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by Karen Pecota

USA | 2022 Directors: Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler

Filmmakers Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler document an exposé birthed by reporters for the Mvskoke Media in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, in BAD PRESS. Long-time journalist Angel Ellis strives to give her readers quality journalism that includes truth-telling on any issue or story. She stands to let the truth be told and transparency abound. Ellis feels strongly that in order to do her job right, these key factors must reside. In agreement, Landsberry-Baker adds, "A well-informed society is the foundation of a functioning democracy."

The Mvskoke Media covers the community of Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Ellis and her colleagues believe that their readers are entitled to have access to all information relevant to the Native American community, in spite of the tribal officials who feel otherwise.

Landsberry-Baker joined the Native American Journalists Association in 2009 and was the youngest editor in the history of the Muscogee Nation News at age 22. She says, "I experienced firsthand how tribal media serves a critical role in drafting the first version of history, informing citizens and holding officials to account." Adding, "I also encountered intimidation threats, and censorship from tribal leaders, so I'm intimately familiar with the challenges our subjects face in the struggle to balance truthful reporting with accountability to their communities."

The Mvskoke Media was privy to information that could impact the community and felt it appropriate to share but the officials did not agree. The film audience screens a complicated situation in BAD PRESS when the National Council retaliates to repeal the 2015 Free Press Act, dissolves the Mvskoke Media's Independent editorial board, puts the Myskoke Media that is the Muscogee Nation's only news outlet under the control of the chief and his cabinet, and their newspaper is placed under the direction of the Secretary of the Nation and Commerce.

Disheartened, angry and shocked are the emotions that push Ellis over the edge to fight for the principle of the Free Press Act, the rights of her media outlet's journalism team, and transparency for the people in the community.

Landsberry-Baker and Peeler's documentary BAD PRESS gives the film audience food for thought in the battle of the free press in both the Muscogee Nation and the United States. The storytelling has all the markings for a compelling feature narrative based on true events with thrilling twists and turns. A narrative we just might see on the silver screen one day as truth telling becomes, more or less, a part of modern society.

Sundance award winner: Freedom of Expression