In what senses are “documentary” films political?

We can see that the title of this work involve research question: In what senses are “documentary” films political? At first, I mean when I had a first look at this assignment, there were thoughts that this topic is rather easy and there will be no difficulties to find the answer on this question, but then I change my opinion. In the next several sentences I want to explain why I do it, what reasons affected on this change. I thought that only if I find the right answer on this question I can completely reveal subject of this topic, moreover I believed that there is one right answer and nothing else. It was my wrong position, because there is no one answer. I mean one right answer, it is also mean that there is no wrong answer, there are only different opinions and thoughts about this question, which will show different points of view and will be the part of my work.

This work will be denoted to the several connected with each other topics. I can say that we will talk about documentary films and about political cinema. Also we can’t stay without attention how different political forces influence on cinema industry. Of course we will discuss not the whole cinema industry, because it is very wide topic and these cinema industry aspects have no attitude to the main question of our work.

As you understand from the research question the main “hero” of our discussion will be documentary films and we will talk about them.

Then let’s start our story from the interpretation of the notion “documentary”. The word “documentary” has a root “document” and without using any special sources, only looked at this work we can see that the main goal of documentary films is to “document” reality. It is simple and understandable explaining for this notion, but we can’t stop on this two words “document reality” and say that the essence of this genre is revealed. There are a lot of interesting aspects which will be reflect notion interpretation and will help to continue our research work.

I begin to look through different information in special books, internet sources; and I found the next words:” Documentary film is a wide category of visual expression that is based on the attempt, in one fashion or another, to “document” reality. Although “documentary film” originally referred to movies shot on film stock, it has subsequently expanded to include video and digital productions that can be either direct-to-video or made for a television series. Documentary, as it applies here, works to identify a “filmmaking practice, a cinematic tradition, and mode of audience reception” that is continually evolving and is without clear boundaries.” (Aitken, Ian (ed.). “Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film”. New York: Routledge, 2005).

I want to add that documentary films (or not playing cinema) ”“ is a genre of the real cinema. Documentary is identified the film, in the base of which were taken or were prescribed removal authentic event and persons. The reconstructions of authentic event do not pertain to documentary cinema. The first documentary removals were made when the cinema generation begun appeared. The subject for documentary film most often becomes the interesting events, cultural phenomena, scientific facts and hypothesizes, as well as famous people and community. The master of this type of cinema creative activity quite often rose before serious philosophical generalizations in their own product.

If we pay our attention on the last years it will be noticeably that a renewed interest in openly addressing current problems is obvious, especially in the context of the disputable discussions about globalization, wars, political situations and other the most popular themes and current events.

I don’t want to retell the whole history of documentary films, but several moments will be important to recall. Returning to the word documentary we knew that it was first applied to films of this nature in a review of Robert Flaherty’s film Moana (1926), this review was published in the New York Sun on 8 February 1926 and written by “The Moviegoer”, a pen name for documentarian John Grierson.

For instance, Grierson in 1930s in his essay First Principles of Documentary argued about “documentary value” of Moana. Grierson tried to seize the real active picture from the life and his principles of documentary were that cinema’s potential for observing life could be incarnated in a new art form; that the “original” actor and “original” scene are better guides than their fiction colleagues to presenting and interpreting the modern world; and that materials “thus taken from the raw” can be more real than the acted article. Due to Grierson appeared new definition of documentary and it became perceived as “creative treatment of actuality”. This definition has found some acceptance, though it presents philosophical questions about documentaries containing stagings and reenactments (Grierson, John. ”˜First Principles of Documentary’, in Kevin Macdonald & Mark Cousins (eds.) Imagining Reality: The Faber Book of Documentary. London: Faber and Faber, 1996).

Dziga Vertov argued in his essays for presenting “life as it is” (that is, life filmed surreptitiously) and “life caught unawares” (life provoked or surprised by the camera).

Saying about newsreel tradition it is understandable that newsreel tradition is important in documentary films. In fact, sometimes newsreels were also staged, but it happened only sometimes. In the most cases newsreels are re-enactments of events that had already happened, not attempts to steer events as they were in the process of happening. I can take for example different battles: many of the battle footage from the early 20th century was staged; it means that the cameramen would usually arrive on site after a major battle and re-enact scenes to film them.

