What makes a documentary?
-- Events must be unstaged, independent of cinema, non-fiction staged to film
-- Conventionally non-fiction; real world activities
-- Assumes an objective record of real events by filmmakers; camera influences film event; techniques of camera and choices made in filming, like film in the camera and lens choice. These are subjective choices.
All films have selection and editing. There is objectivity, but all events are seen from some perspective. How do these selections manipulate and shape the event? Objective events are viewed through some perspective.
"Manipulation" of events = "propaganda"
Documentaries are classified according to the techniques used in filming:
1. Raw footage
5. Poetic - reflexive and performative
Iconistic and narrative films of fiction defines genre, but documentaries are categorized by the way they were shot.
1. Raw Footage
Footage that has been shot, but not edited in any way; the film that the film maker begins with
Ways to structure raw footage:
Narrative - telling a story
Arguementative - Michael Moore's "9/11" makes an arguement
Categorical - representing a category of reality; no arguement, no storytelling
Has a "voice of God" commentary, music, and a poetic perspective.
Has a didactic (teaching something) point of view.
Typical characteristics - authoritative commentary; voice is descriptive and informative; voice-over provides abstract information about pictures, or new information.
--Descriptive, Informative - some type of arguement
--Objectivity - images are visual evidence that illustrate, prove, or emotionally involve viewers
What's being presented is abstract. The film is a direct and transparent representation of the film.
--Belief in soundness of society
--Belief in state regulation
--No socialist or Marxists ideas
--Social middle class audience
--Governing elitist rhetoric--minority, not mass communication
Tonality - the tone the film addresses to you
Authoritative voice over
Objectivity on terms of rhetoric
Emphasizes movement and rhythm
Abstract film may be inserted into the documentary -- quicker shots
Not merely descriptive
Modernist or Formalistic aesthetics
Exploit transformative nature of film for social purposes
Aesthetic over narrative
Film is inherently ambiguous
3. Observational Documentary/Direct Cinema
Characterized by non-intervention of film maker
No "voice of God" narrative
No interviews, no intervention
Direct slice of life events
Film maker is invisible
Audience observes the unfolding of events in real time; long takes
Direct sound, recorded at the time of filming
"High School," 1968, by Frederick Wiseman
Nothing dramatic or unusual
'Intimate relation' to film events
Sense of place
Attempts to persuade it's an intimate slice of life
Focus on context
A transparent, neutral, non-judgmental record
Represents the ideal of observational cinema.
Implicit agenda, not exactly spelled out, but you can tell it's there.
"High School" focuses on conflict, discipline, and an emphasis on close-ups.
Wiener film about Jews shot on site is raw footage. Wiseman doesn't intervene in event footage.
4. Interactive Documentary/Cinema Verite
Makes film maker's presence obvious
Draws filmed people and events in with film maker
Primarily interviews that express opinions and views; may be juxtoppsed for conflict emphasis; film maker will edit shots and scenes together.
--The film maker will appear on screen and ask questions; will share the same filmed space
--Film maker may remain off screen; may or may not be able to hear the interview questions being asked; film maker's presence is less evident
Shows the process by which it is made; power relationship
Ethical questions of filming someone
Use of archieval footage
Manner the interviewees are treated; ways the questions are posed,
"Roger and Me" by Michael Moore is about Flint, Michigan after the auto worker jobs were moved to Mexico in the 1980s. Moore was not able to interview Roger Smith. Moore's social message is shown in juxtopposition of elite and those being evicted, rich and poor interviews
Critical commentary of film; purpose manipulates and misinterprets events
Chronology of events was questioned because events outside time frame of 1980s was included
Includes reflexive and performative styles
Open to interpretation