Thursday, January 13, 2011

Reflections on Documentary Tradition

Firstly, below is the full documentary "Song of Ceylon" of which I showed a clip in class. The clip depicted the relationship of tea industry in the British Empire to the Ceylonese people, however the rest of the film is much different in tone. On this site Grierson is quoted describing the film as "Buddhism and the art of life it has to offer, set upon by a Western metropolitan civilization which, in spite of all our skills, has no art of life to offer." The film contains some really beautiful imagery and moving depiction of the Ceylonese culture.

After class, a few of us were talking about whether Wright (the director) was being exploitative in his depiction of these people. In my research, it stated that he was truly enamored by the Ceylonese as a people and that he hoped to capture on film some of what he deemed remarkable about them. I feel that the other 3 sections of the film fulfill that purpose more clearly than perhaps the one seen in class in a very poetic and respectful manner, but judge for yourselves below. 

It's relatively short, coming in at under 40 minutes, and you've already watched a quarter of it in class :)

Secondly, the presentations over the last few classes have been great! They have gotten me thinking so much about documentary film and how it came to be where it is today. On that note, I have been mulling over a few questions that I wanted to inquire the opinions of the group-

-How does Vertov’s experimental editing style influence the feelings it evokes? Is this more or less effective than the realism used by Flaherty, Grierson and others?

-What do you think of the ideas posed by so many of documentary as a tool for social change? What about the link to government deemed important in the early years of documentary film? 

-How do you see the concepts of realism functioning in documentary today? Have they moved away from the ideals held in the past or have the core concepts remained in tact?

-What role does documentary film play in society today? Does its value lie in the potential for social change, in the address of concerns and spread of awareness regarding social and environmental concerns, or in the documentation of real life, similar to what the Lumiere Brothers did in many of their films?

Looking forward to Sundance! The countdown is officially ten days.

1 comment:

  1. -What do you think of the ideas posed by so many of documentary as a tool for social change?

    I remember having a discussion about this after "The Cove" opened and seem to have some social effect as evidenced by the temporary halt of dolphin killing in Taiji - but within a year the dolphin hunts were back on, as the film seemed to fade from the public's increasing short attention span.

    An interesting article about this questions is here:


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