In several paragraphs we discussed documentary films and their history, I also stop on the notion meaning and now I want to slowly return to the political topic. As we know from different sources in the 1960s and 1970s, documentary film was often taken as a political weapon against capitalism and neocolonism in general. It was more noticeably in Latin America, but it was not the one such political area. In such a way we can interpret events in a changing Quebec society. For instance we can mention that La Hora de los hornos (The Hour of the Furnaces, from 1968), directed by Octavio Getino and Fernando E. Solanas, greatly influenced a whole generation of filmmakers.

Returning to political topics let’s talk a little bit about such kind of cinema as political cinema. Political cinema in the specific sense, maybe not so in specific sense, but more than in narrow sense of this term is a cinema which described historical or even current events, it can also be social conditions in a partisan way in order to inform or to agitate the spectator. Political cinema exists in different variants such as feature films, animated films, experimental films and of course as documentaries.

I have quotations about the forms of documentary films, it will be more correct to say about forms of political cinema. Let’s read them and we will be dipped in our problem more seriously and think about political cinema details. “Form has always been an important concern for political film makers. While some argued that radical films, in order to liberate the imagination of the spectator, have to break not only with the content but also with the form of Dominant cinema, the falsely reassuring clichés and stereotypes of conventional narrative film making, other directors such as Francesco Rosi, Costa Gavras, Ken Loach, Oliver Stone, Spike Lee or Lina Wertmiller preferred to work within mainstream cinema to reach a wider audience.

The subversive tradition dates back at least to the French avant-garde of the 1920s. Even in his more conventional films Luis Bunuel stuck to the spirit of outright revolt of L’age d’or. The bourgeoisie had to be expropriated and all its values destroyed, the surrealists believed. This spirit of revolt is also present in all films of Jean Vigo.

Especially in the last decades of the twentieth century many film makers saw remembrance and reflection upon major collective crimes (like the Holocaust) and disasters (like the Chernobyl disaster) as their political and moral duty.” ( Cinema Politica)

Also I want to mention that political cinema in the narrow sense of the term refers to political films which do not hide their political position. This does not mean that the main idea of these films is pure propaganda. They have a big difference to other films and it is concluded in fact of the interpretations and images of different political events. I want to say the way how these events are shown in political films.

Political events are not main direction of documentary films. Documentary films can show the situation from the real life and it can be described from different sides. It is very important for documentaries to show the true situation and the true events. I agree that there a lot of real documentalists, who puts on first place the historical meaning and importance of event. But among these “true” documentalists we can find people, who put on the first place the force of money and this force greatly influenced on the result of film’s removal. We can’t convict such behavior of documentalists, because every film should have necessary budget and nobody can’t begin removal of the film without presence of the money and preparing the conditions. Many political forces have money for the removal of the film and they can even book plot for the “documentary” film. People of art have a great talent, but sometimes and frankly speaking not sometimes, but very often, they have no money for their thoughts realization. What is the main reason of such situation? The question is simple and the answer is a simple too. The main reason is a less of money. What to do in such situation and how improve it? Answer is simple too ”“ find money.

Arising a question it become obviously that political forces can give money and these can help to develop talent. This reminds closed circle and it is rather hard to stay objective and don’t get under the money, sometimes big money influence.

We always have to keep in mind and remember that “Documentary, after all, can tell lies and it can tell lies because it lays claim to a form of veracity which fiction doesn’t.” – Dai Vaughan. We stopped a little bit at the films which were directed to show political force in the best glow, but some of the documentaries are made just to discredit some particular person, party, organization, system etc. Do you know that documentary films can be a weapon in the arms of different politicians? Yes it is true, documentary film is not only a plot what was taken from the life and show how it was in real situation. Documentaries are a weapon in the struggle, very hard struggle for the political influence on nation. Mass media formed our view on the life and all political events we can see when we turn our TV set in the evening and listen to the news. News it is short observation of all events from every corner of the world, but people want to know true and not only true, people want to know whole information. These important facts can be finding in documentary films and it will be more interesting to have a look at the current situations and past events.

Taking to attention the structure of documentary films we can say that the interview is a heart of documentary film and it is the main in documentary even you have in a film only “talking heads”.

Under a word to “interview” not only hidden an extraction of information before a camera but also complex ability to support personality relationships with a hero is implied.

It means aspiration attentive and truly interestedly to listen answers for questions, trying to get to the internal world of hero.

Inalienable part of this process is resistance superficial answers in case that an author feels the presence of hidden, deeper sense which a hero does not touch on one or other reasons.

In documentalistics it is often utilize the real people, penetration is for what needed in their life. But you must not only take but also give something in exchange, to be tactful, understanding and simultaneously persistent in positive sense of this word.

