Channel 4 - For the Love
I am a massive horse racing fan and recently came across a documentary filmed last year on a particular horse and jockey relationship story I knew quite alot about. The story of amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen and his fathers Gold Cup winning horse Long Run is quite a popular but also much maligned in the media and among the horse racing community. The horse gained fame by beating crowd favourites Denman and Kauto Star in the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup in a magical race while being ridden by Sam, who was up against top professionals AP McCoy and Ruby Walsh. Since that moment pressure has been on Long Run and Sam to take the world by storm, but things just haven't gone to plan since.This documentary follows the two over the course of a year from the end of the 2011 season and into the 2012 renewal. Ultimately leading to the Gold Cup where they attempt to retain their title.
I felt this documentary actually opens up horse racing because it can appeal to anybody who wishes to watch a personal success and struggle story put together dramatically and beautifully whilst matching a reality that was only recently unfolding. Sam's story also will be received well by any sporting fans who appreciate 'the underdog' but its main target audience is obviously to people like myself, who, whilst know the industry inside out, don't particularly know the personalities of these often quiet and coy jockeys and trainers.
Technically, the use of black and white really suits the film because colour in horse racing is obviously very very bright. The weather, the silks, the fields and pace, all can be extremely disorientating when trying to follow an emotional story. I feel it gives all aspects of the footage unity and also looks very cinematic in comparison. There is a large use of slow motion and media stock footage that is used perfectly to slow down a story from real time, allowing people who don't know the story beforehand to catch up and understand it.
Part of this documentary also appealed to me more than anything else, I've always personally wanted to make documentaries about horse racing that look visually appealing and could be watched by anyone. And there is a section in For the Love that shows the environment of a day at the races. This kind of thing was what I had always wanted to do. It made me see much better how that could be accomplished and expanded on.
When watching this documentary for my narrative module I also picked up on how easy the sound was to listen to. It was made up of numerous interviews with different people, recorded by different people, TV stations, radio and the like. Then it was all gathered and placed together in one film, I remember hearing many of these interviews and TV coverage whilst they happened over the course of this story and some remain very iconic in my head due to my interest in the sport. Yet this film made me think of them as being new all over again because of the way they were put into the piece between other sections I'd never obviously come across. I believe the use of interview, archive, vox pop's and foley in this film perfectly create the sense of reality at the races during those sequences, as well as creating even more of a human element than being at / or coverage of the races can provide.
I was most impressed by the fact that over 50% of all sound in this film was not recorded by the filmmakers yet, even though it spanned over the course of a year, they managed to source it all, and make it feel like their own and that it was meant to be over the pictures they provided.
In preparation for the Documentary module this second year, Debbie had emailed all students taking part asking them to watch a documentary to discuss in session. I relished this because such a long absence from academical work had began to start making me complacent and unmotivated. I scanned the Internet for a documentary I thought looked like it would be interesting to review, as well as appropriate for this specific course and genre of film making. Finally settling on an American documentary named The Mean World Syndrome (Earp, 2010).
This documentary is a look into the term coined by media scholar George Gerbner (1919-2005) 'Mean World Syndrome' which is an aspect of his Cultivation Theory of Media. This part of the theory suggests that peoples beliefs in violence and crime is escalated due to their constant exposure to it in forms of media, especially the news.
Thousands of films in modern culture use anti-heroes as protagonists, often glorifying murder and other forms of violence, this has led to violence becoming a popular form of entertainment value subconsciously to viewers from a young age. This film uses hundreds of short clips from movies that millions of people will have seen in their lifetime, instantly recognisable from violent scenes or characters specifically. This can also be attributed to modern video games where murder is a key, or the key goal to achieve. The documentary discusses how these popular images have an affect on the mentality of a viewer in regards their fear of violent acts on screen in comparison to the fear of real life examples.
The main goal of this documentary though it seemed to me, was to expose news in particular, and business, for the fear factor passed off in informative media. The news has ever increasingly over time, become more and more filled with articles and features on murder, violence and anti-social behaviour, which leads a viewer to think these things are on the rise and a constant danger to themselves. The Mean World Syndrome compares these fears to statistical figures which actually suggest that crime and violence is decreasing rapidly year on year.
These figures alone made me consider my own worry of violence and the possibility of ever finding myself in a situation that involves it. Then compare that to what I'm fed day in day out on television and in newspapers. It seems that the shortage of fear in a real world environment makes the news corporations sensationalise stories to create a scaremongering society.
