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Documentary in Depth - Essay Example

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a) ‘The aim of the documentary is to record cultural practices within their socio-political context as they unfold at the moment of film production. Because of its narrative subject the documentary is an artistic project dependent upon its self-awareness as a mode of representation.’ This is a critical discussion of the historical, political and social drives of the traditional documentary form as well as the role of the film maker…
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Documentary in Depth

Download file to see previous pages... This discussion borrows ideas from documentary theorists like Stella Bruzzi, Jonathan Kahana, Jane Roscoe and Craig Hight to name a few. The need to document ‘real’ events existed almost at the same time when motion picture as a medium of communication became an integral and quintessential part of human life. In its early stages, the primary intention and the subsequent benefit of recording a live action or event was the freedom it gave to have control over time, by either slowing it down, stopping it completely, or reversing it making the captured footage a substitute or an equivalent to a written document or text. This can be seen as early as 1900s when events like a prize fight or a surgery were captured on camera and stored as a valuable resource that could be used for future reference. The term ‘documentary’ has had a multitude of definitions and interpretations from various theorists at different points of time. According to Kahana ‘documentary has been understood as a form of democratic and social pedagogy’ (2008, p.1) and he agrees with Paul Rotha’s theory that since movie making technology along with social contradictions tend to hide the truth in various circumstances, documentaries could be used to convey a deeper or hidden meaning (Kahana, 2008, p.1). Bruzzi agrees with Peter Weiss’ argument in his book “The Materials and the Models” that ‘the purpose of documentary form is to extract from the material universal truths, to supply a historical context and to draw attention to other possible consequences of the events encompassed by the play’ (2000, p.9). In other words, through his/her film a documentary film maker represents the social and political structure that exists around them, also giving an insight in to how it has evolved to its present form and what the future might hold. This can be considered a binary process, one in which the film maker derives his/her material from the socio political circumstances and delivers it back to society in its contextualised form. The film maker thus serves as a medium for the raw material to arrive at truths and conclusions, motives or inherent causes. In simpler terms, the film maker becomes the voice which speaks on behalf of the ‘raw material’ (i.e. the social, political and historical context). The primary drawback however, of this analysis is that it becomes futile if the film maker and the viewer have misinterpreted the original meaning of the event which means that the actual truth of the recorded event has not transpired to the mind of the film maker and in turn the viewer (Bruzzi, 2000, p.9). People have been generally led to believe that the camera captures only the truth. The reason why people trust documentaries is the simple fact that they claim to present the truth as it is with no element of drama or fiction. Hence it is something which anyone can relate to in terms of their own lives and existence. Documentaries are supposed to depict the socio historical world in its purest and unpolished form. This would suggest that the images captured in a ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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