Monthly Archives: September 2013

Fahrenheit 9/11 and Nudent’s 9/11

Michael Moore’s documentary style is somewhat “unorthodox” in some respects, the exposure of his idea of the truth in his films convey them in a comedic manner. In Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore forms humour from what most people consider to be controversial topics. This is a particular characteristic of Moore’s films as he notches the seriousness of the topic to a level where the public can laugh at it. This is hard when you’re dealing with subject matter like the 9/11 attacks or US gun laws but Moore somehow expresses the social situation in a manner which isn’t greatly controversial, he takes away both arguments from the extreme to the tame, and conveys his “version of reality”
Moore can be seen as a conspiratorial as Fahrenheit sticks to a story where Bush is presented as corrupt, lacking in skill and plainly idiotic. In my opinion this isn’t the typical American’s idea of the reasoning behind 9/11 as the average citizen wouldn’t generalize the attacks as a government conspiracy. Moore as the films narrator uses timing and visual aid to appeal to the audience as his ideas could be disregarded by the audience for being so far-fetched.
Moore’s work could be described as serio-comic mostly due to the subject matter in his films and partially because of his ideas towards those topics. In my opinion any film about 9/11 that isn’t sombre isn’t considered to be in key with most documentary’s which don’t talk about controversial ideas like conspiracy’s and corruption. This differs in Fahrenheit, Moore pitches the idea of the attacks being a Bush plot, mentioning the idea that Bush corrupted the electoral votes against Al Gore and how the Bush family were best friends with the Bin Laden’s, all while being presented in a comical manner. Moore presents his ideas in a way where the audience is would be foolish not to believe the ideas he’s putting down as he shows it in a very clear-cut way, the way he links the points together displaces all of the facts that would otherwise disprove his ideas, this also links to the concerns people have with Moore’s work.
Moore uses particular techniques to satirise his subject matter, an example I can use is in Fahrenheit, when Moore is talking about Bush’s time during his presidency the music accompanying the footage almost mocks Bush. He’s shown to fumble his words and this with the country music reinforces and exaggerates Bush’s stereotype of being a “Hillbilly” and undermines his authority as an (ex) president which benefits his opinions of Bush.
Some people may question Moore’s approach to his films, as his films tend to be incredibly controversial, going back on his ideas of government conspiracy’s Moore’s general perception of his work can be seen as anti-patriotic as most of his films tend to mock serious ideas or events that have happened in American history.

Concerns about his film ethics can be agreed with due to the fact his portrayal of his ideas are quite biased towards his ideas only, and doesn’t truly display the whole situation. He tells the truth in a way that presents his truth in a favourable way by interviewing people who agree with his perception of the truth. Although he doesn’t state his ideas for a fact, he presents them to the audience and leaves them to think for themselves. Fahrenheit only displays Moore’s perception of the truth and doesn’t represent the genre of documentary faithfully.
Fahrenheit to me is Moore’s observation of the truth, people can take what they want from it but I think it’s wrong to deliver such information almost as fact and display it in such a way where his opinions might as well be said outright. People could argue his film is bordering on treasonous as he portrays the president of that time as being part of a massive conspiracy. The film has made me aware of the fact that some parts of 9/11 can be seen as suspect but it doesn’t make me believe that 9/11 was a huge conspiracy and that the government organized the attacks to create fear in the public that Bush could use to extend his presidency.

Fahrenheit gives an interesting insight to Moore’s ideas but I don’t take them too seriously.
Nudent’s 9/11 differs from Fahrenheit, in the way that the overall theme is quite sombre and sticks to the stereotype of 9/11 documentary’s. It hasn’t got an idea, concept or hidden agenda behind it and it doesn’t want to convey a message to the audience, the film stands for what it shows and portrays the point of view of the fire fighters who were dealing with the attacks. Nudent’s film uses relatively “raw” unedited footage where Fahrenheit’s footage would have been meticulously edited to reinforce the point Moore was trying to give. The fact the footage is left as it is, is again due to the point of the film. Nothing special has to be done to the footage to show what the brothers want to convey, they want to show their truth without it being altered by bias or preference. This is the ultimate difference between the Nudent’s and Moore’s film.

