Documentary Reviews



I love Cactus. I got to see it in it’s rougher stages in class and it was nice to see the final cut at the screening. Hannah’s Grandpa is such a likeable character who has clearly led an extremely interesting and diverse life. There were a couple of things tweaked between the screenings and I think the film has improved for them.

I was left wanting to know more about Alec after he glanced across several aspects of his life and even had some minor interest in the Saint Kilda Cactus and Succulents club. How many such clubs exist and who knew there was such a thriving community. This was a simple, heartwarming and interesting story. The pacing was spot on and left me satisfied but curious.




Waves was a simple story, told well. I thought the Cinematography was wonderful and it was an absolute joy to watch. The very start of the documentary when the camera quality was ordinary had me thinking the film was going to be underwhelming, however I think it was a very clever move because it made the actual body of the film so spectacular. The editing together was really great and I think did a great job of capturing that draw the ocean holds on man.



Mosaic is a very timely film. In an Australia that (politically) suffers so much from the fear of the other it is great to see stories like this. The participants were such engaging, interesting characters who are valuable as individuals as well as how they enrich the broader community with the culture and personality they can inject. I also found the technical aspects of Mosaic great. The cinematography was certainly cinematic and sound quality great.


Chinese Whispers


I found the concept of this documentary really interesting and will be looking out for the episodes still to come. I like that you took the approach of teasing us with the broader concept but having the sense to focus on only one story for the purpose of this short. I also thought the production quality was really great; excellent sound and camera work.


It did take a little while for the concept to properly click and i’m not sure if that’s an issue or not. It certainly didn’t diminish my enjoyment but perhaps was a bit distracting at some points.

Colour grading exercise

Colour G 1Colour grading exercise.

To begin with I played with the grading on the shot of the dumpling baskets. It was the most obviously over exposed shot of our shoot to me and quite an iconic image for a story about dumplings and chinese culture.

I first wanted to warm the shot up and bring out the baskets so I drifted the master over towards the orange/yellow, section. Then I played with the brightness/contrast bringing them both down.

Colour G 2

I think this has a nice effect and more accurately resembled what I picture of steaming baskets when conjuring their image in my mind.

To contrast with these warmer tones I was also curious what taking it to a cooler place and then amping up the brightness/contrast would do. I took the master of the three way colour corrector towards the cyan/blues and then, as i said, amped up the contrast. I was surprised to find that I actually like the look of the cooler tones on this shot. The contrast might be a bit extreme – I don’t want it to have an obviously edited look.

Colour G 3


I then had a crack at another shot, this time with the dumplings in the basket out in the dining room – a vastly different lighting situation from the kitchen. This shot was taken in a much calmer setting so I think on a basic level the colours are pretty good.

colour G4With the first attempt at altering I just brought a little more blue in to give the shot a cooler look. Again I was surprised that I liked the blue tones through the image. I had just roamed around the circle seeing what I liked and I think because the yellows and oranges were brought out in quite a true way with the original shot it was nice to have a hint of blue come in.

I then lowered the brightness a little and upped the contrast a schmick. I am quite happy with the result. I think it helps to focus the eye on the details a bit more.

Colour G 5


Feeling confident using the master track, I decided to venture away from it in the second attempt and see what the effects were of bringing out the blue in the Shadows and highlights but bringing out a tiny bit of pink in the midtones. I decreased the brightness more so than the last attempt and hightened then contrast likewise.


colour g 6Similarly to the first attempt I think the contrast works well in highlighting more so the details of the image. I don’t think I like the greeny tinge to the image though so I think I’ll probably pursue the blues more in the final piece.

Going forward we’ll need to make a decision as to what kind of hues we want in the film. I think I am leaning a little more towards blue rather than orange/yellow now after this exercise. Time and time again in Film and TV I have learned that as soon as I actually take the time to give something a go, the task seems far less daunting and colour grading has been no exception! That being said, I think I wouldn’t want to underestimate the fastidiousness required to do a good job of it!



Film and TV Goals Reflection

I was absent from the first 2 weeks of class this semester so did not complete a formal goals/desires blog post. However, I did come into Film and TV 2 with a strong desire to familiarise myself with the camera. I had as yet, had nothing much to do with operating the camera through Film and TV 1 and Broadcast media and I wanted to finish up my degree with as much knowledge as I could in setting up and operating the camera.
I am really happy with the progress I have made. I now have an understanding of all the steps I must go through before pressing record (White Balance, Exposure, Gain, Focus etc) – which makes me feel a lot more competant! That being said, a lot of the routine of setting up got thrown out the window when shooting on the fly with our documentary subject. I took out the X3 and the Z7 early on in semester to play with the camera at home then I managed most of the filming on location for the documentary – something that would have been hugely daunting for me last semester. I can go forward knowing I have the basic skills required to further experiment and play with filming and hopefully be of use in a professional setting in the future!

