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January 25 – Lecture Wk 2

• Main themes in this course


• To encourage an excitement about the
documentary form & its history
• To explore techniques as they have
evolved – from music and
cinematography to the limits of fictional
representations in factual film making
• To encourage critical analysis
Note on Academy Awards
• Monday February 25th Hong Kong time
• Documentaries
• Doc features
• Doc shorts
• The highest accolade
• Nominees
Oscar Nominations
• Best documentary feature
• "No End in Sight" (Magnolia Pictures) A Representational Pictures Production: Charles Ferguson
and Audrey Marrs
Analyst and scholar Charles Ferguson examines the process behind the Bush Administration's decision to
invade Iraq in 2003.

• "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" A Documentary


Group Production: Richard E. Robbins
The experiences of Iraq War veterans are seen through their writings, accompanied by news footage and
photographs.

• "Sicko" (Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company) A Dog Eat Dog Films Production: Michael Moore and
Meghan O'Hara

• "Taxi to the Dark Side" (THINKFilm) An X-Ray Production: Alex Gibney and Eva Orner
Previous doc: ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM (2005) -- Nominee
The case of an Afghan taxi driver beaten to death in 2002 while in U.S. military custody forms the heart of
this examination of the abuses committed during the detainment and interrogation of political prisoners.
When New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall investigates the death of cab driver Dilawar--

• "War/Dance" (THINKFilm) A Shine Global & Fine Films Production: Andrea Nix Fine &Sean Fine
Chief among the victims of the ongoing warfare in northern Ugandan are the country's children. .
Oscar Nominations
• Best documentary short subject
"Freeheld" A Lieutenant Films Production: Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth
Facing death from cancer, Detective Lieutenant Laurel Hester of the New Jersey Police
Department spends the final year of her life fighting a policy that will not allow her to transfer
her pension to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree.
• "La Corona (The Crown)" A Runaway Films and Vega Films Production: Amanda Micheli and Isabel Vega
In a women's prison in Bogotá, Colombia, the inmates compete in an annual beauty
pageant. Four prisoners are profiled as they prepare for the contest; an unusual
manifestation of a national obsession.

• "Salim Baba"A Ropa Vieja Films & Paradox Smoke Production: Tim Sternberg and Francisco Bello
Using a hand-cranked 1897 projector, Salim Muhammad offers his neighbors in the slums of
Kolkata, India, a chance to view scraps of films. Although collectors have sought to buy his
rare projector, Salim refuses to part with it, as his street shows are often the only films the
local residents can afford to see.

• Sari's Mother" (Cinema Guild) A Daylight Factory Production: James Longley


previously IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS (2006) -- Nominee
On a farm in central Iraq, a mother struggles to care for her ten-year-old son, Sari, who is
dying of AIDS. As the boy's condition worsens, his mother must deal with a health care
system that has fallen into chaos under US occupation.
Last Year Oscar Winners
• Feature:
• An Inconvenient Truth
• Short:
• The Blood of Yingzhou District
Ruby Yang & Thomas Lennon
A Chinese AIDS orphan, faces possible rejection by his surviving relatives,
who are torn between family tradition and their fear of the disease.
A Documentary Film History
• Our Main Lecture this week
Docs: Grew out of earliest film
• The history of “film”
• 1893. Thomas Edison.
• 1895. The Lumiere Brothers.
The Lumiere factory film
• 1900-1920’s Docs went hand
in hand with the silent
film era
Robert Flaherty
• Nanook of the North (1922)

• Moana (1926)
• Man of Aran (1934)
• Elephant Boy (1935)
• Show xfilm
Documentary forms
• Robert Flaherty first practiced what came to
be known as the observational or
anthropological film making
• His films were criticized for having scenes
and situations that were “staged” – not real
• Issue of “re-creation” distortion et al
• "Sometimes you have to lie. Often one has to
distort a thing to catch its true spirit."
Robert Flaherty (c 1930)
Truth in Docs – Ongoing debate
• How much staging is permitted?
• Actuality versus greater truth
• Misrepresentation & Honesty
• 1920 to 2008
• Michael Moore
• Most successful doc maker in $$$
terms in our time
Docs: Truth & Distortion
• Recurring Question
• In Moore:
• Roger and Me (1989)
• Bowling for Columbine (2002)
• Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
• Sicko (2007)
• Assignment: screen ONE of the above
• DocMaker as Propagandist (DVD2)
The debate over the
Documentary Form
• John Grierson
• “a creative treatment of actuality” (1926)
• “The basic force behind [documentary] was
social and not æsthetic. It was a desire to
make a drama out of the ordinary, to set
against the prevailing drama of the
extraordinary: a desire to bring the citizen’s
eye in from the ends of the earth to the story,
his own story, of what was happening under
his nose.”
• "I look on cinema as a pulpit, and use it as a
propagandist."
Early Docs & Experimentation
• German Experimentation
• 1927
• Walther Ruttmann
• Berlin: Symphony of a Great City
• Ruttmann: an architect,
graphic designer, & painter
vague expressionistic style
Berlin: Symphony of a Great City
• A simple chronicle from morning to
night of Berlin life in five acts –
organized as a musical composition
with each section building toward a
faster paced montage of images at its
end.
• An interesting historical document
• Remember the period 1923-1929
• Germany’s Weimar Republic
Berlin: Symphony of a Great City
• Act 4
• Combines simple images of Berlin
breaking for lunch
• With some social commentary
• Footnote: Ruttmann composed his film
using he 1922 music of Max Butting
• Satisfies a tenet of good doc film making
• That they be experimental
Docs and Experimentation
• Russian Experimentation
• 1929 “Kino”
• Dziga Vertov
Man With the Movie
Camera
Similar to “Berlin” in its
symphonic – poetic approach
Man with the Movie Camera
• Cameraman Vertov’s brother Mikhail
Kaufman
• A city picture like Berlin –
Moscow
• Also with musical instructions
• Plays with film devices used in fiction
film
• Trick photography & editing tricks
A Man with the Movie Camera
• “A record on celluloid in 6 reels: an excerpt
from the diary of a cameraman. This film
presents an experiment in the cinematic
communication of visible events without the
aid of intertitles, without the aid of a scenario,
without sets, actors. It aims at creating a truly
international absolute language of cinema
based on it total separation from the
language of theatre and literature.
• Author-supervisor of the experiment Dziga
Vertov, 1929
The Propaganda Film
• Survey
• Russia – Soviet Agit-Prop
• Germany
• China
• America
• What is propaganda?
Propaganda
• In the west, the word often carries a
negative meaning.
• Incidentally
In Chinese 宣传 – the term is neutral
• To spread publicity or public awareness
• No sense of bias or untruthfulness
The Propaganda Film
• Among the earliest documentaries were
commissioned by governments to
convey “official” messages
• To propagate a government line
The Propaganda Film
• An effective propaganda film was one
which stirred feelings of nationalism or
national pride; a sense of national
greatness; perhaps encouraging a
people to action on behalf of a
government or political mission.
Germany – Leni Riefenstahl
• Actress in 1920’s
• Director from 1933
• Continued working
nearly to age 101
when she died
• Africa shoots
Leni Riefenstahl
• Triumph of the Will (1934) 107m

