Course Blog for Danny Mayer's ENG 281 course. Post 500 word minimum responses for each film viewed in class. Choose an aspect, theme, cinematic wizardry, or scene, and analyze/celebrate it. Post by the Wednesday before class.
From Jessica W:Opinions and ideals are more so than not, resistant to change. However, the last two films viewed have not only changed my thoughts on what a documentary should be, but what it can be as well. Dictionary.com defines the term documentary as presenting facts objectively without editorializing or inserting fictional matter, as in book or film. But does the subject matter of the film have to be real in order to seem real?The previously viewed film The Endless Summer, although entertaining, does not deserve to be associated with this genre of film. When presented with the information that this particular film won The Documentary of the Year award in 1965, I was taken aback. This is not to say that the work of Bruce Brown (the documentarian of said film) isn’t award-worthy, but to me the film intertwined an array of views, biases, and side notes made by the narrator that were clearly fictional. In my opinion, in agreement with the definition of documentary itself, the whole content of the these realistic surfing experiences, regardless of their validity, when edited by a narrator, should be left to the world of fictional film. Thus, not a true documentary.The way the information is presented to the viewer, in this made for TV type setting, totally clashes with the Direct Cinema format of documentation of Don’t Look Back. I feel Don’t Look Back is so effective in giving the action a more in the moment feeling by using the direct cinema, or cinema verite style of shooting. The experimentation of the then new-age smaller hand held cameras, I feel allowed the viewers to get a real feel that they were there. I am not oblivious to the fact that the documentarian, D.A. Pennebaker, purposefully organized these film cuts to get this effect, but in no way, shape, or form is the information being shown editorialized. I found it interesting that this style of filmmaking is often referred to as “truth cinema” as well.In contrast, the narrative presentation style used by Brown in The Endless Summer, to some extent, denies the craftsmanship of documentary making by somewhat staging the information to gain popularity with the viewer. The narrative style of the film gave the viewing a feeling of fakeness, much like the currently popular “reality TV” craze that has swept the nation. Although the use of the narrator adds to the bubbly, care-free mentality that is usually associated with surfing, I feel that some of the information presented by said narrator exposed the ignorance of the United States at this point in time. I suppose the multitude of racial ignorance and intolerance for other cultures, especially in those scenes dealing with African natives, is to be expected from a white filmmaker in the 1960’s; alas, this did not make the statements any more factual. Another point in why I feel that this film was not a true documentary, and more made for Hollywood. I will admit that this outwardly fun style of film does ease away from the stiff normality of most films in this genre, and for most, is more enjoyable to watch. I think this directly correlates with why, in 2002 The Endless Summer was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. But at the end of the day I feel that the decision to recognize the film as a documentary is wrong, because the emphasis of this genre should be the authenticity of the materials, not the satisfaction of the viewers.I understand that the making of a documentary is a trade, and that the appearance of the scenes and people in them can never truly be exposed for how or what they were in that moment, but I feel the purpose of a documentary should be to construct film clips to represent reality in the most untouched way possible. I am glad that I was given the opportunity to see both of the films mentioned and their diversity. As stated earlier, it has reconstructed what I believe a documentary is, should be, and taught me how something as simple as a style of film can change the information that it entails completely.
SHORT ESSAY (REVISE FREEDOM RIDERS)Freedom Riders were the most amazing documentary that I have seen in recent years, because it really focuses on reality and not fiction. It describes the evolution of our society and the obstacles that have been on the way of the evolution of democracy in the United States of America. We were really still in the dark side of our history when thinking that powerful and influential human beings and government in power in the south would deprive certain people of access to the same privileges as everybody else’s based on skin pigmentation. On a scientifically side, a skin pigmentation that we do not choose at birth, but that is impose by the chemistry of nature, which depends on the geography of where people originally came from as certain skin pigmentation are more adapted to certain climate area of the earth . It depends on heat, climate and adaptation to different type of geology. This is the scientific part, and fact that people did not understand or respect, and still don’t in today’s society. Then there is the intellectual part of it, as it seems that some human being have the need to hate something or somebody and that they feed of that particular feeling to re comfort themselves. Some people can help it and try to change the way they were raise or the environment that made them this way, but for some other human beings, there is no turning back and their soul are lost in hate and darkness . Racism is present in every race as there is black racism, white racism and everybody else’s racism.I’m asking myself a few questions, why a human should seat in a different area of the bus than another human, or go to a different toilette, barber shop, or restaurant or theater and bars? Why a human cannot eat next to another human because his skin pigmentation is not the same? As we look back to what we are scientifically as the prime label, before any other, “we are human beings”. On may 4th 1961, when the courageous group of people decided to leave from Washington D.C on a greyhound bus and tour the south through mainly alabama, mississipi and other states on the way to louisianna, they faced some minor problems the first few days, but then some major problems as they were getting deeper in the south especially Birmingham Alabama, and Mississippi. As they arrive in Birmingham the police did not do anything for their protection and some were severely beaten. The federal government was frustrated but took too long to finally act to defend these freedom riders that were going through a hell ride and were about to face jail next when getting into Mississippi . Even so they all went to jail in Mississippi; they stayed strong and started to sing while in prison to keep their spirit alive and strong. Some of them would say that they may break them physically but they will not break their spirits. It reminds me of when Doctor King was assassinated and it was said: “they may be able to kill the dreamer but they cannot kill the dream! “. It was an amazing sentence with so much power behind these words. Yes. Words can be very powerful when people know how to use them accordingly. These freedom riders represent “life” and “hope” to humanity in my opinion. I don’t know how they stayed so strong and determine and kept going forward which eventually led to a change of law in the south that allowed them to access anything and everything just like everybody else’s. I believe that “Freedom Riders” should be a mandatory film to watch in every high schools and United States colleges to try to enlighten people and prevent ignorance to grow back as there are still major issues that are not discuss openly today. A primary example is discrimination based on religion.