“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” So I admit it, Network by Sidney Lumet is my favorite movie of all time.
That had to come into play when I had my pick of movies to review that will screen at this year’s Open City Documentary Film Festival, because I chose Breaking News, a feature Doc which follows two newsrooms in the Czech Republic that fight to cover a secret gathering where Miloš Zeman, the seated President, will announce if he will run for reelection.
Around 900 people will be at this event in the Prague Castle, and the press are not invited. Sounds like a challenge, well two newsrooms tackled it head on, and this documentary covers a full work day leading up to it.
All of the events took place on March 9, 2017, and we get a sense that these reporters know this may be their biggest story of the year. By the end of it, you will think, what a difference a day makes.
Breaking News keeps things moving by cutting between these two media outlets over the 73 minute run time. One is a TV station called Českά Televize, or Czech Television.
The filmmakers give us a seat in the conference rooms and edit bay where it all comes together. It is fascinating to hear them discuss the possibilities of sneaking a camera in to film the venue. Should they use a cell phone? If so, what tech issues could they face? Later, when they are live, we see how their on site “stand up” reporter has to deal with these complications in the moment, and how the crew behind the scenes has to react within a blink of an eye.
In strong contrast to that, our second newsroom is a print outlet called Hospodářské Noviny, which means Economic Newspaper. The establishing shots of this facility are wide, showing off this large office space with people bustling around and clicking away at their computers.
On a long wall, we see numbered spaces where each proof ready page of the paper will be hung up by the end of the day. We get to watch this wall of paper progress as the story unfolds.
The visuals, of course, are not the only thing that sets the newspaper apart. We get to listen in on a discussion where they pitch ideas for the headline of this front page story.
Since Zeman would not be making this announcement until the evening, the journalist had to write two versions of the article in advance, one for if he will run again, the other for if he would not.
A rather interesting moment was when they debate over including Miloš Zeman’s health problems into the story and how to word it. The political implications here are palpable, we hear the reporters talking with each other about their personal views of this leader, while they made sure to print a story that is fully objective.
This probing documentary explores that element and much more, it plunges deep into the vast and cloudy waters of the free press.
Breaking News is a must watch for anyone who cares about the subtext of this world, the story that lies behind the media that shapes our society.
This is a debut feature credit for Tomáš Bojar as a Director and a Producer. He and his team weave a compelling document of these newsrooms, all while maintaining the balanced, fact finding mentality the press was founded on.
The best way to describe Breaking News, is to picture an episode of Aaron Sorkin’s series The Newsroom, but this is the real deal. Breaking News, or Mimoradna Zprava, will screen at The Open City Documentary Festival on September 8, at 4:30PM.
The filmmaker Tomáš Bojar will be on the scene for a Q and A along with broadcaster Kirsty Lang as your host. If that is not fit for print, I don’t know what is.
Curt Wiser is a Writer and Filmmaker, as an artist, he is happy to explore hard hitting documentaries and narrative movies alike.