Narration in 9/11 is done by the brothers and a handful of the fire-fighters themselves, the prologue is carried out by the fire marshal of the station the brothers are filming in which gives the narrator a sense of authority, much like the same sense you would get from a nature documentary with a figure like Attenborough narrating. The authority gives the narration some credibility as the people talking are experts, they’ve experienced 9/11 and they aren’t talking about it from an outside perspective, they are all talking from their experience as fire fighters and as fire fighters who had worked through the hardships of 9/11. This to me personally adds credibility to the film as there would be no-one better than those fire fighters that could give me a better case study of what happened in those towers.

9/11 seems to be a truthful insight to the experiences and events that had happened on that day. It gives a different type of appeal as it shows what happened, not why and how. It doesn’t put reason behind the attacks; it just shows the viewer what and when it happened. 9/11 is unaffected by preference and bias where Fahrenheit seems to be driven by it. The two aren’t comparable as truthful reflections as only one is but they can be compared to a stereotypical idea of a documentary and Nudent’s 9/11 seems to feature the typical characteristics of that stereotype. Where Moore’s Fahrenheit seems to break every ethic that a typical expository documentary would stick to.

Alex Lee


Fried Chicken Shop Analasyis

The concept of this documentary is a feature of the funniest or comical moments of a 3 week period where the production house installed and filmed a takeaway for 3 weeks, 24 hours a day, the show promises high and low moments and interviews with the most outlandish character that are featured in the programme.

This concept Fried Chicken Shop uses is similar to another channel 4 documentary series titled 24 Hours in A&E, where the main theme for the show is a fly on the wall situation where the cameras film the staff and patients and follow everything they do, this often leads to interesting film material, as events in the hospital are usually dramatic and unusual. This is a popular “house” style for channel 4, as a string of these shows have been released, and have met a good reception as the shows have had good reviews on social media. Other shows that feature this format of recording are Educating Essex, Educating Yorkshire and Gogglebox. This format of film can be tied into the observational mode of documentary as these shows are claimed to be natural and unscripted, however the argument of the presence of recording equipment changes the nature of social interactions of the participant(s) still stands, fueling the argument of the presence of realism in documentaries.

The featured characters shown in Fried Chicken Shop are often outlandish and outspoken, which the producers/editors have chosen purposely as the slightly less interesting participants usually aren’t taken away and interviewed, unlike the featured characters which get interviewed and usually are made into re-occurring characters as they are often shown in multiple shows in the series. Most one-time characters however are often shown to interact with the shop staffs, which are also re-occurring as they are the core characters in the documentary.

The show also uses narration and non-diegetic sound in the shows which are both relative to the observational mode. Cutaway and bridge music is used to aid the transition of scenes, and also subtle narration, as the speaker uses a script to lead the show into the next scene, e.g. “At lunch time, the chicken shop becomes a popular meeting place for college kids from all over Clapham” and then the scene switches with music to kids socializing and eating in the shop. Narration is a useful tool to bridge gaps in scenes if the two scenes aren’t directly relative to each other.

Camera angles are relatively similar in the show, they often feature high angled shots, familiar to the audience from shows like Big Brother as this is the natural angle for the roof or wall mounted camera’s the production crew use to film with. The placements of the shots are often over the shoulder, as the static cameras can’t be moved during recordings as their mounted to a set position. You also see infrequent point of view shots, as some scenes show the audience the meal the character is eating, which could be seen as reinforcing the main theme of the show, which is the social interaction in a chicken shop. Due to the high angle you can often see what the featured characters are looking at, also often a technique used to move the scene forwards.

Analysing the Blue Planet – Expository Mode

1 – People may have different expectations from a programme released by less known broadcasting channels, when a production has a corporation like the BBC backing it, the viewer gives a pre-cast decision about the production and decides that if it’s been funded or released by the BBC, the actual entertainment or educational value the show gives should be quite high. The viewer also distinguishes the programme as “high quality” rather than a production released or produced by a less credible channel or production house.

2 – The use of a respected figure like David Attenborough adds to the overall credibility of the production, even the use of his name to “endorse” the show has a lifting effect which gives the viewer more of a reason to consume the documentary.

3 – The music gives the clip an “inspiring” mood as the orchestral music connotes that something special is happening. This accompanied with the use of slow motion while the whale is moving gives the intro a majestic feeling.

4 – Attenborough’s voice has a certain pitch that resonates with the viewer; with the use of descriptive words about the subject matter paired with the slow motion wildlife footage gives a “breath-taking” effect, as the POV of the footage is so unique it has an engaging effect that draws the consumer in.

