Blog Post #2

Building Bridges… Not Burning Them!

After completing both readings, there have been several developments within my understanding of documentary work as a whole. The Nichol’s chapter has definitely allowed me to gain more insight into the framework of documentary filmmaking and the necessary factors that a successful documentary must possess. The idea of appropriately depicting a subject’s experience, or situation, was a concept that was definitely emphasized throughout the text. The first point in which I saw developments was throughout the Nichols chapter. It explained how impressionable a filmmaker’s work can be for the audience. “The sense that a film is a documentary lies in the mind of the beholder as much as it lies in the film’s context or structure.”(Nichols 23) This quote describes the significance of accurately portraying the subject’s experience in order to reach a quality documentary. More specifically, it’s essential to provide multiple perspectives in pursuance of accurately telling the story being analyzed.  

This gave me the opportunity to understand some of the mandatory factors of a documentary. In relation to my personal viewing experience I have always found documentaries, with a neutral perspective, to be a lot more entertaining as well as more engaging. For example, in the documentary The Tiger King, both sides of the conflict were equally portrayed throughout the film. This gave the audience a chance to develop their own beliefs as well as interests for their interested parties. Essentially, the filmmakers in this scenario, are the viewer of the facts and allow them to construct their own personal beliefs and opinions based on this unbiased information. Throughout the Coles’ chapter, there was a major emphasis on respect and understanding of the subject’s personal life as well as their perspective. There were many times where Coles described his inquisitive nature and how it was necessary that it was altered in order for his subjects to feel comfortable. As a result, he often built strong relationships and put a lot of effort into trying to understand their lives. “I list those commitments, those places, with obvious pride, and I remember much of the time spent visiting families in their homes with an increasing nostalgia..” (Coles 50) This quote was perceived as Coles maintaining a moral expectation of refraining from exploiting his subjects. Rather, he wanted to build a relationship in order to gain a mutual basis of respect as well as constructive development within the film.

 There are many similarities between both of these perspectives given by Coles and Nichols. Furthermore, there is an explicit connection between both figures emphasizing a transparent and natural process of filmmaking: portraying unbiased perspectives as well as straying away from exploitation. However, Nichols described how building relating relationships with subjects can be extremely detrimental to the development of the film. For example, a strong relationship can build emotional connection between the filmmaker and the subject. Ultimately, this can lead to one-sided projections as well as completely skewed information. The similarities that were found between both readings also served as the differences within this concept of depiction. According to the text, in order to achieve the best product in a successful documentary, it is essential to remain transparent with an unbiased perspective. A comfortable and mutually respectful relationship is essential in order for this to be possible, however, too close of a relationship can be problematic when depicting an unbiased angle.

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