Introduction

We have been given 12 documentaries of which have ben made over the last 90 years. We have been tasked to choose 6 of these documentaries and review them, we do have the option to choose 1 documentary of our liking; leaving us 5 to choose from and review. In the 6 reviews I will talk about the following things:

 

  • Historical significance
  • Technical developments
  • Production techniques
  • Predominant style
  • Their purpose
  • Ethical issues which are raised

 I must present my findings in a written format including a bibliography. We should also prepare and submit a blog entry on each of the documentaries that I review throughout this written essay. The blogs must be suitable for an online documentary appreciation blog.

 

 

Ross Kemp in Afghanistan – Matt Bennett & Ross Kemp (2008)

 Ross Kemp in Afghanistan is the first series documentary that follows known British soap actor Ross Kemp into the war-torn province of Helmand, Afghanistan. The documentary takes part during the ongoing “Operation Herrick” which is the codename for the British operation in Afghanistan. Ross Kemp is attached to the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, also known as “The Vikings”.

 The historical significance is very obvious in this documentary. It’s a War documentary which will go down in history as the first of its kind due to its closeness and realism of the battle footage. The documentary really holds a historical significance for our current generation because technology has evolved so much that people don’t need to read newspapers/books to find out later on what really went on during the War in Afghanistan. Another historical factor is it shows the first hand at Britain’s modern military in action. In later generations people will look back at this documentary to watch how soldiers coped during this period of time, just like historians did after World War 1 & 2, simply due to the fact that this is the first ‘modern war’ of the current century.

 Throughout the documentary the techniques used are very obvious.  The crew consisted of the director, a camera and sound man. The director also acted as the second cameraman when out on patrols. The lighting cameraman who films all Ross Kemp’s documentaries never once used a tripod; he seems to prefer the use of handheld camera techniques. Interviews are rarely setup and just seem to be done straight after something has happened; this seems to be due to the fact that the soldiers are in the middle of enemy territory and need to be up and ready in a matter of seconds. The conversations Ross Kemp has with the soldiers seem to be casual and gathered around a small area, the camera man seems to just ‘float around’ and film important moments throughout the conversations. It mainly feels like the camera man is one step ahead of the conversations between Ross Kemp and the interviewee(s). At some points it does feel like Ross is actually just filming a video diary, which does happen at some points in the series’.

Another technique they use is the use of helmet cameras that the soldiers all have attached to their helmets (MOD issued not film crew issued).

Ross Kemp has been quoted in many interviews to have said that he wanted to create a documentary unlike any other traditional war documentary. He wanted it to show the soldier’s story behind the war in Afghanistan and focus on the experiences of the soldiers at home and in Afghanistan, and also views of families who have lost family members during the war. At some points of the film you see Ross Kemp add his own views to how the soldiers cope in Afghanistan, he really does talk about how under equipped the frontline soldiers were during his time there and continues to add that even with the lack of equipment the soldiers pull through time and time again. The soldier’s story was soon listened to by the MOD after them watching how their personnel coped in such harsh conditions. After filming more helicopters were introduced, equipment was modernized and made safer.

 The main ethical issue which was raised during the series was for not finding out the rights or wrongs of British policy in Afghanistan. Although later on Ross Kemp did reply to that criticism and said: “We did not go to make a so-called traditional documentary, we tried to show what ordinary soldiers are facing” and he also said “My documentary is about what it is like to be a British soldier in Afghanistan and was not focused around the political reasons behind the war” Although in Series 3 Ross Kemp did go back and investigate the political differences between the Taliban and Afghanistan.

 

 

Triumph – Leni Riefenstahl (1935)

 Triumph des Willens also known in English as Triumph of the Will is a propaganda documentary filmed by Leni Riefenstahal. It records the Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, which is believed to have had at least 700,000 Nazi supporters at it. Lei’s usage of moving cameras, long focus lenses to create distorted images, aerial footage and the use of music earned Triumph of the Will recognition as one of the greatest documentaries ever created. The film has is now been banned in Germany due to it showing support for Nazism.

 The historical significance in this film shows how the Nazi Party Congress influenced the German people into believing that Germany will return to being a great power, with Hitler leading the nation to glory. The documentary shows how Hitler influenced the German people with his motivational speeches and used the documentary to his advantage in showing the military strength of Germany. Our current generation can look back at this historical moment and really see how Hitler poisoned a country into thinking that by going to war will bring glory back to it once powerful nation and the power of the will, will make them great again.

