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True/False Conversations: 'Bad Press' documents a fight for press freedom in a Muscogee Creek Nation newsroom

Bad Press will be showcasing at the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri.

The journalists at Mvskoke Media were shocked when, in 2015, the Muscogee Creek Nation voted to repeal press freedom and its Free Press Bill. The decision caused ripple effects throughout the news outlet. With journalists leaving and tribal leaders taking control in the newsroom, reporters like Angel Ellis got to work and took up the fight against censorship.

Joe Peeler and Rebecca Landsberry-Baker's film Bad Press documents this conflict in the runup to the Muscogee Nation's primary election. KBIA's Peter Kamp spoke with the filmmakers about telling this story. Here's an excerpt from their conversation:

Peter Kamp: [One] thing I kind of want to talk about is the timeline of the film, just because there's a lot of back and forth, looking back at the past, coming back to present day.

Joe Peeler: We edited for nearly two years. And I think we probably accumulated about 500 hours of footage between what we shot on the ground and the archival footage that we used to kind of describe the history of the tribe, the tribes monitoring government and freedom of press, and how that kind of intersects. And it was a big job.

It's a very detailed, very nuanced, very layered story. And at the same time that we were shooting, the tribe was also a part of a major Supreme Court case dealing with tribal sovereignty. So we were kind of filming around that as well and seeing if that would eventually kind of plug into our story.

Kamp: With Bad Press coming to True/False here in Columbia ..., what is the big takeaway you want people to see from this movie?

Rebecca Landsberry-Baker: One, how free press in Indian Country can really strengthen and support tribal sovereignty. Because, again, it gives the citizens a mechanism for accountability with their tribal government. So in Indian Country, you know, we see how important voter engagement is and how 10 votes can make all of the difference in our tribal elections.

So having an informed electorate is just so critical in Indian Country, that I hope that our film highlights how citizens can be more involved in their electoral process.

And then [also] that, it's okay to laugh with our characters and to enjoy the Indigenous humor that we have in our story. So I'm very excited to be able to highlight those two things.

See more True/False Conversations here and at Voxmagazine.com.

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