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.