 The production techniques used throughout the documentary are fairly simple techniques; well today they would be. Lei Riefenstahal seems to use a lot of aerial footage and relied heavily on keeping the camera static and capturing close up’s of the crowd as they cheer Hitler and his party on as they drive past. There are some tracking shots so that her crew could get tracking shots of the crowd and the car that Hitler is being transported in. I believed she used these techniques to make feel as it she was giving Hitler’s point of views of the crowds and also to make it look like crowds were chasing after Hitler’s car which in truth never happened as they were being held back by Hitler’s SS units. The crew consisted of 172 people which had 10 technical staff, 36 camera men and assistants, nine aerial photographers, 17 newsreel men, 12 newsreel crew, 17 lighting men, two photographers’, 26 drivers, 37 security personnel, four labour service workers and two office assistant crews. It really is unbelievable to think that she had 172 people working for her; if you compare this to Ross Kemp’s three man crew you can really just see how much technology has evolved since then. Although the rally was planned for the propaganda film you can really see how much work Lei and her crew put into creating such a high standard propaganda film for Hitler.

 The purpose of the documentary was to show the German people the power of their nation. Germany had not seen such images of military power and strength since the end of World War 1. The huge formations of men reminded the German people that Germany was once again becoming a great power. They used the Eagles and Swastikas to show the German people that they’re like the Roman Legions, I.E indestructible and professional. It also was a way to warn opposing parties that opposing the regime wouldn’t go down nicely with the Nazi Party Congress. The footage of Hitler’s arrival in an aircraft showed the German people the luxury their great leader could give to them, it doesn’t seem much today because we travel in aircraft everyday but during the 1930s it was something only the wealthy countries could do.

 I could not find any ethical issues raised during this documentary, simply because ethical issues was never a thing during the 1930s and you can also argue the case that being a propaganda film it is an ethical issue in itself, because it’s propaganda and only shows things that the Hitler wanted the viewer to see.

 

 

The Thin Blue Line – Errol Morris (1988)

The Thin Blue Line is a documentary which was created in 1988 by Errol Morris. The documentary tells the story of Randall Dale Adams, an incident man convicted and sentence to life in prison for the murder of a Dallas Police officer, which took place on the Thanksgiving weekend in 1976.

 The historical significance reveals how a documentary unveiled the corruption inside Dallas, Texas’ criminal justice system. Another historical significance shows how a documentary has the power to prove an incident man’s incidents, which was the very first time something like this had been done to prove such corrupt case.

 The production techniques used throughout the film are rather simple and seem to be relaying both interviews and re-enactments to tell the story. The ‘talking head’ technique can be seen throughout the film as the interviewer interviews the interviewees. As mentioned before the documentary uses a lot of re-enactment scenes that are carefully built around witnesses statements, so that the viewer gets a sense of how the events may have unfolded on the day of the murder. Another technique that I noticed throughout the film was how Errol Morris had his subjects/interviewees looking directly into the camera; I personally believe he chose this method so that it felt like the story was being told directly to you and show that you felt a part of the story as it was being read out to you. The visuals used are highly stylised so that the viewer is fully aware that the reconstructions are fictional. It really makes itself stand out from the interviews and newspaper articles that are included in the documentary. The interviews and newspaper articles seem to be shown in a less stylised fashion which is typically associated with the documentary genre. It is clear from the start of the film that it is a reflective documentary which allows the viewer to question some parts of the documentary. This is most notably used at the end of the documentary when we (the viewer) hear the director question David Ray Harris, the real convicted murder; He probes the interviewee into a confession.

 As I mentioned at the start the documentaries purpose was to tell the story of Randall Dale Adams, an incident man convicted of a murder that he did not commit. He was then sentenced to life in prison, which he was later released and David Ray Harris was instead convicted for the murder of the Dallas Police Officer. The documentary was later used to prove the incidents of Randall Dale Adams, which at the start was not meant to have happened but due to Errol’s detective background he went further into the story behind the murder. One of the main ethical issues raised after the documentary was released was the fact that Errol Morris was asked to stick to the court case witness statements, which don’t get me wrong he did do but at some points during the documentary he broke the ethical issues and pushed to get stories out of the witnesses.

