True or False? The Lure of the Fake Narrative’
Sunday, April 30, 3 p.m.
Bellevue 2
260 Bellevue Ave.

“True or False? Reporting in the Age of ‘Fake News’”
Sunday, April 30, 5 p.m.
Montclair Kimberley Academy Upper School
6 Lloyd Road
with: Jonathan Alter (MSNBC/ The Daily Beast); Jim Axelrod (CBS News); Sarah Blustain (The Investigative Fund); Joe Klein (Time Magazine); Clyde Haberman of Retro Report moderating.
Retroreport.org

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

Stick a pin in a Whole Foods on a map, draw a circle around it, and that’s where you’ll have a community that have issues with vaccination.

That’s what an epidemiologist told Seth Mnookin, the author of “The Panic Virus.” Mnookin appears in the short film “Vaccines: An Unhealthy Skepticism.”

Mnookin says that the epidemiologist was being facetious, but his point is that even knowing that the theory about vaccines causing autism stems from a doctor whose study was tainted and who has since lost his license hasn’t prevented communities from buying into the notion.

“Vaccines” is one of six films in the shorts block “True or False? The Lure of the False Narrative.” After the film showing, there will be a Q&A, and shortly after that there will be a panel conversation at Montclair Kimberley Academy Upper School, titled “True or False? Reporting in The ‘Fake News’ Era.”

The series and panel are curated by RetroReport, which produces short documentaries that aim to tell the story behind the news. These events represent a new partnership between MFF and Retro Report. “We try to bring context and perspective to headlines today, re-examining how we got here,” said Kyra Darnton, executive producer of Retro Report, which launched nearly four years ago. The New York Times distributes the videos.

One of the films shown is “Trump and the War on Leaks,” which looks at how presidents Nixon, Obama and Trump have dealt with the press. The other films to be shown are “The Superpredator Scare,” “Unraveling Zero Tolerance,” “Liebeck V. McDonald’s: The Big Burn,” and “JFK to Pizzagate: Shadows of Conspiracy.”

The shorts block came to the Montclair Film Festival through Sianne Garlick, a Montclair resident and senior producer, who had been to the festival, and met MFF Vice President Luke Parker Bowles. Garlick and Darnton have both worked at 60 Minutes.

The films, said Darnton, “look back at conspiracy theories through history, and what they can tell us of the rise today of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts.’ It’s about the lure that conspiracy theories can have on the American imagination, and why.”

The film about vaccines is over a year old and still relevant, Darnton said: “It’s a good summary of what we’re talking about. When emotions triumph over facts, what do you do?”

The films set the stage for the panel discussion, which looks less at the future than at how journalists should fight misinformation going forward, she said. No films will be shown.

Said Garlick, the panel asks, “How do you work in a time when the president calls you the enemy, and the public may not trust you?”