Documentary: The Margins of Reality (Short Cuts)

Documentary: The Margins of Reality (Short Cuts)

Paul Ward

Language: English

Pages: 144

ISBN: 1904764592

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In using case studies such as Touching the Void (2003) and the films of Nick Broomfield, this timely introduction to the growing field of documentary explores the definition and understanding of the form, as well as the relationship between documentary and drama, specifically the notion of reconstruction and reenactment. Paul Ward also discusses animated documentaries, the fertile genre of comedy, and feature-length contemporary works that have achieved widespread cinematic release.

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concluding that it is a completely invalid strategy: ‘Acknowledged reconstructions do not deceive … but they short-change us, deal in a currency inferior to the truth.’ Increasingly, documentarists are using techniques that clearly fall within the boundaries of ‘reconstruction’, but they are doing so in a way that is more complex than Bennett appears to allow, as she sees all reconstruction as essentially fictional. A key factor for consideration in documentary and non-fiction is of course that

legal opinion, but it turned out I was there to talk about Steve’s [Steve Glazer, Wuornos’s lawyer] marijuana smoking. The big question was whether Steve had consumed seven very strong joints before giving Aileen legal advice in prison. He is then questioned on his techniques in the construction of the so-called ‘Seven Joint Ride’ sequence from Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer. The veracity of what we (think we) see on the screen (within Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer)

distinctions to make is that between those programmes and films that make their main aim to satirise the textures and conventions of certain types of documentaries and documentary practices, and those that use documentary strategies in order to satirise other subjects. There is of course some overlap between these two categories, but broadly speaking, the former could be termed parodies, as what they are holding up to the satirical light are the formal aspects of specific types of documentary,

(or are asserted to have) a real-world existence. Unlike the fictional mode, where places and characters may be completely fabricated, the nonfictional is a realm where there is a basis in the world of actuality. This seems straightforward enough – fiction is ‘made up’, nonfiction is ‘real’ – and yet there are countless nuances and points on a spectrum that suggest that this relationship is more fraught than it first appears. All documentary films are nonfictional, but not all nonfictional films

modes is Osama and Us (Jamie Campbell and Joel Wilson, 2003, UK). Osama and Us was clearly inspired by the irreverent ‘door-stepping’ techniques of Michael Moore and Mark Thomas (see, specifically, his Mark Thomas: Weapons Inspector (Channel 4, 2003, UK)), as well as the absurd and surreal immersion in the language of news-speak that we see in the work of Chris Morris (Brass Eye in particular). The film is on one level a parody of certain models of investigative journalism: the two journalists

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