 

 

Baraka – Ron Fricke (1992)

Baraka is a non-narrative documentary film which was created by Ron Fricke in 1992. The documentary was filmed in 25 different countries on six continents. Barak captures stunning moving image of which director Ron Fricke calls “a guided mediation on humanity”. The filming itself took 14 months on location and took a total of 30 months to complete. The film itself has no plot or any actors; it purely relies on the images to tell its story. Mark Magidson says that the goal of the “was to reach past language, nationality, religion and politics and speak to the inner viewer”.

 Baraka historical significance is on a massive scale as it shows the historical factors of the 25 different countries presented in this film. It really shows how cultures haven’t changed at all and continued to live like their ancestors. I really enjoyed watching this documentary because I got to explore many different cultures that I thought were forgotten about. Watching this film in the 21st century really does open up your eyes to how commercial development has native’s homes that continue to live in forests throughout the world. Future generations can look back and watch how devastating things are around the world, by just watching it, it allows you to draw the same conclusion that a narrator or anyone else would assume. It shows you historical cultures as they carry out their daily routines.

 The documentary was shot on a custom-built computerised 65mm camera, but people argue the case that it may have been shot on a 70mm camera. The styles included throughout the documentary include slow motion and time-lapse. Once again Ron Fricke had a custom built camera so that he could combine time-lapse photography with perfectly controlled movements. During the film it has a number of tracking shots throughout various settings, some of which include Auschwitz and Tuol Sleng.

 The main purpose of the documentary was to enable the viewer to see different cultures around the world by exploring different countries. It explored many cultures that our ancestors would have used 1,000s of years ago and cultures today continue to us them in their daily routine. As I said in the introduction the film enables us to watch how commercial development destroys the homes of native people who live in forests, it also captures the commercial world cutting down trees and the people that are trying to develop these places do not understand that they are not just taking away wild life they are also destroying families homes who have lived there for generations. Baraka also captures daily life in a number of major cities and you can see how people in the commercial world live differently to those in other commercial developed worlds. Ron was also quoted to have said that his purposes was to show those in the developed world how their life is very different to those who continue to live in isolation from the modern world.

 The ethical issues that would be raised in this film would be the culture differences in the world. He would have to make sure that he does not offend a certain culture.

 

 

The Race that Shocked the World – Daniel Gordon (2012)

 The Race that Shocked the World is a documentary which looks at the legacy of the men who ran in the 100-metre final at the 1988 Seoul Olympics; when gold medallist Ben Johnson tested positive for anabolic steroids. For the first time ever Daniel Gordon gathers eight athletes who ran in the infamous race and allows them to tell their story of the events which unfolded on the day of the 1988 final. The Race that shocked the world will hold a historical significance for a very long time because it tells the story of an event which caused huge controversy throughout the world. The 100 metre sprint final at the 1988 Seoul Olympics was the fastest and the dirtiest race in Olympic history. Six of the eight runners who took part were tested positive for banned substances. Daniel Gordon investigates why they went to such lengths to win a race.

 The technical developments and production techniques used throughout the filming of the documentary is fairly simple. A lot of his interviews were done using the popular ‘talking head’ technique. The film also uses a lot of archived footage from championships leading up to the 1988 Olympics so that the viewer could get an understanding on how each athlete operated in the 100-metre races leading up to the final. He also uses a lot of close ups before he actually comes to the talking head shots, not sure why he done this but it seems he likes capturing the facial features of his interviewee before he actually switches to the talking head shot; It could possibly to show the damage the drugs have done to the athletes who had taken the banned substances. One little detail I noticed was the way Daniel Gordon chooses to interview each of the athletes. He started by their lane numbers and worked his way up to the final lane number. It is just one of the little details which really make the documentary a beautiful piece of film. Another thing I noticed when he interviewed Ben Johnston was the interview being shot in his basement, the cold and rain pens the runner in and all this adds as if he is a disgrace to his country, I’m not sure if that was initial but it really feels like it was.