I had also wanted to take advantage of the resources available to us at RMIT like access to the Lynda tutorials and ensuring I was involved in the editing process- gaining skills in Premiere Pro. I have found the Lydna tutorials really useful and wish I had time to watch more of them. As it was the “Documentary Editing with Premier Pro” was hugely helpful in making cutting a rough cut together an efficient process, particularly learning that I could scrub through footage in the thumbnails and being more relaxed about just grabbing the basic idea of something. It was also prompted me to focus on cutting together a visual story first and then worrying about the narrative. This goes against every instinct I have but i think sped progress along and gave me a framework to bare in mind when it came to editing the narrative (how much footage vs narrative we have to work with etc.)

My goals for this semester were quite simple: I wanted to work on someone else’s idea to enable me to consentrate on enhancing my technical and practical skills. After writing the script in Film and TV1 I wasn’t ever able to step away from worrying about the story and focus on other things so it was nice to have the opportunity to acquire new skills. I also wanted to make sure I was involved in the editing process because I hadn’t had the opportunity time wise to contribute anything of any use last semester to the process. I am happy with the progress I have made through the semester and am looking forward to developing my skills further in future projects!

Film and TV 2 – Week 3 Reading – Aesthetics and Authorship

Rabiger, M. Direction the documentary, (p. 54-57). 4th ed. Burlington:Focal Press, 2004

Rabiger discusses the different modes of documentary storytelling referencing both Renov and Nichols break downs. In Nichols’ definition of his 6th category, Performative Documentary he highlights the characteristics as “concrete and embodied, based on the specifics of personal experience, in the tradition of poetry, literature, and rhetoric.” This struck me as a style to be considerate of when approaching our documentary (tentatively titled ‘Adulthood’). My group members seem to be very interested in pursuing an abstract take on the documentary and I think it will be useful in informing the narrative structure to recognize that we will be asking participants to reminisce  and/or articulate their own personal conception of adulthood and we want the abstraction to be grounded in something. (is that an contradiction of terms?!)

The other message I took from the reading was that while there are different modes of documentary, you don’t need to be bound by the characteristics of any one mode; you can assemble and personalise the stylistic qualities depending on your motive.





Film and TV1 Film reviews

I was really impressed with all of the films on Friday night. I thought all of the films had great moments in them and it was wonderful to see what we’re already capable of.



I enjoyed Milk. The simplicity of the story was great and I think where the strength of the comedy lay. I particularly enjoyed the milk slowly spreading across the floor and the suspense of the last two points connecting.

The actors were all great. It was shot really well – I am jealous of the motion shots of the guy on the scooter – they were really impressive.

I don’t have any criticism, I really admire the restraint in allowing the story to be as simple as it was and having fun with it.



The idea was great and writing to such an idea was ambitious! I would have liked to have seen more of the rapping and him trying to negotiate around the curse to actually communicate effectively at the end. I realise that that is a challenging thing to write though. The casting was good and the shots were done well. Was it a decision of production design to have the sheet over the bookshelf in his room? I found that a little distracting.

I think the story could have been a little bit more developed or the editing could have been a little tighter but for the most part I was impressed and found it to be an enjoyable film.


A Love Lost:

This has come along well from the rough cut screening. I am glad that it has been simplified and some of the special effects over the transitions have been removed. It’s enabled the shots to speak for themselves more.

Granny Theft Auto:

This was also good fun. I think it lingered a little too long on the boys sitting inside the car and I think it was a little too confusing as to what they were doing. I get the comedic element of wanting to reveal the second car at the last minute but I got quite distracted by why these boys would have broken into this car to just sit there. The casting was great and there was excellent character development with the Tiffany & Co necklace exchange.


I really liked the opening shot of this with the three running away from the camera through the field. I thought that was really beautifully shot. Like some of the other reviews, I do think the story seemed more to belong as a scene within a longer film rather than a self contained plot. I thought the producers did a great job in creating the illusion of the bomb shelter, it’s a bit of a shame that some of the elements roused laughter when maybe they weren’t supposed to.


