“For the viewer or reader, details and events can seem clear, linear, straightforward, and factual. And yet a false logic can occur: the absence of any contradiction and the invisibility of the writer or marker often lead us to confer unquestioned objectivity, truth, and facticity to the account.” (p. 5, 2017, Fox)
The above from Reimagining Documentary is a great starting point for me today, having finished up our interview with Enza, author of The Bridge. Enza’s novel is partly based upon the Westgate bridge collapse, and as a result, she has undergone some rather extensive research on the topic, which she spoke about in our interview. This interview was great because in this case, our documentary participant was a storyteller herself who has been researching the same topic we have been. Enza mentioned that throughout the research process she came across countless contradictions in the witness testimonies, news articles and various books on the topic of the Westgate. This was not so much a challenge for her as it was a realisation that the concept of the ‘truth’ is a very messy thing which doesn’t really exist in the perfect way we may want it to. For Enza, she had to put together all of these accounts and use them to influence her fictional work which she sought to be somewhat representational but not necessarily exactly factually true to the events of the collapse.
This insight is something that is very useful to us. The thing about the open space documentary concept is that we don’t need to be concerned with attaining this more authorial version of the ‘truth’. Instead, we can merge these different stories and create a collaborative account of the events. To attain a linear account of the ‘truth’ is something that would be very difficult to accomplish, and I don’t think that I would want to do that, because of the reasons that Fox describes. It is deceitful in a sense, because stories like the Westgate which reflect a multifaceted history, do not constitute these kinds of linear and factual histories. There are certainly some elements which are factual – the bridge definitely fell, for example. However, there are so many accounts that to summarise them into one linear account is so ambitious that it wouldn’t really be possible.
So that is really where I’m at this week. Listening to a storyteller like Enza has taught me more about what the reality of storytelling is: subject to many different perspectives and without any singular “truth”.
Fox, B 2017, ‘A Brief History of Documentary Movements and Modes’ in Documentary Media: History, Theory, Practice, Routledge