Imagining Reality (MacDonald & Cousins)
Pawel Pawlikowski raises a valid point about documentary making, what constitutes a ‘documentary’ as opposed to just ‘recording life’ and ‘form’ which makes me consider some of the short bits of black and white film we watched in our tutorials last week. It was a little bit hard to not consider the vignettes shown to us as a “meaningless glut of images” and this is perhaps (although they were obviously edited together in an intentional and calculated way) the documentary was lacking in ‘form’ in the traditional sense that I have come to associate with documentary. Prior to studying film, I associated documentary ‘form’ (and always have, probably habitually more than anything) with interviews or personal testimony intercut with footage. The more I study, the more I learn that documentary ‘form’ doesn’t necessarily have to adhere to a particular stock standard mould (ie. interview and then cut to footage and then to re-enactment, so on and so forth). In fact, there are documentaries that are observational in nature that have zero interview or first person testimony at all.
I also found it interesting that the reading compares the types of things we see on television (for example reality television or 60 minutes type programs) with ‘documentary’. Mass-produced programs created to push a political agenda or to pull ratings. I’d never considered these types of programs to be ‘documentary’ in the past, and as Pawlikowski suggests – if this is the way ‘documentary’ is going, then the future looks dire. I agree with Pawlikowski that documentary has stopped being an ‘art form’ and perhaps this is why I struggle to consider documentaries such as the ones we watched in our tutorial as just that. Perhaps a resurgence into the verite era of documentary making is what is needed to inject some life into the future of documentary – and maybe a fresh generation of eyes will find some stories that are truly worth documenting.