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Modes of Non-Fiction Films. Does Documentary = Real or Truth?.

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does documentary real or truth
Does Documentary = Real or Truth?
  • The photograph – once we are sure that it is a photograph – cannot lie. But it can be falsely labeled…If we accept that documentary is best defined as a way of perceiving images, we cannot evade the implication that it is blind to the falsity of labels. Documentary will be consequent upon what it appears to show, rather than upon what it necessarily shows; and the relationship between the two is a matter for the filmmakers’ ethics, inaccessible to the viewer. Yet the assumptions which the viewer makes about this relationship, on the basis of signals intended or unintended, will inform his perception of the film. To make a documentary is therefore to persuade the viewer that what appears to be IS.
first films were documentaries
First Films…Were Documentaries
  • Horse Running
  • Frank Ott’s Sneeze
  • Women Leaving the Factory
  • Captured life…
accidental documentaries
Accidental Documentaries
  • Zapruder film
  • Holliday’s film of Rodney King beating
cinema verite
Cinema Verite
  • Documentary’s driving ambition is to find a way of reproducing reality without bias or manipulation
  • But…such a pursuit towards actuality is futile (useless)
  • Why?
1 expository mode
1) Expository Mode
  • Filmmaker EXPLAINS a topic to the audience.
  • Nuclear Power
    • History
    • Background
    • interviews
direct address
Direct Address
  • On-screen narrator
  • Off-screen narrator
    • Voice of God
  • Text track as narrator
  • Guide through the topic for the audience
indirect address
Indirect Address
  • No direct address to audience
  • Visual – people talking about nuclear power
  • Visual – cutaways to pictures of Three Mile Island or some other nuclear accident site.
  • Expected to follow along!
  • Ken Burns…anything.
  • Auschwitz
  • Baraka
2 observational mode
2) Observational Mode
  • Audience feels as if they “are there”
  • “Fly on the wall”
  • Filmmaker tries to disappear
  • Minimum of editing
    • Little B-roll usage (cutaways to other stuff)
    • Little non-diegetic (soundtrack) sound

Often called “direct cinema”

  • Similar to C-SPAN or Big Brother
  • Might feel more “real”
  • High School
  • War Room
  • Spinal Tap
3 interactive mode
3) Interactive Mode
  • Filmmaker is heard (and seen) on screen
  • Subject of the film act differently because they KNOW a film is being made of them!
  • Also called cinema verite (cinema truth)
reality tv interactive
Reality TV = Interactive
  • Fear Factor
  • The Bachelor
  • The Apprentice
  • Other examples
  • Bowling for Columbine
  • Supersize Me
4 reflexive mode
4) Reflexive Mode
  • Film that is aware of itself AS a film
  • Documentaries that raise questions, problems, and dilemmas about the very act of creating a documentary!
  • Show the difficulties of making an unbiased documentary.
  • Most obscure
  • Man with a Movie Camera
mix of modes
Mix of Modes
  • Most documentaries are a MIX of many modes throughout.