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the Land is Waiting - Observational Documentary Film the Land is Waiting - Observational Documentary Film
 
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  Synopsis

 

"The situation in fiction film and old style documentaries is not exactly the same as in other art forms, but the characters are instrumentalities of the creators. They would not exist except for the lines written for them, the actions prescribed for them by the writer and director. The romantic assumptions about artist control and self-expression are appropriate to these conditions.

None of this is true for direct cinema. It would not exist without the uniquely personal speech and lines made available by the people being depicted. A direct cinema film is irreducibly the product of the personalities of the subjects as refracted through the personality of the filmmaker; this strength of direct cinema is vitiated when filmmakers insist instead on imposing their own personalities."

Calvin Pryluck – Ultimately We Are All Outsiders: The Ethics of Documentary Filming
(CILECT Review, Vol.2, No.1, November 1986)

 

"Whether the filmmaker’s point of view is imposed on the material from the start or emerges from the process of making the film, the final product is a series of choices or decisions made over time. The initial choices include subject matter, place, people, camera angles, duration of shooting, sequences to be shot or omitted, transitional material, cutaways.

Once the filming is over and the filmmaker stares at the rushes, 50 hours of film hanging on the editing room wall (on the hard disk, nowadays), a different series of choices emerges. This great glop of material, which represents the recorded memory of the experience of making the film, is of necessity incomplete.
… The rest of the memories from all the time spent at the place when picture and sound were not recorded floats somewhere in the mind as fragments available for recall, unavailable for inclusion, but of great importance in the mining and sifting process known as editing.

Editing is the assessment and evaluation of individual sequences and the assembling of these disparate, originally unrelated fragments, into a dramatic form. This process has an internal and external aspect: internal in the need to compress a sequence down to a usable form, external in the way individual edited sequences are joined so as to impose a thematic and dramatic unity on otherwise chaotic material.

…There are many sources of information, and the documentary filmmaker, for all his hubris, is only one. If documentary films have any use on an informational level it is simply as one of many resources the citizens of democracy have which may help them toward more informed decision-making."

Frederick Wiseman – Pride, Patience and Prejudice
(The Guardian, 17th March 1981)

 

"For me the commitment to documentary has always been a commitment to the possibilities of discovery and testimony – that is, to the proposition that ways can be found to document experiences actually happening to real people which have never before been given public expression. The documentary filmmaker’s art is to find those experiences and analyse them in such a way as to make them accessible to an audience, and in doing so to propose some theory about their meaning. To have made a film which succeeds in doing even part of that is to add to our common experience.

… It may be useful to consider what aspects of our great-grandparents’ lives we would wish had been filmed if there had been modern cameras a hundred years ago. By applying that lesson to today we can give some direction to how the cameras of documentary should fill the gaps left after the cameras of fiction and journalism have gone their way."

David MacDougall – Film Teaching and the State of Documentary
(CILECT Review, Vol.2, No.1, November 1986)

 

"The details of our films must be a substitute for dramatic tension, and the film’s authenticity must be a substitute for artificial excitement. This does not rule out the possibility that a film’s events will have the weight of general metaphor, but first and foremost they will have meaning within their own context. The task is to break down into details the constituents of drama and find these cues in human behaviour."

Colin Young – Observational Cinema
[Paul Hockings (ed.) Principles of Visual Anthropology, 1976]