Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Documentary 'mini task'

Documentary ‘mini task’
Documentary is a widespread term that comes in various different forms in television and film, all of that include an element of presentation and reality. They document information on a certain subject chosen and deliver that to the audience in different forms. The different forms are used to show the subject in a different light, these types can strengthen the authenticity or weaken it.

Expository Documentary
Incorporates a voiceover which directly addresses the audience on what is happening in the documentary, to give a narrative to the images and not an opinion. Truths and influences are given by the voiceover which some may argue is forcing some sort of opinion onto the audience on how to think of the accompanying images, which therefore could distract from the authenticity. Images that are informative and descriptive are used to aid the voiceover, the main effect of an expository documentary is that is gives a direct and clear representation of the subject presented. This can be shown for example in ‘Wild China BCC Documentary’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtQqQtcqA2o&list=PLFC0617F4B1D65266 The voiceover is giving facts about the Panda in this sequence, of the specific diet while there is an image on the screen of the Panda eating, this is where the image aids the voiceover by backing up the point the voiceover has given. The voiceover informing the audience that the Panda has sensitive hearing and that it will be gone before anyone can see it and there again the moving image is the Panda hearing a noise and being on the move, the images complimenting the voiceover. ‘1 meter and a half long and 135 kilograms the Panda is part of the bear family’ This is a quote to show the voiceover giving descriptive and clear information of the subject. A phrase the voiceover uses ‘it’s body is built for eating meat not this tough fibre stuff’ this is where it can be seen to distract from the authenticity and form an opinion over the audience, however also is evident of an expository documentary because it captions the images presented. This type of documentary I find to be more realistic due to the facts told by the narrative and the accurate footage of the subject that mainly consists of cuts, therefore cuts tend to make it seem less edited and more realistic. 

Observational Documentary
In an observational documentary the director/filmmaker is not visible from the audience’s perspective; they present a partition of life from an uninvolved point of view. The opinion of the director/filmmaker is more unnoticed and therefore could be argued as more realistic as it doesn’t expose an opinion on the audience. Observational documentaries present a clear view of events which is non-judgemental, therefore gives the audience a choice to decide what to think from the text and more of an intimate and exposed look on the topic. This is evident in the documentary called ‘Rough Aunties’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCvqt1XDB9U This includes no input of the filmmakers/directors it is as if the subject is being filmed without instructions and this strengthens the authenticity as it seems not as constructed. It observes the life style of these women who work to protect and care for the abused, neglected and forgotten children of Durban, South Africa. Even though there is no involvement of the producers there is text at the start that informs the audience of what is happening, however that is only shown at the start. Furthermore through the documentary there is no visible involvement of the director/filmmaker which gives the audience an opportunity to interpret how this documentary makes them think/feel towards the subject. I believe this to be one of the most realistic formats of a documentary due to the observational side of recording, less constructed shots and also no narrative point of view, it is up to the audience to decide what to think of this. It also shows accurate footage, as it is seen to be unplanned shots, we could perhaps assume the directors are unaware of what they will be finding out, therefore unaware of what shots to include.

Here you see the text on the screen informing the audience
of facts, instead of the director/filmmaker being present.

Interactive Documentary
The filmmaker is present and they are participating in the documentary, there is an interaction between the presenter and the people they are interviewing also including the audience. Agendas are current and the text is manipulated through the use of the editing, accusations that the text is misrepresented and not a legitimate assessment; however that is defended by the filmmakers because the actual image is more focused on than the fine detail of the subject. An example of where this is evident is in Ross Kemp’s Extreme World Documentaries, this documentary is about the poverty and black community in Memphis and what violence is consistent and why. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRUGpQ04EdE.
This text shows the filmmaker is participating in the documentary by being in the shots and giving information and evidence on the subject, keeping it in concise and clear detail. The presenter has a key connection with the interviewer and then involves the audience by using phrases like ‘What some people may say is…’ making the interviewee include what the audiences opinion could be. However this could be seen as a type of manipulation because giving opinions of what the audience might think is then placing an opinion that forces the audience to think this. There is a large amount of footage showing the very bad and abandoned side but that seems to be the only side that is shown this could be said to misrepresent the subject, however could be defended that it was for the ‘image’ as the image is more focused on than the actual subject. This text also includes arguments on the subjects however the presenter takes a look at one side of the people on the streets and then takes the other side of the argument by meeting and interviewing the district attorney. This format is seen to come across less realistic due to the use of constructed shots and background sound, it also includes the narrative's opinion and that is delivered through the use of the presenter and their reactions are questionable, whether it be their actual reaction or what they have to react like. 