This documentary in particular, being based in America, went on to feature a segment of 'race within media'. Which went on to discuss the victimisation and glorification of certain races in their different genres of media. For example, they discussed how black male characters in drama series' are often given very important successful careers and are well educated and fit perfectly into their environment. Whereas, in comparison, the American news constantly uses articles and cases of black men in violent and anti-social activities on a daily basis. Generating a negative impression on viewers and pushing fear into society in what a newsreader will pass off as 'factual media'. They also went into statistical detail on population to media representation in media. Explaining how the population of Hispanic Americans was vastly disproportionate to the representation of Hispanic characters in their programmed or films. Who once again tend to be portrayed as violent and angry.
It ended on a note which I feel is most relevant to the entire world at present, which is the media portrayal of Islam. News channels, Films and also television series' have become inundated with stories of terrorism and war in recent years, which is either verbally or subconsciously always attributed to Islam, and is creating a worldwide fear in society.
Overall I found this documentary very insightful, it makes me think of the programming and films that I watch myself and how they can be found guilty of such usage of fear on viewers, and also in how I can try to potentially stop myself from falling into the same trap.
In this post I will take quotes from the book and give my own take on them.
"Documentaries of social representation offer us new views of our common world to explore and understand" pg.2.
The first types of documentaries I saw growing up taught me alot about the world that I never knew, they were often of past events or following cultures of people that I'd never come into contact with before, even through books, school or media. I believe that type of documentary was essential in a time of technological advancement and media expansion. You learnt new things no matter what your age and the films or programmes were made with the pretence of factual information. As time has gone by I've seen documentary change into either investigative journalism or often guerilla style 'battle and danger docs'. Freeview channels also offer alot of drivvle in the form of documentaries, studying celebrity cultures and lifestyles. But through this, real documentary seems to have evolved into more of a cinematic role. I believe this has lessened the social significance and people learn less due to documentaries being more about stories than facts. Unfortunatly some nature documentaries have begun to take on a more social representation idea than learning and people don't really find things out anymore.
"Documentary filmmakers often take on the role of public representatives. They speak for the interests of others, both for the individuals whom they represent in the film and for the institution or agency that supports their filmmaking activity." pg.3.
Aside from cinematic documentary, I believe in alot of made for TV documentary the institutions have more say on what a documentaries content is now, than potentially what the individual or filmmaker have. So I won't go into detail about those and will stay along the lines of cinema. Another quote in this book somewhat confirms these ideas of mine. 'One way to define documentary is to say Documentaries are what the organisations and institutions that produce them are.' pg.22. I will use 'The Cove' Psihoyos (2009) as the example. In this film it covers all bases in terms of who it represents. It was helped to be made by the Oceanic Preservation Society who's opinion is that Dolphin hunting is wrong. The activists in the film itself are in turn the public representatives for an audience, sharing the views of that organisation. This makes it easier for a film maker to create a piece that is receptive to both parties. They also however alienate another community of the people involved in the trade itself, who do as they probably always have done in terms of a job. They're vilified on screen and accused by people whom have a different point of view. I agree with the filmmakers personally, but mine is an opinion like theirs. To make a documentary which speaks for everyone a filmmaker must allow him/herself to be impartial in storytelling, allowing an audience to make a decision. I feel the cove didn't completely do this, but I personally saw the side of the people accused, and their own story, even though it wasn't pushed through equally.
"Should we tell someone we film that they risk making a fool of themselves or that there will be many who will judge their conduct negatively" pg.9.
Ethics are something I believe are borderline with some documentary filmmakers. They often want the controversy of over stepping the mark between whats fair and unethical because it is what drags attention. I personally feel that conciously allowing the humiliation of others for entertainment purposes is wrong, and as a filmmaker it's not something I could condone myself. But many others believe it is justified, so long as the audience agrees with them. Often big characters who have taken the wrong paths are the subject of documentary, and I believe that is all well and fair 'if' the film is talking about past events. But filming someone making that wrong turn, and allowing it to either happen or encourage its existance, for me is as bad as aiding it yourself.
"For every documentary there are at least three stories that intertwine: the filmmaker's, the film's, and the audience's" pg.61.
