Saturday, July 4, 2009

Documentaries- Great and Small

In the mid nineties, I watched a "documentary" about a strike that hit every possible high note imaginable for that genre. Based along the conventions of Barbara Kopple’s award winning Harlan County, USA of 1976, I thought I had witnessed a rare masterpiece of documentary film making- until I came upon the list of actors in the closing credits. Yes, the joke was all on us- Dadetown's director Russ Hexter had done his job exceedingly well in separating us from our money in the most cunningly deceitful production imaginable.

Unlike the director above however, the French students who faked their photojournalism essay did not profit financially from their venture. They did not take peoples' money under false pretense. While Dadetown did stir up some dialogue about the structure, conventions and expectations of documentary film making, it could never live down its financially tainted deceit. You can't have it both ways. The French students' goal from the get-go was to stand photojournalism on its head and have it reexamine itself. And they did so more convincingly than Susan Sontag ever did scolding and reminding us that photographs do little but tell us nothing and lie. Nothing wrong with the occasional attempt to keep things honest though- not unlike the venerable Yes Men.


4 comments:

Benjamin said...

Stan Banos, always at his best with a box of matches in his hands ...

Mark Page said...

Welcome home Stan.

Stan B. said...

Thank you, gentlemen. Truth is, I'd much rather be out there, somewhere, anywhere with camera in hand than back home (w or w/o matches)- but a cigar later today sounds about right...

Ian Aleksander Adams said...

I love those french kids, I'm surprised and (not surprised) that they've raised so much ire with performance art when punked and jackass is so socially accepted. etc. etc.