Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Watch an Oscar Nominee (You've Never Heard Of) for Free, on the Web

Some of you are killing time between now and the Oscars on Sunday. If that’s the case, maybe you could spare a few minutes on something thoughtful and enlightening.

Wait. Where are you going?

Because while this is good for you, it also counts as an Oscar night warmup. When they announce the Best Documentary Short Subject nominees, you can look around the room with an air of smug erudition and say, “Saw that one.”

“The Warriors of Quigang” is a 40-minute movie about pollution in rural China, and like all of the short-subject entries, it’s an earnest film about a serious subject. Unlike its rivals, though, the movie was birthed on the Web, still lives there now, and you can see it for free.

The movie is a co-production between filmmakers Ruby Yang and Tom Lennon and Yale Environment 360, the brainy site (duh) dedicated to environmental issues (duh). Aside from one Los Angeles screening it needed to qualify for the Oscars, the film has lived entirely on the e360 site.

I don’t think this will be a trend for conventional movies for a very long time–there’s way too much money left in traditional distribution for the big studios to go online only–but we’re already seeing it with small projects. Actor/director Ed Burns, for example, put out “Nice Guy Johnny” last fall without ever stepping into theaters, and instead went exclusively with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, etc.

And it makes perfect sense for projects like this one. So go check it out. Red-carpet coverage doesn’t kick in till Sunday morning.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald