Film and documentaries are a relatively new way of telling the human story. In the past 100 years we have seen the evolution of them in every aspect, from black and white to colour, the introduction of sound and the era of the Talkies until now where smart phones can make anyone a cameraman if you are in the right place at the right time, the reason I have called this piece of writing an island in a communist sea (quote seen in “Hearts and minds” where the US government are trying to influence the American people that the war in Vietnam is necessary.) is because it is a of how I think Propaganda in film form has influenced so much of the world today.

After all the news is a documentary.



The early years of documentary sees some of the most abstract and experimental.

“man with a movie camera- Dziga Vertov”

(below is a comparison of work 50 years apart)

“The most obvious comparison to The Man with a Movie Camera (Chelovek s kinoapparatom) is Godfrey Riggio’s mesmerizing 1983 Koyaanisqatsi, which wordlessly paints images of the modern technological world running amuck. However, almost mind blowing is the realization that Dziga Vertov’s cinematic experiment took place near the end of the silent era in 1929 and in the Soviet Union, making his project even more remarkable as a film well before its time.”


Most documentary’s of its time would be shot in a Expository style which means they rely heavily on voice over or title cards where this is more Pre formative / Film orientated where visuals are how the story is told. Here I have some of Dziga’s storyboards messy yet completely un random.






Kiev 1 Sept[ember] [19]28

Gun apparatus directs its muzzle towards the city.

1. [Camera] lens with a device, filmed like a gun, lengthways – moves tentatively over the city.

2. [Camera] muzzle of the lens enters the picture, stays still and then wanders on

3. Muzzle of the lens hovers over the city

4. Camera races across the city, like the ‘Bronze Horseman’

5. Giant C c.s.a. [C Celovek s kinoapparatom = man with the camera] stands straddle-legged, stares downwards, takes aim and starts to shoot.

6. — Volleyball net

7. ———– Window-sill

Dziga a Polish born Director gets creative with countless camera techniques including stop motion, fades, cropping and over laying, reversing all in the first 10 minutes. “The man with a camera” being a fully visual film it can be enjoyed by anyone with no language barriers. Dziga’s creativity and style choice is key to it’s success in my mind it’s how this Polish director broke into the west.

When you first look at “man with a camera” it has historically no significance it is just ordinary life in the soviet union but shot with a creative flair but that’s just it, it’s a well constructed depiction of the average person of that time in the soviet union which makes it for us looking back extremely significant, it gives us an opportunity to see into there lives.

Technologically Dziga could have shot on 16mm film but more than likely still shot on 35mm and with sound on film being introduced in 1927 he had made the decision against using it.

Quote by Dziga

My film therefore signifies the struggle between everyday vision

 and cinematic vision,

the struggle between real space and cinematic space,

the struggle between real time and cinematic



The early years II also has seen some of the most influential both to the film community and to the world as a whole. “Triumph of the will” “became movie shorthand for massed tyranny films from Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, his 1984 commercial for Apple and Dreamworks animated film Antz”


Historically this is the most important of all the documentaries I will talk about. Filmed before the second world war commissioned by Hitler himself as a propaganda tool. Media the most powerful form of propaganda. During the time of this film 80% of German film industry was light entertainment to distract the population.

On a less malicious note it’s historically significant because this is the last or at least one of the last surviving footage of Germany before it got boomed to the ground.


Technically Riefenstahi had sound syncing which made it possible for speech’s to be recorded. She used zoom lenses in conjunction with 35mm film 9the reason I know this is because zoom lenses at this time could only be used with 35mm, it’s not until the 1940s where we see it being used with 16mm) and filters.


The purpose, this is debatable because technically as it was commissioned by Hitler but she did not want to do it so some would say its solely Propaganda others would say propaganda but also to express herself as a ature.


Producing the she had a crew of 100 and using angles she learnt from being a star in heroic “mountain films”  she made Hitler look empowering and his armies look almighty.


“A clever camera angle used

by Riefenstahl in her film makes Hitler appear larger than life on the movie screen.”

Her style, Observational which means the camera becomes a fly on the wall. Synced audio also gave you the impression you where in the room with them.


Ethicaly did she know the Popiganda would be used in the way it was used? Was she merly being artistic with the task she had be given? That last question is what kept her from being locked up for war crimes.


“No film has inspired so many and simultaneously drawn so much condemnation.

 Riefenstahl has stated that she never wanted the project which was foisted on her by Adolf Hitler. 

Although it is her most important and noted film, she regrets having ever consented to direct it.”


Triumph of the Will, like The Birth of a Nation, presents the great conundrum of art:

can art be both morally reprehensible, and yet “great”?


this question could be debated for house but I would like to give my opinion. Being a director lets people take a look at you at your creativity and opinion. Art itself can be lies and deception it can be ugly yet leave you in aw so yes it can be great in the words of Picasso

“We all know that Art is not truth. 

Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. 

 The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies”




Stuck in the middle these documentaries are starting to look more familiar. Styles and techniques have now been established like reconstructions rein acting the event more like a movie. This brings me to “The thin blue line- Errol Morris”

Historically this shows the power documentaries have, with out this Randall Adams would be dead.


The way the Thin blue line is shot and edited makes it more powerful and creepy, interviews often break the third wall and look directly at the viewer making it un nerving. Very little background influence so you have to pay more attention to what they are saying, reconstruction with narrative i.e lean back footage. Errol also puts in real footage from the coroner’s report with fast editing makes the first 10 minutes very intense.


Technically it is a lot easier to make a reconstruction and to interview in comparison with my last two films also the introduction of colour to enhance the mood.

Radio mics where also being used at this time to make it easier to get clean audio.

the purpose of this documentary was to get Randell out of jail.


I was focused when I was making The Thin Blue Line on getting Randall Adams out of prison. For me, there had been a terrible miscarriage of justice and I wanted to set it right. So my focus – if you like – wasn’t on David Harris in the sense of understanding him, but my focus was on proving that he was the killer.”



Ethically there is the question did he make it clear enough that parts of this documentary were reconstructions? And anything shown effect the family of the diseased?


Stuck in the middle II another extremely influential film delving into corruption, propaganda and the all American dream “Hearts and minds” influences such films as Apocalypse now and helped raise awareness of the atrocity’s committed against the Vietnamese.

Historically this film doesn’t put America in a good light but it does show them trying to help “hearts and minds” (is called this because of the mantra recited by those in charge of the war “in order to win the war we must win the hearts and minds of the people” the name was chosen because of how wrong the Americans proved to be).
tag line to the film“ those who can’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it”




We were shooting in Vietnam for seven weeks in the Fall of 1972 and that was in South Vietnam


In terms of the Vietnam footage, how much of it is original footage shot by you and your crew and how much is newsreel footage?

It’s about 88 to 90 per cent [original]. One of the two film editors did one count and one did the other count. So, 88 to 90 per cent of the film is footage that we shot. However, the stock footage was terribly important

You shot 200 hours of footage. How did you manage to edit that down to 2 hours for the film?

That was, at the time, an enormously high ratio [100:1]

In the first 10 minutes there are modern titles, archived footage and processed footage showing Walt Rostow trying to avoid a question “why do they need us?” (Walt later got this film removed from distribution for a short time because it bad him look bad.) being partially reflective style Davis had to show everything even if it was deemed un ethical.

 While you were shooting the film, did you have the support of the American Forces?

Oh no. But I didn’t ask for it either. I didn’t ask for protection or support. As a freelance journalist, and since I wasn’t with one of the networks, even though I had once worked for CBS News, I was independent there. [Hollywood] studios didn’t have bureaus in Vietnam. No, I was completely independent and that was very helpful. It meant that nobody was telling me how to feel,

The style of this is expository because the interviews are without cutaways making it more powerful to watch. It is also reflective giving you the full story.


Technology, they had colour film, radio mics, lightweight cameras. In comparison to location shooting with Nannok of the North(shot in 1922 in the Artic) camera set ups would have been a lot quicker and simpler.

The purpose of this film is so we can learn from the past so we do not repeat it

Didn’t Francis Ford Coppola support the film on the night too?

I don’t recall anything like that from Coppola although when I met him later, he wanted to talk to me before he went to make Apocalypse Now, which was the next thing he did. He invited me to dinner and he said he saw Hearts and Minds two dozen times when he was getting ready to make his film.

What we conceder modern, styles we recognize tired and tested “Touching the void” modern day Per formative/ film orientated, I mentioned earlier about “man with a movie camera” being per formative with much of the visuals telling the story. Well “touching the void” is a feature film with a reflective narrative voice over, with Tv shows like Banged up abroad we as a audience are used to this format but “touching the void” did it best first.

historically this a very numbing tale, one with warning.


Technically, very portable cameras and sound recording making it easier to shoot.


It has to be said that filming at high altitude in the Peruvian Andes wasn’t always (or even often) that much fun. My disintegrating body was only part of the problem: the cold tended to make all our camera batteries run down (solution: sleep with them nice and close in your sleeping bag) and our lenses ice over. Directing a scene while roped to four other people is also a novel experience.

There were many times while making Touching the void when I wondered why I was putting myself through this physically arduous experience.


The purpose of this film is to make an interesting true story plain and simple.

dealing with real people and real, strong emotions, not a script and you have to act responsibly because of this. I hadn’t realised how strong their response to returning to Peru would be until we got there – by which time it was too late.


Ethical considerations, did they make it clear enough that the reconstructions where in matter of fact reconstructions ? did they respect the people involved?


Some of the long distance shots of Simon and Joe climbing the mountain are played not by the lead actors, but by body doubles, who were Simon Yates and Joe Simpson themselves.




It was a physically arduous shoot – probably the most physically difficult thing I’ve done. Just working at high altitude in the cold was difficult for me and the crew. But psychologically it wasn’t as difficult for me as it was for Joe and Simon (although I had to deal with the fall-out). For them re-living the experience was hard. It brought up all sorts of emotions and memories that they had wanted to forget. That’s one of the hard things about documentary film-making: you are

What we conceder modern

The birth of consumerism, mobile phone, digital cameras and affordable video cameras. Without consumerism this movie if true could not exist  “through the gift shop” is a quirky take were the documentary subject is flipped to the cameraman.

Historically it captures a movement “biggest anti establishment movement since punk”

Technology, photography, consumer camera. The difference in the affordability and the amount of equipment used between this and “triumph of the will” is astronomical yet both are observatory style films.

production of this apparently was the time spent watching through hours of footage in hope of a minute of usable material archived by Thierry Guetta.

The style is observational and informative, interviewing with Banksy with great background influence.

The purpose of this is art, Banksy is a artist and they say that all artists will try there hand at another field every once In a while.

Ethically is any of this true? Is the subject being twisted?




My Conclusion

Technology is always evolving changing the way we make documentary’s by pushing the boundaries. Pushing us as mankind to tell our story in interesting new ways. For there will always be a story as long as man exists to be told and always someone who wants to be the truth, enlightening others no matter if it be in black and white 35mm film of something shot on your iPhone



feature films the director is God; in documentary films God is the director.

—Alfred Hitchcock