Friday, September 10, 2004

Israel : Everyone wants to be Michael Moore

Forget about reality shows - the new trend in television is called `docu-activism,' in which the journalist doesn't remain aloof, but declares which team he is rooting for - and begins to score points for it.


About 20 excited people in black shirts, holding candles, stood one evening four weeks ago in front of the attractive home of Health Minister Danny Naveh. It's not every day that cancer patients, some of them with terminal growths in the brain, have an opportunity to tell the minister in charge what they think of the fact that some of the medications on which their lives depend have been removed from the health services basket, and that they now have to pay huge sums for these drugs. Several inquisitive onlookers watched the black-clad people and the cameras that surrounded them. In Shoham, a sleepy suburb of single-family homes with gardens and neighborhoods named after flowers, they aren't used to street activity after nightfall.

Usually, television crews arrive in the wake of an event; this time they organized it: The patients were brought to the site, dressed and equipped with candles by the producers of "Bulldozer," the new program broadcasted on Channel 2 on Sundays and featuring Mickey Rosenthal, one of the winners of the prestigious Sokolov Prize for Journalism, which was awarded this week. "Docu-activism" is the name of this television genre, which isn't satisfied with recording reality, but shapes and changes it as well. Or at least it tries to do so.

This is the scene in Shoham: Information about the welcome awaiting Naveh at his home reach the minister's office in advance, and his people organize accordingly. When the convoy reaches the place, Tal Sandroni, Naveh's media adviser, a handsome young man wearing a tie and smelling of aftershave, is already waiting on the sidewalk. He informs Rosenthal that the minister will arrive in a few minutes. Naveh has received good advice: He doesn't try to avoid the cancer patients or to argue with them - two things that must not be done in front of the camera. On the contrary: He says he is with them in their just battle, and happy that they are supporting him in his war with the finance minister.

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