When filmmaker Brian Knappenberger began working on what would eventually become his film “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press,” he didn’t actually realize the scope of what he would capture. At first, he took an interest in Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Media (for publishing a sex tape of the wrestler with his friend’s wife) simply because he was interested in the case’s battle between the free press and privacy.
“I was really fascinated by this whole Hulk Hogan-Gawker trial, and I was interested in it before it started taking the radical twists and turns that it took later,” he said in a Q&A following a showing of the film at the International Documentary Association’s annual screening series. “There’s a really interesting battle between freedom of speech and privacy. These are two things that some of my other work [revolves around], so I just thought these two ideas were playing themselves out in a really cartoonish way in this courtroom in Florida.”
But that was just the beginning — only he didn’t know it at the time.
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“Then there was this staggering verdict — $120 million dollars, it was eye-popping — and then the revelation that Peter Thiel was funding Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit made it a very different kind of story for me, a story about how money can be wielded in secret against the press to thwart and silence critics,” he said. “And this of course was happening on the backdrop of Trump…saying we’re going to open up libel laws and sue you like you’ve never been sued before and all of that. All of these things were gurgling and bubbling to the surface and I just wanted to jump in and capture it.”
It’s a defining time for the media right now, Knappenberger said.
“Media, journalism should be going after the powerful. It should be comforting the afflicted. It should be speaking truth to power. It should be trying to go after the Roy Moores of the world,” he said. “So when people stop listening to it or believing that that’s what it’s doing, that it has another agenda, I think it’s lost some of its power.”
Watch clips from the Q&A below:
“Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press” is available to stream on Netflix.
The IDA Documentary Screening Series brings some of the year’s most acclaimed documentary films to the IDA community and members of industry guilds and organizations. Films selected for the Series receive exclusive access to an audience of tastemakers and doc lovers during the important Awards campaigning season from September through November. For more information about the series, and a complete schedule, visit IDA.