© 2014 ellathompson


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.)

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

(There seems to be a common theme in these readings: cynical filmmakers fearing and lamenting the premature change of their beloved art-form.)

What I like about this is that the writer underscores the importance of personal vision in filmmaking. He doesn’t pretend that documentary can achieve objectivity – or that the best approach to documentary is one which interferes as little as possible with things. He emphasises the value in constructing form, which can “salvage” the documentary from otherwise becoming a “meaningless glut” of images. This is contrary to the Tobias reading (The search for reality : the art of documentary filmmaking), which essentially laments the ‘unfortunate’ pairing of paradoxical forms – film (contrived, constructed, disruptive) and documentary (real, recorded, uncontrived). I completely agree with Pawlikowski on this. Whether we want to or not, we adopt a perspective when we make a film. It is impossible not to. And it’s one of the greatest parts of cinema. There’s absolutely no way to show something completely ‘raw’ or ‘authentic’. We can, however, give it a ‘raw’ or ‘authentic’ feel. It’s refreshing to hear a documentary filmmaker embrace the constructed film form rather than reject it for its very nature. I love how Pawlikowski articulates his process in adopting an angle for his documentaries – attempting to “enter the subject” and see through their eyes and accept their logic. I also agree with him on the importance of seducing/entertaining the audience, and forcing them to think.

Although I find the second half of this reading quite tiresome in its pessimism, it does have some intriguing things to say. Pawlikowski identifies the paradox that documentary needs TV for its survival nowadays, but that TV is also what is killing documentary. This is an interesting concept. Television content is thoroughly sifted to cater for the masses. It’s more marketing oriented than anything. But most things are. Cinemas are similar. They serve as advertising for film distribution. The only avenue that I think isn’t so mass-marketing-oriented is the Web. The ‘long tail’ thrives here. Filmmakers really need to make more use out of the Web. I wouldn’t say that TV is “killing” documentary. It may be filtering it, but it’s not killing it. Filmmakers just need to be more flexible and creative with their approach to exhibition and distribution. Avenues for content consumption are changing. Documentary filmmakers (who don’t benefit from working alongside the television industry) need to question where their audience lives, and build themselves around that. And be creative with it.


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