It’s to please the interviewee or because they already

 It’s statements like the above from “Issues
in Contemporary Documentary” by Jane Chapman, that have led me to
investigate the way documentarians try and stay objective whilst making a
documentary. Everyone struggles to keep an open mind and see both sides of a
story with global issues, or any issue for that matter, there is always an
opinion formed quite early. Of course, it all depends on the facts that we are
given but then it is the documentarians’ job to try and make sure all the facts
that are shown are true and that both sides of the issue are shown. Whilst
watching Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” (Moore,
2002) and Louis Theroux’s’ “Louis and The Nazis” (Cabb,
2003) you can tell, by the different styles and conventions that were used,
that they struggled to stay objective.

 

In these documentaries, the people conducting the
interviews, Theroux and Moore, are both very average and normal looking guts
that an audience can relate too. This is very different to making a movie where
they would cast someone who is considered good looking or well known. By having
these normal guys in a documentary, it will help the audience believe the
information they are being given without distracting them from the facts. It
also means the people being interviewed tend to feel more comfortable around
the interviewer and are therefore more willing to talk about their beliefs and
views. They would be more open and honest because they would not feel
threatened by the person asking the questions. If someone famous was giving the
interview might feel like they want to give a certain answer to please the
interviewee or because they already know the interviewees beliefs or views.

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“Research is simply forming the answer to these
questions before you dive in. If you skip this vital step, you may easily find
yourself wasting countless hours and budget dollars pursuing people, themes and
events that will never see the light of day” (Anthony Q. Artis, 2013)

 

Doing research on your chosen subject gives you the
answers you need to know whether the documentary is worth making or not. It
will allow you to get the facts and find the right people so that you can begin
to plan the documentary in to the direction you want to take it. You can start
to plan what questions you are going to ask certain people with some idea of
the answers you are going to receive. You can also begin to think about what it
is you want to show the audience or how you want to set up shots to help
portray the people you are interviewing in a certain way. By not doing any
research you waste time and money on a project that might end up going nowhere.
You could also end up getting sued for slander if you make any statements that
you cannot back up.

 

Within the first six minutes of “Louis and the Nazis”,
Theroux tells Tom Metzger that he “thinks slightly less of him” for some of the
language Metzger uses. I feel that this is slightly subjective as Theroux is
supposed to stay impartial. By saying this so early in the documentary it will
influence the audience to think negatively of Metzger before they have heard
what he has to say or what it is he believes.

Whereas Moore opens his documentary by showing how
everything is seemingly normal in America before walking in to a bank where you
get given a free gun just by opening a new bank account with them. Moore shows the
audience the newspaper article where he found the article with the slogan “More
BANG for your BUCK”. Even though it comes across like he is making a mockery of
the bank, which he is, Moore is still staying somewhat objective, as his aim is
to show that restrictions on guns and ammo should be put in place, not to
completely get rid of them. He adds humour to keep people interested by showing
that it is slightly ridiculous how easily accessible weapons are. He definitely
has a subjective agenda, however at the same time he is not completely agreeing
with either side. He is a neutral party to some extent.

 

“Participatory documentary gives us
a sense of what it is like for the filmmaker to be in a given situation and how
that situation alters as a result.” (Nichols, 2001)

 

This easily reflects what happens in Theroux’s documentary. For example
when Theroux is at skips house in “Louis And The Nazis”, him being there with
the crew alters the situation Theroux is put in when Skip asks him whether or
not he is Jewish. Skip asks for the camera to be turned off and even says “Well, because you’ve got the camera right
now I’d allow you to stay. If not, I’d probably kick your ass and put you in
the street somewhere”. We can see
how Theroux reacts to what has been said and his response which shows us he was
uncomfortable but trying to stay impartial. Theroux responds by saying “I’m not a racist and I actually think
it’s wrong to be a racist. And so, I feel as though by saying whether I’m
Jewish or not I’m kind of, in a way, acknowledging the premise that it really
matters when I think it shouldn’t and it doesn’t”. This statement makes it clear that he does not agree with
Skip, or the other racists that he interviews, which means that Louis is not
very open minded about how they think and their way of life. However, by
staying calm and articulate whilst they slightly raise their voices and use bad
language, he makes them seem like angry and violent people and so the audience
will think this is the same for all skin heads. Since he is only interviewing
people who are racist it may also come across that he is representing the other
side of the argument. This then counteracts the fact that he is being
subjective. He is bringing balance to the documentary and making it clear that
the documentary is not pro racism.

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