HOFT How Film Theory got lost

Ray. Robert B “How a film Theory got Lost.” How a Film Theory got Lost and Other Mysteries in Cultural Studies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001. 1-14

Ardono defined the history of film theory when he defined cinema as “the crossroads of magic and positivism:? Or a more succinct definition of film theory’s traditional project than to “break the spell” p2

Ray discusses the influence of cinema on the rest of society. That major businesses like Ford and General Motors started to employ cinematic strategy when they realised that enchantment sells. Back to cinema, Eisenstien alligned himself with the artistic principles of pictorialism; the movement that sought to legitimize photography by discusing its images as paintings. While not succumbing to the retrograde qualities he did subscribe to it’s fundamental premise: “that a medium’s aesthetic value is a direct function of its ability to transform the reality serving as its raw material.” p 3 “the artist-critic whose writings create the taste by which his own aesthetic practice is judged.”p3

Cinema afforded the artist editing, and montage enabled the director to manipulate the narrative. “less than ever does the mere reflection of reality reveal anything about reality… something must in fact be built up, something artificial posed.” p4 “Eisenstein had a thoroughly linguistic view of filmmaking, with shots amounting to ideograms, which, when artfully combined, could communicate the equivalent of sentences.” p5

Photogenie has an obvious connection to fetishism. “To endow with a poetic value that which does not yet possess it, to willfully restrict the field of vision so as to intensify expression: these are two properties that help make cinematic decor the adequate expression of modern beauty.”


Bazin contested the school of German and Soviet cinema saying that they “had betrayed this sacred purpose by “putting their faith in the image’ instead of in reality, convulsing the camera’s objectivity with abstracting montages and grotesque mise-en-scene”pg 8 “With photography, Bazin kept insisting, an absolutely accurate representation of the world could be produced, for the first time in history, by accident. This miraculous revelatory power made the Soviet or Expressionist imposition of subjective meanings seem a kind of misguided vanity.” p8

Directors like Welles and Wyler relied on long takes and deep focus, they had modestly permitted reality to speak for itself.


mise-en-scene “But at the heart of the Cashiers position lay a priviledged term that evoked both photogenie’s ineffability and the Surrealists’ “objective chance”. The term was mise-en-scene”.p9

“For me, mise-en-scene is not merely the gap between what we see and feel on the screen and what we can express in words, but is also the gap between the intention of the director and his effect upon the spectator…” pg9

“this paradigm accomplished wonderful things, above all alerting us to popular culture’s complicities with the most destructive, enslaving, and ignoble myths.”p12

“In the new dispensation, occassional film theorist Fredric Jameson would acknowledge that the appeal of beautiful and exciting storytelling is precisely the problem.” p12

“the most important debates in film theory will turn on the extreme path-dependence Barthes saw constraining the humanities.”

“Can the rational, politically sensitive Eisenstein tradition reunite with the Impressionist-Surrealist interest in photogenie and automatism? Can film theory, in other words, imitate filmmaking and recognize that, at it’s best, the cinema requires, as Thalberg understood, a subtle mixture of logical structure and untraslatable allure? Can film theory revive the Cahiers-Vouvelle Vague experiment, learning to write differently, to stage its research in the form of a spectacle?” p 13



HOFT Jean Epstein, “On Certain Characteristics of Photogene”

Epstein, Jean. “On Certain Characteristics of Photogenie.” French Film Theory and Criticism 1907-1939. Vol. 1: 1907 – 1029. Ed Richard Abel. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1988. 314-18

“The art of cinema has been called “photogenie” by Louis Delluc. The word is apt, and should be preserved. What is photogenie? I would describe as photogenie any aspect of things, beings or souls whose moral character is enchanced by filmic reproduction. And any aspect not enchanced by filmic reproduction is not photogenie, plays no part in the art of cinema.”314 – Figures given last weeks readings discussing Truffaut and the French New Wave, with Truffaut’s fascination with real people, I think it infers his fascination with capturing realistic moral character in his stories. “I now specify: only mobile aspects of the world, of things and souls, may see their moral value increased by filmic reproduction.”p 315

Epstein goes onto discuss Time as the fourth dimension, the fourth spatial dimension. “The mind travels in time, just as it does in space.” p315 “Photogenie mobility is a mobility in this space-time system, a moblity in both space and time. We can therefore say that photogenie aspect of an object is a consequence of its variations in space-time. ” p316 “To the elements of perspective employed in drawing, the cinema adds a new perspective in time.”p 316

