10/22 Agents, Coles and Nichols

With Coles, location is an umbrella term for how documentarians showcase their voice and perspective in films such as Agents of Change. While Dawson and Ginzberg were students at Cornell at the time of the riot, they still interviewed other students of color that were involved not only at Cornell, but at San Francisco State. This showcased that this was a nationwide issue that stretched upon all around the United States. Nichols talks about speech as a way to persuade the audience. Agents of Change uses language as a way to make viewers aware that this is still an issue today and that the battle for civil rights is far from over. The interviewees give a first hand response of what the environment was like and how they were treated, it is supposed to make you feel sympathetic, empathetic and that something needs to change. These acts of rebellion occurred in 1968 (San Francisco State) and 1969 (Cornell), around fifty years ago, but we are still dealing with similar issues now. Coles states, “Tragedies have a way of becoming contagious, that one of them can set in motion another, that the temptation to solve a problem quickly can sometimes be costly indeed” (p.113). In this case, events at San Francisco State inspired others around the country, including students at Cornell University, to fight back. However, officials needed a way to stop these protests quickly and efficiently, therefore they called the police for backup. Throughout the film, people recounted their experience with the police and presented footage of the violence against the students of color. Voice does not have to do with speaking, although that is an important factor. Sometimes there is a voice in the film even if nothing is said. Watching these videos and watching what they experienced from an outside lens gives you an idea of the message they are trying to convey.

  • “A documentarian’s report will be strengthen by what has been witnessed, but will be fueled surely by what those observations come to mean in his or her head: we absorb sights and sounds and they become our experience.” (p. 91)

Agents of Change follows this advice by not only including images and videos, but also including thoughts of people who were there and a part of it while the events were happening. When Coles talks about meaning in “his or her head,” this refers to the documentarians, in this case: Dawson and Ginzberg. Their hope is that when we see these observations and hear these interviews that we become inspired and use our power and privilege to give a voice to the voiceless. If we absorb what is going on in the film, connect it to the issues going on in today’s society and fight back, then we too will become an agent of change.

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