• Hitler’s film maker


• DVD: the film opening
one of the most famous
opening sequences
in film history
Leni Riefenstahl
• Olympia (1938) 204m
Techniques
angles, tracking shot,
slo-mo, under water
http://www.riefenstahl.org/downloads/video-riefenstahl.html

• Jesse Owens
• http://www.riefenstahl.org/downloads/video/olympia-jesseowens.rm
America reacts to Riefenstahl
• Frank Capra
• 1934 won best director academy award
• Plus 4 more for
• It Happened One Night
America reacts to Reifenstahl
• Frank Capra
• Why We Fight (1942)
Propaganda films
• The manipulation of music
• Emotion
• In US and Chinese films heavy
narration
• Images sky, clouds ….
• Common to these films
Early Films Influence
• Montage
• Experimentation
• Thought to music
• Techniques, slow motion, multiple
camera angles, underwater shots,
actuality
• Negative – staging, re-shoots, alteration
of sequence and time
Next - Week 3 – Documentaries
for Television
• TV Documentaries
1958-2008
JMSC 0044 Documentary
Film Appreciation
Fridays 930 to 1230
Jim Laurie
jlaurie@hku.hk
More Quotes on Documentary
• "Documentary filmmaking combines the power and
grace of fictional filmmaking with the boldness and
authenticity of stories taken directly from life."
Mark Freeman San Diego State University

• "Varying in style, technique, editing, story-telling,


narration, and intent, it is a medium that records the
cross-section of human experience, from
monumental conflict to simple lives lived day to day."
Ian Aitken, Author, Encyclopedia of the
Documentary Film
Familiar Topics of Chinese
Films
• Maoist political films
• Biographies of
heroic figures like
Lei Feng, Mao, Zhou,
Zhu De, Deng etc
• “The Day I Left Lei
Feng” 1996
• Zhou Enlai 1996
China
• Documentary films
celebrating China’s
greatness have
been a feature of
CCTV since the
early 1960’s. The
films also featured in
theatres.
Chinese Films Subjects

Historical films
Japan films
Korean War films
Great leaders films
CCTV Documentaries
• Let’s look first at what is new and then
• Work our way backward historically
• China Central Television has been the
principal producer of documentaries in
China from its founding in 1958 to the
mid 1990’s.
• Only with the independent film
movement has that begun to change
New Sophistication in State
Supported Documentary
Making
• Stylistically - 1980’s influence of large scale
multi-part documentaries made by Japan’s
NHK
• The Silk Road (1980)
• The Yellow River (1986)
• See:
http://www.nhk.or.jp/digitalmuseum/nhk50years_en
• In last 8 years China has made big but more
subtle, sweeping, historical films in NHK or
US Public Broadcasting tradition
Rise of Great Powers
• http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200611/26/eng20
• Film maker Ren Xue’an group spent three
years making the documentary.
• “Ren said his team visited nine countries, and
interviewed more than 100 scholars and
political figures.”
• “Three years ago, Qian Chendan (film
adviser) delivered a lecture on the history of
the great powers since the 16th century to
members of the Political Bureau of the CPC
Central Committee.” People’s Daily
China Central Television 2006
• The Rise of the Great Powers 大國崛起

• 12 part documentary
November 2006

• See: http://finance.cctv.com/special/C16860/01/index.shtml

• 中国和平崛起 China’s Peaceful Rise


Rise of Great Powers
• Excerpt from Episode 1 of 12:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkX82kukw_Y
• Rise of Japan excerpt:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPdQL7z151k&mode=relate

• Different from previous CCTV work


Rise of Great Powers
• History not from victim POV
• History without dwelling on
“imperialism” and “hegemony.”
• England in the past “Opium”
• Now - Queen Elizabeth I, “She did not
abuse her power or prestige.”
• Departure from blatant agit-prop of past
• Still without directly mentioning Chinese
power, the message is clear