Growing up I was a child who was raised on films. I watched and re-watched my favorite films, day in and out when I could. I did this because the films that I grew up with captured my imagination at a young age, and I sought out to make or recreate the things I saw anyway I could. As I grew older I began to understand the art of storytelling at a deeper level, I no longer watched films for the sole purpose of being amazed and to be filled with wonder, I looked to deconstruct and find the meanings or the intentions the filmmakers had when creating their work of art. Some of them never had their intentions explicitly delivered things were always implied and I had to form my own interpretation of what I was seeing, which was always fun because now if I saw something that interpreted differently from someone else neither of us could really prove each other wrong, what was ours was ours.
What this ultimately was is that I began to hear voices in the films I was watching, and not just of the actors who are performing, but also the presence of the filmmaking, and this got me completely hooked on storytelling, and it led to me consuming different platforms of stories, like comic books, video games, music etc. However I never followed the route of documentary films wile I was on this path. I’ve seen a few documentaries, and from my experiences my notions of what a documentary and its intentions are, was that they are history pieces that primarily exist to explore and provide the audience with information about a particular era. I never sought the experience of documentaries unless there was a topic the interested me.
Early this year I was asked two questions, ‘can something be poetic and political?’ and ‘what’s wrong with simply observing the world?’ These two questions asked by my course projects observe documentaries and unpack them as I did with all the other stories I consumed. Through this assessment and course I was exposed to documentaries that are not just as expositional narratives, but also ones that have strong views an opinions about a topic and seek to enforce change in the world.
My eyes were opened to and shifted my perspective and I began to see documentaries as an effective, if not the most effective, platform to invoke action simply because they do not have the baggage that fiction films carry. What I mean by that is that fiction films can try to comment or send a message to the world regarding an issue, but at the end of the day from experiences they have done very little to get my engaged in a topic. I used the film Avatar (2009) by James Cameron as an example, the film tried to comment on the environmental issues of our world and their causes, but what I and many others walked away from was a visual treat as opposed to a political film.
Comparing this experience to that of the film Blackfish which documented the abuse and captivity that orca’s or killer whales while they are kept in Sea World, shed some light on how badly these animals a handled and exposed Sea World as a dreadful place and suddenly I as a viewer gained a new perspective. This place Sea World that was linked to a time in childhood that filled me with joy is know a place that I am disgusted by and if I had the power I would shut it down. This experience made me realise the power of documentaries, but most importantly to be a documentary filmmaker one has to have a different voice to that of a traditional filmmaker. Its not only important to have something to say but also knowing how you want to say.