The filmmaker present and participating in the documentary

Possible manipulated agenda by only showing the negative
side of the story possible criticized as not legitimate

Planned camera shots shows how the subject is less focused on
and it's more about what the image and presentation looks like

Interaction between the presenter and the people, interviews
showing a slice of the truth from a more authentic perspective

Showing one side of the argument on the subject

Here showing the other side of the argument 

Involving the audience with the people being interviews and possibly
manipulating the audiences opinion and trying to make them
think a certain way about the subject.

Reflexive Documentary
In a reflexive documentary the director/filmmaker tries to expose the truths of the documentary to the audience, the documentary shows the constructions of the text and also the investigations of the text. The documentary will consist of various shots that capture ‘day to day life’ but they can be shown as ‘a’ truth and not ‘the’ truth, to form a certain viewpoint of the topic that can be presented to the audience. This is shown through Koyaanisqatsi – reverse, this documentary is about life and the balance we have and sometimes do not have - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5Hr1C62Smk. This is a reflexive documentary because the text consists of shots that have captured day to day life. For example there are images of people going to work and actually working, which then cuts to something completely different therefore shows the text is constructed and experimented with to compliment the soundtrack. Some may argue that the music distracts from the authenticity and the planned shots could hide an element of truth. On the other hand the footage seems realistic because it’s different each time and there is truth in the images just not so much the way it is presented. However this also makes it unbiased with no opinion forced onto the audience, this could be seen as a positive because the audience can make up their own opinions on it, although negative because there is no backbone and lacks meaning. This type of format is arguably realistic by capturing day to day life without a narrative, the footage speaks for itself and therefore it is what the audience interprets that makes it more accurate. However the sound track is questionable because it could make the audience feel a certain way about the images on screen, due to what type of pace the music is on, overall I believe this is fairly accurate without delivering facts and figures. 
Filming everyday life to expose the honest truth, capturing
legitimate everyday life images.

This is another shot that shows everyday like but possibly 'a' truth
instead of 'the' truth

Performative Documentary
A performative documentary includes re-enactments and hyperbolic camera position, the music used is to make the audience feel a type of way, whether it is tense sound to build tension or upbeat sounds to invite happiness. It aims to present the subject in an expressive and suggestive way. It represents the world indirectly and has more focus on the presentation rather than content. An example of this is the documentary on Serial Killers - Myra Hindley & Ian Brady (The Moors Murderers) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2n8mI2LOKA. In this documentary there is use of re-enactments to construct a visual understanding for the audience, this may be criticised because it could misrepresent real events and force the audience to have a certain look on the situation and sympathise for who the filmmaker wants you to sympathise for. In addition re-enactments are used to show the audience visually the events which took place and to give them a deeper understanding. The use of showing real pictures and evidence of the subject’s existence adds to the authenticity and makes the audience trust the documentary, additionally reinforces the idea that a performative documentary has more emphasis on presentation and the image on the screen than the actual content. Using the images also aims to present the subject in an expressive and emotive way. They interview an author of a book that took an insight into the subject and a screen writer of a film on the subject also spoke to people who knew the subjects and this increased the authenticity of the documentary because they are getting their information from somewhere legitimate. This type of format is arguably the least realistic due to the format name itself  'performative' sounds constructed and emphasised, however there is a realistic side to the documentary, these documentaries usually include reliable sources of information, for instance the example that was used earlier about the serial killers, they spoke to family members and old neighbors that could give them concrete evidence of what these people were like. However the use of re-enactments and a soundtrack potentially distracts from that reality, and makes it more of a entertainment programme and arguably more 'film like' than an accurate and believable documentary.

Using an image of the subject creates stronger authenticity

Focusing on the presenting of the subject by showing a certain
side of the subject to make the audience think/feel a certain
way about the subject.

Here is a re-enactment this is to make the audience have
a greater understanding of events that did truly take place.
However the re-enactment could warp the realistic
events and therefore weakens the authenticity.

The Conclusion 

To conclude, the format I find to be most effective in presenting an accurate and realistic documentary is an observational documentary, due to the fact that is observes the truth and presents it in a non opinionated light. The shots are not as constructed as other documentaries formats, the only constructed shots are interviews which still comes across as realistic due to the questions asked which don't seem to be planned either, due to the spontaneous language used with fillers and filled pauses. I believe all documentary film makers should be completely honest, otherwise it defeats the object of the documentation of the truth, however I do understand why performative and expository documents are proven to be popular, it is always more entertaining to add a soundtrack and stretch the truth to make it sound better, although it does sell successfully, I believe it distracts from the reality of documentary film making.

1 comment:

  1. Alana,

    This is a good post - you have understood the differences between the different formats and you have found your own relevant examples for those formats.

    Add some detail in each paragraph about how real / accurate / truthful you find each format to be and say why. Also, add a short conclusion saying which format you like the best /find to be the most honest / accurate. Do you think filmmakers should only tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?