Interview pay a big role in the process of new documentary film appearance and at this important moment every political force, which have important contacts in cinema industry world to interfere to the film making process and change all what were imagine by its author.

For great a pity such unimportant for documentary sense of film, but very important for the ruling politicians changing becomes inevitable in this context.

Let’s talk about person who take interview and think about how even this person can change the results of film and even it can change the film genre.

In composition some film crews there is an editor which is engaged in the search of worthy of note that and interesting facts, and sometimes even chooses the heroes of film. Some producers in earnest depend upon experience and judgments of these employees. A similar trust arises up as a result only to long joint activity. But far not every producer trusts an editor such responsible work.

It is necessary, that during the first contacts with a hero an editor held back from the detailed questions on the interesting topic. About most important it is better to ask before a chamber.

When time to take off comes, it is needed to make a decision: who will socialize with a hero before a camera is an editor or producer. If an editor talks with a hero, he will continue already arising up mutual relations. It can add in talk openness, trust.

If questions are set by a producer, an interview can be more spontaneous and living, as a hero converses with a fresh listener, but not the already once said repeats.

The choice of interviewer each time depends on the concrete tasks of film.

An author makes an example of shooting about doctor within the framework of serial BBS “One pair of eyes”. Hero behaved before a camera unnaturally, was very tense. A survey was stopped and found out reason. A doctor told that as a doctor he often and talked by me with women. Then a producer gave a place before a camera to the assistant to Rosalie. Answering questions which a producer set from other end of room, he spoke to Rosalie and seemed more relaxed.

Also in documentary films producing can be used different types of situations and it is also can greatly influenced on the main idea of documentary project and it is a wide area for the political influence on the situation which can be concluded in own increasing of attractiveness or opponents discreditation.

Interview can be taken off in any place, but it is very important to take into account that people and things which will surround you, have influence on a talk.

If you take off a hero in usual situation – at home or in the workplace – he will be quiet and, consequently, more frank.

Other situations, as, for example, field of battle or manifestation, will compel your hero to compare itself with opened out or already happenings events. M.Rabiger underlines that all people, including and those, who takes an interview, depend on that surrounds them, and it takes into account too. A survey can ennoble a situation or do it abusively public and can become the “hot line” of talk with millions of people.

An interview – it not only a talk “one on one”. If to bring over to the talk of two people of opposite looks, interesting material can turn out.

It is possible even to interview whole group in which people are with different positions. If a discussion is opened out without your participation, you can keep silence and listen, as your role of catalyst of happiness is already executed.

Usually, when a producer begins to talk with a few heroes in a public place, say, at the gate of factory, passing by people are stopped to listen and take part in a talk. If an interviewer does not insist only on the opinion, a talk can grow into cordial conversation or dispute, without depending on that, what theme an author going to discuss. In the moment of turn of talk to the producer it should be said a sort of: “A that lady would not could, in a red jacket, to say a few words about the policy of trade union in relation to a prophylactic unhappy cases”.

Probably, a lady will respond to your request.

There is a technique, often applied in street interviews, when “voice of people turns out”. It consists of that a few identical questions are set plenty of people. Such interview can demonstrate unanimity or disagreement on one or another question. The insertions of such interview will help to avoid unimportant details and edifying, say, in a film about a thorny political problem.

Talking about such important process of interview undertaking I can stay without attention such aspects and necessary work as preparation and base skills of interviewer. Interviewer must have a clear picture of the real situation that he wants to find out, it will help to build an important line of his behavior and to direct the talk correctly. But it is not necessary to prepare the unfolded scenario of interview, it can convert a hero into an actor, obediently executing your commands.

Support with interviewed a contact nonverbal facilities. Smile, waggle a head, the puzzled kind will be bored a hero, that you attentively and interestedly listen him. Per Morris did brilliant interviews, saving silence.

My work was denoted to the theme about political influence on the process of removal documentary film and as you understand if process were disturbed by political forces then the results can be different and the spectators can receive not right information, but even very distorted facts.

I decided that it will be good to open this topic from different sides and from the understanding its historical roots. Also in this work were used a such interesting term as political cinema. I knew that this term has a little bit another meaning, but it is closely bound with the main question of this my research and help me to be more objective in my thoughts.

Summarizing all information that was presented above you can see that the pert of the work was denoted to the interview and the process how it maybe realized. I want to show you in such a way that this process in his first meaning depend from the documentalist and his own command and there are a lot of ways to change the events and influence on them in different ways.

In the sense of liability to the political influence “documentary” films can be political and such political context I tried to show in simple and understandable form in this my work.

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