Analysis/Reflection #4, Q4

Select from one of the readings and briefly describe two points that you have taken from it. Points that interest you, something you could apply to your own documentary.

Pawel Pawlikowski. In MacDonald, K & Cousins, M. Imagining reality, (p. 389-392). London: Faber & Faber, 1996.

What I seem to have learned about documentaries for the past few weeks has been: documentaries are not 100% reality, i.e. they’re not as objective as they seem to be. I don’t mean that in a negative way. I think when I first started Film-TV 2, I had the naive impression that documentaries were entirely objective, that depicted reality as is. However, they are often subject to the directors’ vision, values and beliefs, and can be far from objective. In fact, objectivity doesn’t exist at all – anywhere in the world. It is but an old myth, a dated polemic.

Pawlikowski makes very solid points in this reading. He says filmmakers ought to concentrate on ‘form’ and their ‘personal vision’ instead of simply ‘record reality’. He does not aspire to produce ‘objective’ documentaries – because god knows those don’t exist! – but to ‘show it as [he] sees it and to find a form which is relevant’. Documentaries ought to ‘disturb and show reality to be surprising, ambiguous, paradoxical, tragic, grotesque, beautiful’. What he essentially suggests is filmmakers should bring a sort of boldness to their documentaries. Be daring, instead of ‘objective’.

One director that springs to mind is controversial American filmmaker Michael Moore. In one of his films, Capitalism: A Love Story, he vehemently criticises capitalism and the current economic order in the States. And he does it in trademark Moore fashion – tackling a serious and contentious issue with humour and irony, but in an aggressive, uncompromising manner. This is immediately evident from the opening scene where Moore accompanies CCTV footage of bank robberies with an Iggy Pop song, Louie Louie.

The communist world is fallin’ apart
The capitalists are just breakin’ hearts
Money is the reason to be
It makes me just wanna sing Louie Louie

Moore later brings in religion, condemning capitalism from a Catholic vantage. The documentary, in its entirety, was based on Moore’s Catholic upbringing and personal beliefs – that capitalism is evil, immoral, and against the teachings of Jesus. Religion isn’t quite ‘objective’, but Moore brought it in because, like Pawlikoski said, documentaries should be shown as the director sees it, through whichever form he feels is most relevant.

The topic of my documentary isn’t as controversial, but this reading has urged me to present Mr Wong in more surprising and unexpected ways. His story is a dime a dozen in Australia: man with dreams comes to Australia in the hopes of setting up a better life for him and his family. He works hard, he makes sacrifices, he succeeds. What’s new? How is this one Chinese migrant different from the thousand others? I want to explore his idiosyncrasies, I want to present him in utmost honesty. I don’t want this to be just another trite migrant story.

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