The ‘DocEdge' documentary film festival kicked off at the Goethe-Institut on August 5, offering documentaries dealing with themes as varied as India's agrarian crisis (Nero's Guests), ultras supporting their football club (Das Rudel or The Mob), and a Kosovo woman's predicament (Heartquake).

At the launch was a lively panel discussion titled ‘Documentary films in times of Twitter, Facebook and WikiLeaks', moderated by Nupur Basu, independent journalist and documentary filmmaker.

The panellists were filmmaker Madhusree Dutta, Senior Associate Editor (South) of Outlook Magazine Sugata Srinivasaraju, film critic M.K. Raghavendra and CEO of Business Blogging Kiruba Shankar, who was also the lone voice supporting the recent development of social media platforms.

After the screening of The Woman with Five Elephants on Saturday, Nupur kicked off the discussion, asking whether social media and documentary films were “friend or foe”. The discussion then moved on to debate the short attention span online media could be creating, and whether this influenced the number of people watching documentaries.

These technologies meant that everyone's opinion is valued equally, be it an informed opinion or a trivial one. Social media, in enabling everyone to have an opinion, had trivialised opinions and created a world where Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's baby commands as much attention as atrocities committed in Iraq and Libya, asserted Raghavendra, a fierce critic of new media's impact.

Later, Madhusree brought out the fact that documentaries were not the only ones being impacted by the new generation's use of social media. “Why not examine the impact of social media on poetry, letter writing, greeting cards, leaflets and other forms of communication?” she asked.

Of course, the negatives of social media had to be weighed against the positives, some panellists said. Facebook and Twitter could be seen as distribution channels for documentaries and play a powerful role in the dissemination of critical information.

Her documentaries, Madhusree said, were meant for a niche audience, who hopefully would not be swayed by the trivialities of the social media space.

The other films screened over the weekend were 10 Minutes before the Flight of Icarus, How to make a book with Steidl and Pianomania — In Search of the Perfect Sound.

The festival will continue on August 12 and 13.