Nichols, How can we describe the observational, participatory,

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Last updated: April 6, 2019

 Nichols, B., (2017) Introduction to Documentary, Chapter 7, How can wedescribe the observational, participatory, and performative modes ofdocumentary film? Issue 3, 132 – 158Bill Nichols classifies documentary into six modes -observational, expository, poetic, participatory, reflexive and performative.In this he looks more into each mode defining how they work and possibleproblems raised. Observational looks at the filmmaker as passive. Nicholsexpresses this as showing actuality but also has problems of ethical boundariesand the role of the filmmaker.

Participatory also has ethical concerns withincidences like ambushing. Nichols shows two views on the interview aspect,showing and getting an account of the real or a fabrication in the form offilmmaker influence. Performative focuses on emotion instead. Relying less onknowledge in the image but in the emotional experience.

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Giving the audiencecontrol over the interpretation. Corner, J.,(1996) The art of record: A critical Introduction toDocumentary. Chapter 1, Documentary Theory, 9 – 30.John Corner investigates the ‘theories’ of documentary. Theylook into three main areas, Art/reportage, Truth/viewpoint, and intuition/form.

Using key theorists like John Grierson, Bill Nichols and Brian Winston. Johnpicks out key theories and problems within documentary. One of the theories helooks at is Grierson’s creative interpretation of actuality, and how that canbring up problems with fabrication and fidelity of the indexical. Editing comesunder this problem too, as it causes critiques to claim documentary as fraudand a cause for misinterpretation of the real. Pressure is then questionednext.

Pressure from political influences could cause self censorship or usingdocumentary as a means of creating order instead of actuality.  Raising the problem that documentary mostlyhas one point of view and could come off as propaganda.  Takahashi,T., (2011) Experiments in Documentary Animation: Anxious Borders, SpeculativeMedia. Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol 6(3) 231 – 245.

Tess discussed the uncertainty in society due to the worldbeing filled with instability due to visible movement throughout and withinculture. She talks about the problems associated with animation in documentary.The fact that it is easily created and altered, which creates ‘anxiety’ aboutthe reliability of context that documentary is known for, de-stabilizingdocumentaries guarantee.

They also go on to talk about if visible evidence isneeded for documentary to show ‘truth’. In contrast Speculative Documentaryfocuses on the feeling of an experience or place rather than the visible. Whichbrings up the question of how relevant the image is as it may be false,influenced or edited. So how is animation any different in terms ofuncertainty? Honess Roe, A.

, (2011) Absence, Excess and Epistemological Expansion:Towards a Framework for the Study of Animated Documentary. Animation: AnInterdisciplinary Journal, Vol 6(3) 215 – 230.Annabelle states that animation is an extension ofdocumentary and is used to show what live action cannot, not to questiondocumentaries viability. She goes on to say that documentary animation is finein documentary as long as it shows ‘the’ world and not ‘a’ world. When it comesto classifying animated documentary Annabelle looks at Bill Nichols modes andPaul Wells modes but disagrees with them saying that they don’t apply to allanimated documentary and says that it limits animation, then discusses threenew modes of – mimetic substitution, footage that can’t be captured,non-mimetic substitution, footage which is hard to capture or has ethicalissues and evocation, footage that wants to focus more on feeling. DelGaudio, S., (1997) If truth be told, can ‘toons tell it? Documentaryand animation.

Film History, Vol 9, 189 – 199.Sybil looks into animation in documentary and how peopledon’t always class it as documentary due to the uncertainty of ‘truth’ inanimation. They go on to discuss how animation could fit into the reflexivemode of documentary. As like with animation, reflexive documentary makes theaudience more conscious of the process and text of documentary focusing on thefact that there is a director and just because animation doesn’t use a visualindexical source you can’t just take an indexical source as face value as thereis always some sort of influence from the presence of a camera or editing. Theythen continue with how people perceive things differently so can documentaryreally be more ‘truthful’ than animation.  Ruby, J., (1977) The Image Mirrored: Reflexivity and the DocumentaryFilm. Journal of the University Film Association, Vol.

29 (4) The Documentaryimpulse: current issues, 3 – 11.Jay Ruby believes that documentaries strive to be objectiveand obtain facts through true and accurate means. She discusses how filmmakersshow reflexivity in the form of showing the audience their process andconstruction of both the film and their thoughts and understanding of thesubject so that the audience can make their own critical decision and outcomes,as people tend to construct their own meaning on the things to create a senseof order. They also point out some problems within this form of documentarysuch as the ethical concerns of intruding in people’s lives and how thepresences of a camera and crew could affect the outcome of the subject and its’truthfulness’.

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