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#1 Peter Moretti

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 04:57 AM

I just finished watching this documentary. It proves one thing very well, that content IS king. The shots were nothing too inspiring, the image marginally okay.... for a DVX, and the sound tinny.

Yet I was captivated and moved. I felt many emotions from disgust to pity to jubilation to sadness to profound appreciation.
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#2 Jim Keller

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 01:05 PM

There's certainly nothing wrong with the videography. It's functional. They got the events that occurred in the can in a manner that allows the audience to see and hear what's going on, and that's all you can ask of a documentarian.

However, the direction and editing is truly outstanding.
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#3 Peter Moretti

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Posted 10 July 2009 - 01:42 AM

Jim,

Your post brings up an excellent point. How much technical excellence should we rightly expect from documentaries? Do noisy blacks and shaky camera moves (both literally and figuratively) deserve a pass, or should we be more critical?

Many documentary filmmakers also light, operate, run sound, etc. themselves. Due to the budgets, this may be a necessity. But in the hands of a truly gifted professional DP, would these films be much improved? Or do the practical limitations of the genre severely limit what someone like our own David Mullen could add to shooting a documentary?

I am a big fan of "Lake of Fire" by Tony Kaye (who made "American History X"). And there were shots in that film that I felt only someone with Tony's genius and experience could compose. I found myself saying "That's what a documentary looks like when a 'real' filmmaker makes one." But that's probably an unfair spur of the moment utterance.

And I've watched the some of works of Barbara Kopple, the Maysles brothers, Frederick Wiseman. These are clearly "real filmmakers."

But perhaps when watching documentaries people relax their faculties too much? I almost feel like documentary is the elementary school Pilgrim Pageant of film genres; if you are technically critical of one you just sound like an ass... and inevitably feel like one too.
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#4 Jim Keller

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Posted 10 July 2009 - 05:24 PM

How much technical excellence should we rightly expect from documentaries? Do noisy blacks and shaky camera moves (both literally and figuratively) deserve a pass, or should we be more critical?


That's an interesting question. Personally, I find a documentary that is too well shot to be a little suspicious. If a documentarian is scrupulous, there's only one chance to get the footage -- and that's as it actually happens, in real time. Seeing the camera whip violently to the side as the operator trips over the dog lends verisimilitude to the documentary. Seeing noise as they've jacked the gain through the roof to cope with the dark environment does the same. However, I *do* expect the operator to get the camera in focus, and set the aperture so that the subject is visible, etc. That's just professional competence, and if the documentary looks like it was shot by someone who had never picked up a camera before, I'm suspicious in the other direction -- because if they're not professional enough to know how to use their gear to make the best of a real-world situation, do I trust them to be professional enough to represent the facts responsibly in their finished product?

So, I guess my answer is, I expect the footage to look competent, but not polished.

I am curious what others think, though...
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