press the people in power to give us the truth and hold them accountable. There’s nothing partisan about a statement like that.

Final Rating: 

B+

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