On Thursday, March 17, at 5 PM, RCTV’s Rajesh Barnabas will show his new documentary Rochester Fights for $15 at the monthly Rochester Documentary Group (ROCDOC Group) screening. The screening will take place at the Little Theatre located at 240 East Avenue in downtown Rochester. Following the screening, Rajesh will answer questions about the film.
In advance of the screening, Kate Kressman-Kehoe, one of the organizers of the ROCDOC group, interviewed Rajesh about his film:
Rajesh Barnabas sees the world through many perspectives – as producer RCTV, Rochester’s Community Media Center, as a teacher, as a journalist, as a photographer, and as a citizen (he has run for office on the Green Party line).
RD: What attracted you to the topic of the fight for a $15 minimum wage?
RB: I’m a big supporter of unions, in fact I trained to be an organizer, and am a member of the RTA. I have followed labor struggles and my favorite history professor was a labor historian, so worker’s struggles are close to my heart. I am biased, and the piece definitely has a slant, but I let the speakers speak for themselves.
RD: What will be in the film for audiences who don’t follow labor struggles?
RB: This is living history. It’s right now. I was filming a panel just last night, and the governor is lobbying for this right now. It’s not a dead topic. It’s not history. People are still debating, and we don’t know what is going to happen. The documentary provides details, and we hear from both sides. It’s not like a textbook – it’s real people.
RD: You have had multiple careers – journalist, teacher, you’ve run for elected office. How have these influenced you as a filmmaker?
RB: A teacher has to make things very clear. People want things labelled and outlined. A filmmaker is not so regimented – and if they are it gets really boring. I’ve always been a teacher who wants to defy conventions, to go against models, scripts, and what students expect. So I experiment.
RD: What are you experimenting with these days?
RB: I’m experimenting with video game creation and bringing that into the film world. Now there is affordable software that can make video games, which was impossible before. It is kind of like how the world of video editing software changed. There are game engines in which you can make scenes – mountains, trees, etc. and you can capture that and use it in a film. I am teaching students how to do 3D and interactive video. We’ll have choose your own adventure films.
RD: You’ve worked with print, photography, video. What makes you say about a story “this needs to be a video”?
RB: I started off in journalism. If you want to hold someone’s attention for a longer time, there needs to be a plot. If you want to have emotions, to shake up their brain, then images and sound are a good way to do that. Some things thirst for a visual portrayal. For instance today I was at World of Inquiry and they were building towers with popsicle sticks and marshmallows. Today’s generation, if you want to get to them in a quick way, you have to go visual. I’ve drifted that way as a teacher, as a way to reach them.
RD: What are some favorite documentaries?
RB: The one that pushed me into documentary was “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Chavez: Inside The Coup)”. It was by two Irish filmmakers who were doing a documentary about Chavez and got trapped inside the embassy. It is a crazy realistic movie – stronger than any movie I’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe it was actually real. It was political and showed the power of documentary film. I also like films that bend narrative and documentary modes. That’s a nice no-man’s land to be in. A narrative that has a documentary feel is “Bloody Sunday” about a massacre in Ireland in the 1970s. I like movies where you feel you are really in it, where the line between filmmaker and subject gets blurred.
The screening of Rochester Fights for $15, taking place at 5 PM at the Little Theatre is open to the public. It is free to ROCDOC Members. Non-Members are asked to make a $2 donation to help underwrite the monthly use of the facility.
If you’re interested in documentaries, consider becoming part of the group! The Rochester Documentary Group meets at the Little Theatre at 5 PM on the Third Thursday of each month. Following the screenings and Q&A sesssion with the filmmaker, there is networking in the cafe.
To get notifications of screenings and other useful information for documentary filmmakers, visit the ROCDOC Group facebook page and ask to join the group. To show your love of documentaries and support the group, you’re invited to join the group and become a card-carrying Member for for only $20, and you can join at any of the monthly meetings. All funds collected from ROCDOC Membership are donated to the Little Theatre in appreciation of their generosity in allowing the ROCDOC Group to use their facilities. ROCDOC Members receive a discount on a drink special in the Little Theatre Cafe following the screening.