 The purpose of the documentary was to show the world why these athletes went to such lengths to win a race. Throughout the documentary Daniel Gordon have to make sure that he was getting the truth out of the athletes, he needed to make sure that his stories made sense to their statements so that an ethical issue is not raised when the documentary is published to the public. Another ethical issue which he had to look out for was the use of advertising because throughout the documentary you notice a lot of the advertising billboards are blurred out.

 

 

Super Size Me – Morgan Spurlock (2004)

 Super Size me is a documentary which is directed by and starring Morgan Spurlock. Morgan Spurlock is an American independent filmmaker who filmed himself on a 30-day period which he ate only McDonald’s fast food. The film attempts to document the lifestyle of Morgan’s physical and psychological well-being, and explores the fast food industry. He also investigates why fast food restaurants encourage poor nutrition for its own profit.

 The significance this will hold in the near future will show how we in the 21st Century allowed ourselves to eat so much fast food without worrying about the health risks in the near future. Morgan Spurlock said he wanted to investigate why American’s are allowing them self to get to a certain weight were they are dicing with death. He said that he hoped that this documentary will encourage people to stop eating so much fast food and consider what it is really doing to you.

 The production techniques and technical developments through the documentary film are fairly simple. It seems as if there are only two crew members; which are 1 camera operator and Morgan Spurlock. I could not find what they used to film the documentary but a lot of it is using a hand held camera which seems to be attached to a shoulder mount. The overall layout of the documentary seems like a video dairy and the only time the camera man is needed is when an interview is being filmed.

 The purpose of the documentary is to show the viewer what fast food can do to your health within a 30-day period of eating just pure fast food meals; which a lot of Americans seem to do a lot of. Another reason for Morgan Spurlock’s investigation was the increasing spread of obesity throughout the United States of America; a Surgeon he interviewed stated the issue has become an “epidemic”. He also investigates why two overweight girls who blame McDonald’s for making them become obese. Morgan Spurlock compares the addiction to the criticism tobacco companies received.

 As I watched the film I couldn’t find any or see any ethic issues which may be raised throughout the film. I believe this because Morgan Spurlock looks at both sides of the stories and argues both the cases. He questions those who actually put their bodies through it on a daily basis and why they haven’t sought help on their weight problems. At one point he argues with a interviewee that the help is out there for them, you just have to have the get up and go attitude and stop blaming the companies for your weight problem. He also argues the case on why McDonalds and other fast food restaurants do not have a nutrition menu showing risks of eating their fast food products.

 

Bibliography

 Ross Kemp in Afghanistan

Ross Kemp in Afghanistan – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. Ross Kemp in Afghanistan – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_Kemp_in_Afghanistan. [Accessed 05 November 2013].

 

Triumph of the Will

Triumph of the Will – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. Triumph of the Will – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_of_the_Will. [Accessed 05 November 2013].

 

Documenting the Documentary: Close Readings of Documentary Film and Video – Google Books. 2013. Documenting the Documentary: Close Readings of Documentary Film and Video – Google Books. [ONLINE] Available at:http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=YFhiHHHJbUgC&pg=PA104&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false. [Accessed 05 November 2013].

 

The Thin Blue Line

The Thin Blue Line (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. The Thin Blue Line (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thin_Blue_Line_(film). [Accessed 05 November 2013].

 

Dr. Death. 2013. Dr. Death. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.ccadp.org/DrDeath.htm. [Accessed 05 November 2013].

 

Baraka

Baraka (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. Baraka (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baraka_(film). [Accessed 05 November 2013].

 

About Baraka | The official site for the films SAMSARA and BARAKA. 2013.About Baraka | The official site for the films SAMSARA and BARAKA. [ONLINE] Available at: http://barakasamsara.com/baraka/about. [Accessed 05 November 2013].

The Race that Shocked the World

SBS: Documentary – The Race That Shocked The World. 2013. SBS: Documentary – The Race That Shocked The World. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.sbs.com.au/documentary/program/952/. [Accessed 05 November 2013].

 

Super Size Me

Super size me – Morgan Spurlock | UO Multimedia Journalism cohort #1. 2013. Super size me – Morgan Spurlock | UO Multimedia Journalism cohort #1. [ONLINE] Available at: http://blogs.uoregon.edu/mmj1/2012/10/15/super-size-me-morgan-spurlock/. [Accessed 05 November 2013].

 Super Size Me – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. Super Size Me – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Size_Me. [Accessed 05 November 2013].

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