I believe this roundabout wraps up documentary for me in one sentence, for me when I make a film I want those three aspects to be key. For example my earlier post about wanting to make a 'day at the races' documentary... that would consist of my own emotion about how magical I find that activity, the shots I'd capture that mean something to myself. Then it would want to represent the particular racecourse I filmed at in a good light because for them that is good publicity and for me that's a job well done. Then finally I'd 'want' an audience to be receptive to it, whether or not they are is determined on choice and opinion. Say for instance the documentary is well recieved, then all three stories intertwine perfectly. I get my message across, the course benefits from my message and the audience heed and approve/agree with my message.
"Fly on the wall" invites debate as to how much of what we see would be the same if the camera were not there or how much would differ if the filmmaker's presence were more readily acknowledged. pg 114-115.
I appreciate fly on the wall documentaries, but only when there's absolutely no interaction between the filmmaker and the subject whatsoever. I do believe their is a sense of playing up to a camera if the process is interrupted by questioning for example. A good filmmaker in that example will never allow a cross to be recognised between 'on air' and 'off air' for a subject to be wary of. The best fly on the wall documentaries I have personally seen tend to be around tribes, people who don't know about cameras, and are often not even interested by them. The power of knowledge in fly on the wall documentary film making is possibly what occasionally makes them powerless as an art form.
After we did a relaxation exercise involving the thought of 'purple' we were given a short time to write up an idea spontaneously from that part of the session. Here is what I wrote during that time.
In a ball upon the vast ocean, a man is located, the sea calls out but with years of knowledge in the solidarity of the water he knows it offers no saviour. It just taunts his madness and the emptiness of his life. Like parchment in a bottle he floats with a message, a clear message that he repeats vocally over and over. "The message of his life". The sun beats down but he isn't heated, storms crash but he doesn't drown. He sees no boats nor animals, stuck in a perspex shell of wet wilderness. Auroras light up his imagination and move elegantly to the sounds of the sea. And when the sea silences, clouds act as players on a stage.
I think what inspired my idea was the sounds in this that was played over our relaxation exercise. I could hear 3 separate things which formed into an idea;
I watched this film as part of my research of Experimental film along with a art film twist.
What I loved about it was its long lasting shots and interesting set locations. Even though it was in a foreign language, I found myself endearing to each character and wanting to follow each of their understandings of the journey they were on. I wasn't totally impressed with the changes from black and white to colour and didn't really understand their use.
The type of work I want to do in future will feature long solitary shots of a minute plus. This was the prime example of such a film, lasting 160+ minutes it only is made of 149 shots, making the average over a minute each. Some however were over 4 minutes long and these are what grabbed my attention the most. I come from a stage acting background and often find myself comparing film and TV against it for quality of production and acting. I think in shots over a minute you tend to cross over into acting prowess territory that stage offers because you are sitting on the actors shoulders the entire time, they're a character in a situation and have to keep in that character and give a true performance, along with knowing they're location in terms of cinematography, camera, direction, each other and holding an audiences attention. All those things together in these types of shots make me appreciate them even over the (stage>screen) complex I have.
Along with the way this film is made I also enjoyed its experimental and psychological story-line How all three of the men question there own intentions and judgments along the journey. Would having any wish in the world granted be a good thing, what if that power slipped into the wrong hands.
Overall I found Stalker very enjoyable personally and will recommend it to anybody.
Myself and Peter felt this clip was made up of 3 stages
Sound of the distant train is warped and distorted due to the distance and speeds.
The travelling train offers a good sense of time and space as well as an ominous tone.
The music is symbolic of the action within the scene and the added textures onto it represent the danger the train is due to encounter, it also mirrors the repetative nature of the train. We felt it sounded similar to a siren like warning tone.
Sound tends to disappear when the focus of the action alters and is pinpointed to a specific area... (such as Jesse listening to the tracks)
The screeching of the trains wheels are reminiscent of screaming, this could represent the helplessness and vunerability of the passengers.
The dialogue makes the relationships feel tense and untrusting.
The sonic style reminds us of stalking and a sinister character creeping up on unknowing prey.
Sound in games is not often noteworthy, but after completing this game three times, I can't help but note how brilliantly the sound compliments the gaming experience. The beautiful music and subtle emotive tones guide a player through this adventure where helping a nameless ally is your aim. They also provide no dialogue where a simple noise is the only means of communication. There are no distractions or gimmicks, the sound in this game almost feels like energy.