“To things and beings in their most frigid semblance, the cinema thus grants the greatest gift unto death. Life. And it confers this life in its highest guise: personality.” 317

“Personality goes beyond intelligence. Personality is the spirit visible in things and people, their heredity made evident, their past become unforgettable, their future already present. Every aspect of the world, elected to life by the cinema, is so elected only on condition that it has a personality of its own. This is the second specification which we can now add to the rules of photogenie. I therefore suggest that we say: only mobile and personal aspects of things, beings, and souls may be photogenic: that is, acquire a higher moral value through filmic reproduction.” 317



Francois Truffaut: The New Wave’s Ringleader

Neupert, Richard John. “Francois Truffaut: The New Wave’s Ringleader.” A History of the French New Wave Cinema. University of Wisconsin Press 2007, 161-206

Both Truffaut and Goddard were the champions of French New Wave cinema. Each auteur brought their own school of filmmaking within the movement and proved that “they too, could display personal stories and styles that fit within their own calls for a “cinema in first person” p161 in opposition to the cold and calculating “tradition of quality” Truffaut strives for a realism of characters – the vilans are still sympathetic, the actors are allowed to play and react naturally, sound is captured while filming in an uncontrolled way.

Truffaut wasn’t afraid of injecting elements of his personal life into his film in his endeavour to capture life. “Truffaut’s interviews and articles usually stressed the parallels between his artistic output and his personal insight, further fuelling a fascination with Truffaut the individual and making his private life highly pertinent to the critical understanding of his films.” p 162 Truffaut has said of Antoine in The 400 Blows that the character is modelled on his own childhood. The respect with which he treats the character Antoine is something that has secured the films place in history. Truffaut is interested in representing children without condescension. Truffaut would use real people rather than actors within his film and play with the techniques afforded him by technology. “While the film has a very rapid pace by New Wave standards, with an ASL of 7.6 seconds, it nonetheless contains some wonderfully long takes that exploit the camera’s mobility and the deep focus possible with outdoor shooting.” p168

French New Wave was born out of the film critics turned directors and the influence of years of dissecting the films of others and identifying dissatisfaction with the medium is obvious. Truffaut was influenced broadly from the neorealist directors to American Gangster films.

Neupert discusses Truffaut’s stylistic traits:

“These stylistic traits of shooting minimally on location, employing natural acting rhythms, and alternating long takes with short, self-conscious stylistic flourishes will prove typical throughout Truffaut’s career.” 175

“This mix of tones permeates the movie, creating a casual, comic style that defies narrative unity.” 176

“One final story trait that will recur in Truffaut’s oeurve is the goodnatured way he places children at the center of his narratives. As Annette Insdorf notes, Tuffaut’s films “constitute a vision of childhood unequaled in the history of the cinema for sensitivity, humour, poignancy, and respect for children themselves.” p176

“One of the most significant sequences for understanding Truffaut’s distinctive plot and mise-en-scene tactics is the series of shots that make up the day when Antoine and Rene play hooky, ride the rotor, and run across Antoine’s mother kissing the other man. This scene displays Truffaut’s versatility, with sudden shifts in Jean Constantine’s jaunty jazz themes, a mix of camer and editing techniques, and a loose sequencing of shots, often placed end-to-end rather than building classical unity.” p185

“Like a jazz score, the film has it’s own unique structure, and it is not unusual for first-time viewers to be simultaneously impressed and confused by its meandering narrative and ironic tone.” p 198 (shoot the piano player)

“Moreover, by situation this love triangle between 1912 silent film footage and 1930s newsreels of the rise of Nazism, Truffaut connects personal and political history with the cinema, reinforcing his recurring motif of the potential for movies to help the viewer understand his or her own real-world life.” p204

Truffaut was a fan of moral ambiguity in his characters:

“If the director has a definite moral viewpoint to express, it is to obscure that the visual amorality and immorality of the film are predominant and consequently pose a serious problem for a mass medium of entertainment” p202

“It was precisely the brazen amorality of Moreau’s Catherine, reinforced by the passive acquiescence of the men, that triggered initial thematic discussions of Truffaut’s film.” p202


HOFT Readings WK 1 Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, or the Sea, Antoine, the Sea…

Conomos, John. “Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, or the Sea, Antoine, the Sea…” Senses of Cinema 6 (May 2000), (accessed Feb 26 2013)

“I still retain from my childhood a great anxiety, and the movies are bound up with an anxiety, with an idea of something clandestine.” – Francois Truffaut

The 400 Blows was Truffaut’s debut feature film, was previewed out of competition on May 4th, 1959 at the Cannes Film Festival. Truffaut got his start as one of the critics of Cashiers du Cinema.

