Visiting Filmmakers Series: Bad Press (2023) with filmmakers Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler and subject Angel Ellis

Wednesday, November 15, 2023 4:30 PM to 7:15 PM EST
Johnson Center, Cinema

See Mason Arts Amplified recording of our post-screening discussion with Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, Joe Peeler, Angel Ellis, and host Rebekah Wingert-Jabi here. 


Imagine you lived in a world where your only reliable news source became government propaganda overnight. That’s exactly what happened to the citizens of the Muscogee Nation, the fourth largest Native American tribe, in 2018. Out of 574 federally recognized tribes, the Muscogee Nation was one of only five to establish a free and independent press – until the tribe’s legislative branch abruptly repealed the landmark Free Press Act in advance of an election. The tribe’s hard-hitting news outlet, Mvskoke Media, would now be subject to direct editorial oversight by the tribal government.

Journalist Angel Ellis fights back. Challenging the corrupt faction of the Muscogee National Council, Angel and her allies rally for press freedoms by inciting a voter-supported constitutional amendment, just in time for the start of a new election cycle.

An enthralling tale that unfurls with the energy and suspense of a political thriller, Bad Press is a timely and unprecedented story about the battle for freedom of the press and against state-censored media.


"Although the documentary's focus is solely on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, its themes echo the various battles fought between the press and governments throughout time. The Mvskoke Media story is a living embodiment of “The press was to serve the governed, not the governors," Justice Hugo Black's opinion on the 1971 Supreme Court decision in New York Times Co. v. United States." -- Marya E. Gates,, Jan 24, 2023.

"Bad Press shines a bright light on what is at stake for free speech today, not only for Indian Country but for America at large. Using a contemporary perspective, this film features narratives from Indigenous journalists as they continue their ongoing and complicated battle for free press with sensitivity, humor, and grace." - Alicia Eler, Hyperallergic, July 9, 2023.

"Landsberry-Baker and Peeler’s documentary is thus the perfect illustration of what happens when you dismantle the Fourth and Fifth Estates and wind up putting democracy in peril, and it’s something everyone in America should be worried about right now." -- Jordan Mintzner, Hollywood Reporter, Jan 25, 2023.


See Bad Press website.


Rebecca Landsberry-Baker is an enrolled citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the executive director of the Native American Journalists Association. She is a recipient of the 2018 NCAIED “Native American 40 Under 40” award and was selected to the Harvard Shorenstein News Leaders Fall 2022 cohort. Landsberry-Baker made her directorial debut with the documentary feature film, Bad Press, which was supported by the Sundance Institute, Ford Foundation JustFilms, NBC, and the Gotham. Bad Press premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and received the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Freedom of Expression.

Joe Peeler is a Sundance award-winning director and editor whose work has appeared on NETFLIX, HBO, FX, ESPN, Hulu, and CBS. Joe began his career apprenticing under legendary director Peter Bogdanovich, and from there edited Lucy Walker’s Academy Awards Shortlist documentary short The Lion’s Mouth Opens; multiple episodes of the Netflix original series Flint Town; and Margaret Brown’s SXSW premiere documentary short The Black Belt. Most recently, Joe co-directed Bad Press, which premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Freedom of Expression.

Angel Ellis is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and has lived, worked, and played within the tribes’ reservation boundaries most of her life. Ellis became Director of Mvskoke Media in 2020, after it shifted from a tribally funded newsletter to an autonomous news-gathering agency. Her work help brings free press code back to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, but she also helped advocate for the tribe’s first FOIA law. In 2020 she joined the ranks of Elias Boudinot Free Press award winners.

Read Arik Danielson, "Meet Angel Ellis, a free-press crusader and star of this year's True Life Fund film," Columbia Daily Tribune, Mar 1, 2023.

Read Chris Gardner, "Sundance: From Barista to Award-Winning Documentary Director: Interview with Joe Peeler," Hollywood Reporter, Feb 7, 2023.

This event is presented by Visiting Filmmakers Series; College of Humanities and Social Sciences; College of Visual and Performing Arts; Film at Mason; CVPA's Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging; African and African American Studies, English Department; Global AffairsHistory and Art History; University Life; and Women and Gender Studies. 

#VisitingFilmmakersSeries #FilmAtMason #BadPress

For more information: 

Anjuli Singh,, Exhibitions and Office Coordinator, Film at Mason

Cynthia Fuchs, Director, Visiting Filmmakers Series at Mason; Director, Film at Mason

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