Week 5: Reflection

New Documentary sure started out pretty interesting. Bondage, a 1920s silent film about modernity in the USSR, lighting issues in an igloo, horse slaughter, impoverished Spanish villages and a 5 minute surrealist train trip through 1955 New York made up the first 3 weeks alone. I’ve never really thought much about art and film, and I definitely wouldn’t have been too excited about writing on the relationship between the two at the start of the semester. Since then, I think I might have changed my mind.

If word counts are anything to go on, I enjoyed discussing the subjectivity of documentary and the presentation of reality. Vertovs Man with A Movie Camera, my first item of serious discussion, proved an excellent introduction to the manipulation of presentation and how a filmmaker can make a bold statement with something as simple as a silent movie camera. These concepts, echoed again with our study of Wonder Ring, make up the majority of what I’ve learnt so far in New Documentary. Some documentary filmmakers see film not just as a chance to tell a story, document or inform, but to express a certain perception. With careful manipulation, a documentary can become an evolved, artistic piece presenting not just an idea, but an artistic lens to view the world.

Second to the artistic, New documentary has exposed me to questions about how to define documentaries and what sets them apart from a work of fiction. Discussing and arguing in class and reading a whole bunch of classmates blogs have shown me that, though varying opinions on the distinctions abound, the two turned out to be closer than most of us had thought previously. The distinction between the two, highlighted in our viewing of Close Up, turned out to be another mini fascination of mine. Especially so, the principles that separate capturing a perfect recreation of reality from capturing reality itself and the dictatorship this has over the documentary mindset.

These two concepts, as well as countless technical tricks and filmography facts, have shaped everything I have gathered from the 5 or so weeks of New Documentary. I can only hope that the remaining weeks are as interesting and enlightening.


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