Analysis/Reflection 3, Q2

Select from one of the readings and briefly describe two points that you have taken from it. Points that excite you, something that was completely new to you. (Please put a full stop when you return so we get a paragraph break. Makes it easier to read.)

Rabiger, M. Directing the documentary.

  1. Interviewing is not as straightforward as it appears.

    During our discussions, my group and I tend to focus on the technical aspects of our documentary production, e.g. visuals, sound design. How should we frame the interviewees? What angle should we shoot from?

    In hindsight, I think those are less important factors when compared to the heart of our story, in which interviews play a crucial role. Rabiger highlights how important and difficult it is to conduct a successful interview. It goes beyond a simple Q&A; it’s more like a meticulous extraction of material, of stories, and of feelings. One of the ways to go about that is to think of myself as a “catalyst”, as Rabiger puts it. Interviewing requires skill and empathy. In fact, it requires more than that. As an interviewer, I am an intruder, and I am asking for details of a person’s private life, thoughts and feelings. I might even have to cross some boundaries. In such, I have to be sensitive, yet brave. I have to forge relationships. Since that might take time, I have to be patient as well. There is so much more to the interview process than I’d imagined.

  2. The truth that isn’t.

    The truth about truth is that it isn’t entirely true – in Rabiger’s words, “truth is always provisional and to some extent fictionalized”. This was a particularly interesting revelation to me. I always operated on the notion that documentaries were 100% factual, true, real. But Rabiger is right: while a documentary might aspire to be a “truthful record”, some truths are inevitably suppressed and some, elevated. This really is unavoidable. From the get-go, the director must have decided he wanted to present a certain issue in his documentary in a specific light. (He also could have made the decision during and/or after production.)

    For example, I recently watched No End in Sight, a 2007 documentary critisizing the American occupation in Iraq (extremely insightful documentary – I highly recommend it!). Clearly, the director Charles Ferguson had decided to present the American occupation in Iraq in a negative and critical light. He crafted his interviews based on that and chose participants with congruous opinions. As such, Ferguson might have left out certain details that might have been crucial but weren’t in line with his film. Similarly, with John Pilger’s Utopia, Pilger lambasted the Australian government over its treatment of the Aborginal people, but was criticized for his lack of objectivity.

    So, I misunderstood documentaries a little and it was interesting for me to find out documentaries, while non-fiction, are not entirely factual all the time and are skewed for the most part. There is also the element of embedded values. We might operate or produce the documentary based on some normalized values and/or stereotypes. Rabiger urges that we don’t have to strive to be politically correct 100% of the time; instead, he suggests we simply “avoid feeding into whatever is still considered normal and just shouldn’t be”. He also adds a list of questions we could ask ourselves during the research process to avoid reduce inaccurate presumptions – will be using that! Really helpful.

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