Update: Terry O’Reilly, TPT’s chief content officer, said today that the public television station intends to air the “Troubled Waters” documentary as originally scheduled: at 8 p.m. Tuesday on tpt2, with rebroadcasts at 2 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday.
After the hullabaloo over “Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story” — the documentary tracing the impact of farming and urban development on the mighty river — it is not surprising that the premiere is sold out.
A few rush tickets might be available for the first screenings at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday, says the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum of Natural History, which contracted with the filmmakers to produce the documentary. Better to check first, though. You can find more information here.
If you don’t snag a seat for these screenings, you’ll have to count on a promise U of M President Robert Bruininks made in a statement on Wednesday:
“The issues related to the Minnesota watershed are of critical importance to Minnesotans, to our nation, and to me personally. I am pleased that the Bell Museum, under the capable leadership of Prof. [Susan] Weller, will provide the public with ample opportunity to see the film and participate in the robust discussion that will follow.”
No definition of “ample opportunity,” but you can be sure demand will be high and so will the scrutiny of the U of M’s next steps in making the film available on campus as well as on TPT. Hollywood could only envy the free publicity this film received after U of M Vice President Karen Himle moved earlier this month to shut down the premiere and a scheduled TPT showing.
Bruininks acknowledged in his first full statement on the university’s troubled handling of “Troubled Waters” that nothing less than academic freedom is at stake — even while he seemed to stand by Himle’s controversial decision.
Before I see the film, I plan to review the most recent information on the so-called dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s one of the topics covered in the film.
Nitrogen, phosphorus and other chemicals flowing down the Mississippi collect in the Gulf, where they stimulate an unnatural super bloom of algae. The algae die and sink to the bottom, where bacteria decompose them. And the bacteria suck up oxygen, leaving the water in a state known as hypoxia — which means there is inadequate oxygen to support living cells.
In other words, fish must flee for their lives. And slower-moving creatures like oysters and clams can suffocate.
You can read MinnPost’s latest report on the dead zone here and also find links to more information if you want to do some homework.
Meanwhile, here is Bruininks full statement:
“I have been traveling abroad for the past week, but was aware of the concerns about the ‘Troubled Waters’ film and am in full support of the decision to present the film as scheduled and conduct a public forum afterward. As the facts surrounding the production of the film have become clearer, it was readily apparent to me that this is an issue of academic freedom; as a result, we immediately resolved to show it as planned. This is certainly not the first time the University and its leadership have stood behind the academic freedom of its faculty and staff with regard to complex or potentially controversial issues — indeed that is a fundamental value of the university.
“Certainly, the decision and rationale regarding whether or not to show the film as scheduled could have been handled differently and communicated more clearly. It is important for me to acknowledge that Vice President Himle was asked by the Bell Museum to review the film, and she raised questions and concerns about it in her capacity as Vice President of University Relations. As I have said before, Vice President Himle is an important member of my executive team, and I have confidence in her leadership and integrity.
“At no point was there a question about the importance of the issues raised in the film or whether such a film should be made and shown. I am pleased that we now have a consensus within the administration and faculty on our current course of action. We will continue to work together to protect academic freedom and the quality of scholarship and outreach at the U. We will continue to review this situation, and I am confident we will learn from this and improve our procedures as we move forward.
“The issues related to the Minnesota watershed are of critical importance to Minnesotans, to our nation, and to me personally. I am pleased that the Bell Museum, under the capable leadership of Prof. Weller, will provide the public with ample opportunity to see the film and participate in the robust discussion that will follow.”