“Truffaut, amongst his peers inclduing Godard, Chabrol, Rivette, Rozier, Demy and Rohmer, regarded the screenplay as the essentail stage of filmmaking.”

Maybe the natural progression out of the silent film era to realise the potential of scripting in film.

The French New wave introduced the world the the auteur. “The filmmaker/author writes with his camera as a writer writes with his pen.” Introducing art and real life into the world of cinema. Truffaut and his contemporaries were the first to explore the “mundane” life of the every man, exposing the beauty in life as it is, rather than as it is imagined. “A cinema that speaks of ordinary experiences and situations, fragile individuals, daily recognisable language and emotions where the director displays a non-superior relationship to his characters.”

“Truffaut forged a highly personal cinema that owed a lot also to Bazin’s spatial realism and is crucially sympathetic to the fluid and ambiguous realit of the portrayed characters, their beauty, sadness, desire, timidity and loss. Consequently, French New Wave films value a cinema that does not follow in the steps of an “old cinema”, but instead features the human sensibility of the director-writer creating an art that is noted for its spontaneity, improvisation and obsessions.”

My experience of French New Wave is quite limited but this makes me think of Goddard’s Vivre sa vie in Intro to Cinema studies where it struck me that rather than capturing the extaordinary events in his characters lives, Goddard was instead depicting the every day in between these defining events, which was such a departure to everything else i’ve seen. To have auteurs preoccupied with representing life as it is and seeing the beauty in that is really refreshing to see on screen, even today. I think it also speaks to the evolution of storytelling since, where indie films and more and more mainstream films are giving us characters we can relate to more and more… maybe i’m just starting to bullshit now. Anyway I want to watch more French New Wave to appreciate it more. Particularly Breathless and would love to watch Vivre Sa Vie again.

“The 400 Blows, along with Les Mistons (1975), The Wild Child (1969 and Small Change (1969) represent one of the most tender and loving depictions of childhood in cinema. Truffaut’s characteristic sensitive and non-sentimental view of his children characters denotes a respect for children living in a difficult world made by adults.” – apparently Rossellini’s Germany, Year Zero (1947) influenced Truffaut and significantly informs Truggaut’s hypnotically moving debut feature.

“As Antoine flees, we hear his feet running along the country road: the sound has a hypnotic rhythym which expresses Antoine’s sensuous delight in being free, a freedom rooted in the everydayness of his life and its simple pleasures. As Antoine descends a set of steps onto the beach we are already on the beach savouring the enchantment Antoine experiences as he rushes towards the sea. In the sea, Antoine’s footsteps are erased suggesting a new beginning of selfaffirmation. And when Antoine turns towards us, Truffaut’s camera zooms in an d freezes his face, forcing us to contemplate the lyrical dialectic and its paradoxical tension between the still of his face and the kinetic nature of the film medium itself, and forcing us, as Douchet suggests, to react morally concerning Antoine and his own world. This impulse of Truffaut’s to capture and animate as his camera consummately freezes or tracks his characters recalls, as Annette Insdorg points out, the unmistakable texture of the romantic poet John Keats.


Truffaut’s passionate beliefe that cinema “is an indirect art… it conceals as much as it reveals.”


Film and TV1 – Rolling response

In 300 words or less describe what you thought worked or didn’t. At this stage we don’t expect you to have a great deal of film knowledge or language. Don’t be afraid to use your own words. Things you could talk about – script, casting, timing, camera movement, location. You may not remember much detail, if so, it could be helpful to talk about your first impressions, after all this is what most of us are left with after one viewing.

I really enjoyed Rolling. I thought it was a simple idea well executed. The script was great in that it managed to give exactly enough information without feeling like there was exposition taking up precious time which I guess ties in with my impression of timing which I thought was really excellent.

Camera movement could use a little work, I thought the tracking shot at the very begging was a bit distracting, especially without control over the lighting of the set. I think the production design also could have benefited with a bit more thought, the signs were a little distracting – it wasn’t obvious whether they were meant to be written by the protagonist or his housemates.

I thought the casting of the guy was great, he conveyed the energy of the character really well. The girl was a little less convincing for me. I wasn’t quite sure exactly what she was trying to convey, whether she was trying to be super earnest or whether she was supposed to know exactly what was going on and toying with him.

Overall though I found it really enjoyable and very impressive. I’d be thrilled if our film was as effective!