Week 4: Docufiction

Let’s start with docufiction. I’m totally going to stick to my word limit, see how I didn’t even write an introduction? Straight savage. I digress.

Do I believe that Kiarostamis Close Up is documentary? Nope, but it’s not entirely fiction either. This week is apart of our syllabus to make us think about what separates fiction and non-fiction in film. Close Up mixes the two with scripted, rehearsed and acted scenes sitting between scenes of pure documentary and thus presents a perfect opportunity to analyse why we consider one ‘real’ and one ‘fake’. Moreover, the fiction portions of the film star those that were actually involved in the subject of the documentary reenacting, apparently to a T, the situations the filmmaker wasn’t around to record. Now, if we are to assume that every shot features the same people interacting in the same way, produced as an impossibly exact recreation of something, why do we not consider it a documentary? Is an infallible facsimile of reality a document of it?

I do not consider it a documentary. In the end, the difference between the perfect copy and the recording of reality comes down not to what is presented to an audience but what can be controlled by a director. Though directors of fiction and directors of documentaries can both control how something is presented (angles, lighting, effects, etc.), a producer of fiction also has control over the subject of the film. A documentarian, though free in their presentation of a subject, cannot change the action, nature or intention of the subject itself. Promts and questions, of course, are frequently a vital part of producing a documentary, but the reactions or answers they produce should remain far from the control of a documentary director to produce what is, at least in my eyes, a legitimate documentary.

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