In 1971 the FBI offices at Media, Pennsylvania were broken into and secrets such as COINTELPRO, government spying, and assassination came to public light. The activists who executed the break-in have revealed themselves after over 40 years, and they are discussed with 1971 documentary director Johanna Hamilton and film subject, Betty Medsger. Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, Anonymous, and the rest of the current wave of whistleblowers, the importance of Media, Pennsylvania, and costs of exposing the government’s dark arts are shared with the movie trailer, for BYOD from the 2014 Tribeca Film Fest.
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BYOD is hosted by Ondi Timoner, director of “DIG!,” “JOIN US” and “WE LIVE IN PUBLIC,” and has the rare distinction of winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance twice. Each week the show explores a different documentary filmmaker or aspect of filmmaking, with special guests and a live Q&A– diving deep into creative process and the business realities of producing and distributing films. Ondi shares her insider views, opinions, and personal stories, welcoming audience participation. BYOD aims to entertain, inform, and elevate documentaries in general by bringing attention to films and film makers that deserve exposure.
1971 – Dir. Johanna Hamilton and Subject Betty Medsger
Forty years before WikiLeaks and the NSA scandal, there was Media, Pennsylvania. In 1971, eight activists plotted an intricate break-in to the local FBI offices to leak stolen documents and expose the illegal surveillance of ordinary Americans in an era of anti-war activism. In this riveting heist story, the perpetrators reveal themselves for the first time, reflecting on their actions and raising broader questions surrounding security leaks in activism today.
Johanna Hamilton co-produced Pray the Devil Back to Hell the gripping account of a group of brave and visionary women who demanded peace for Liberia, a nation torn to shreds by a decades old civil war. It premiered at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary, and was later short-listed for an Academy Award. Johanna is a graduate of the University of London and holds an MA in Broadcast Journalism from New York University. 1971 is her documentary feature debut.
Betty Medsger – Betty Medsger was born in 1942 in Johnstown, PA. After graduating from college in 1964, she began her journalism career as a reporter at The Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown. Later she worked at The Evening Bulletin in Philadelphia and then at The Washington Post. In March 1971, two weeks after the Media burglary she was one of five people – two members of Congress and three journalists – who received the first copies of Media FBI files distributed anonymously by the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI. The first reporter to write about the content of the Media files, Medsger was the only recipient who did not return the files to the FBI. It was the first time a journalist received secret government files from people outside the government – as opposed to inside whistleblowers – who had stolen the files. Many years later, she accidentally found two of the burglars, John and Bonnie Raines. With their help, she found seven of the eight burglars and they agreed to tell the story they had planned to take to their graves. She is the author of The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, published in 2014 by Alfred A. Knopf, the full story of the burglary and its major impact. She is the former head of the Department of Journalism at San Francisco State University and founder of its Center for the Integration and Improvement of Journalism. Her photographs have been exhibited throughout the world and were used in the Academy Award winning documentary Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien by filmmaker Jessica Yu.
00:01 Welcoming Johanna Hamilton + Betty Medsger to BYOD from Tribeca 2014.
01:00 Learning of the story, through Betty.
03:00 Secrets of a successful heist, and the risks of printing FBI secrets.
06:35 Why the burglars came out of hiding.
07:40 Comparing to the whistleblowers of today.
11:40 The importance of the information.
16:00 1971, trailer.