5 – The soundtrack accompanying the footage uses the narrator’s voice to create an educational vibe to the documentary, Attenborough’s voice is clipped in and out of the soundtrack as the wildlife sound is muted or snubbed out while he is talking, this can drive more attention to his voice as his general vocabulary is quite educational, and due to his respectability viewers generally tend to engage and connect with his work.

6 – Having such a unique camera angle like a shot from space or an angle in-between sharks angle gives the viewer an  exclusive POV which the viewer has most likely never experienced before, the danger element also plays here as it can be seen as dangerous to be diving in-between sharks and whales

7 – The script Attenborough follows links the different sectors really well, he’ll link the segments with literal links, sometimes following the geographical location of the animals, or linking in in-between something like the animals food chain, all being quite relative to the subject matter

Study of the perception of Nanook of the North – In the past and present

Studying Nanook of the North while being aware of typical characteristics of the expository mode reveals such issues like the idea of realism and obvious product placement, many traits like re-enactments and manipulating representation weren’t techniques that were heavily used by film makers; meaning that the public in the 1920’s wasn’t fully aware of such practices while watching Nanook. The concept of Documentary’s was new in the 1920’s, having the new film format meant Flaherty could manipulate things like stereotypes and mythology as he could “play” on these rumours, and strengthen the stereotype of Eskimos. Such examples of Flaherty “diluting” the truth can be seen in the film, as the hunters are attempting to drag the walrus onto the beach, Flaherty is heckled by the hunters to get a rifle. It was a choice that Flaherty made to not use the rifle, either by forcing the hunters to drag it in by hand or just not to use the footage shot, missing out the parts where the hunters kill it by rifle instead of hand tools. This example shows how Flaherty changes the idea of realism, as Eskimo’s at that time were using rifles however it was the film-makers choice to portray them as the natural stereotype perceives them.

This documentary would be the one of only sources of information about the culture of Eskimo’s apart from literature, and unless people knew about the Eskimo culture on a first hand basis, then Flaherty wouldn’t of been caught out diverting the real truth about Eskimo’s, as the public didn’t have that knowledge to say otherwise. Flaherty also stages a scene where he asks Nanook to bite a record disc conveying to the audience that Eskimo’s were that clueless about first world technology at that time, shifting the real portrayal of Eskimo’s. This in current standards would be seen as not only immoral, but would change the films genre classification as the stereotype of documentaries now wouldn’t contain staged scenes that change the perception of the subject matter as it is essentially lying about an vague, un-researched topic. Whether the decision for the scene was to intentionally change the image of Eskimos in a negative way or just a creative decision to add humour to the film was in the end Flaherty’s personal choice. This shows how the concept of realism is subjective, and the so called “factual films” of that time could be altered however the film maker decided to, and also how the film maker’s choices can be affected by bias or cultural standards or stereotypes.

This compared with how the modern audience would view the documentary would show that many people would probably realise that Eskimo’s weren’t that outdated or blind from the modern world. With knowledge of previously unknown cultures coming from many sources (the internet being a large one) most of the public can be slightly knowledgeable about anything, meaning a film maker creating a documentary can’t easily dilute realism, and still portray there subject matter in a way that isn’t truthful. This can defy the stereotype of documentaries itself, as most people stereotype documentaries as factual films about a certain subject, representing that subject in an unbiased way. This however isn’t the case in many documentaries, as bias can always affects the choices a film maker makes when it comes to representation, an example I can use for myself would be the representation of a genre I would consider myself to fit into. I might alter the real portrayal of my category if that portrayal was seen to the public in a negative way. This is one way I can see myself being biased when it comes to creating documentaries, only if the film were to affect me personally.

Alex Lee


Main Differences between Direct Cinema and Cinema Verite

In documentary film-making there are two distinct methods of which there are many to creating a documentary. These two methods are ‘Cinema Verite’ and ‘Direct Cinema’. Cinema Verite essentially is a subjective method with the interviewer giving biased opinions and asking subjective questions on the subject at hand. This particular style creates a connection between the filmmaker and the matter in question. One of the main differences between the two styles is the presence and awareness of the camera filming the event.

It was claimed by an American historian Eric Barnouw that Cinema Verite was created by a French film-maker called Jean Rouch during one of his films in 1961 called ‘Chronicle of a Summer’ which simply featured him and his colleagues did was approach people in the street and as them one simple question “Are you happy?”, it was to reveal a new technique known as Cinema Verite which translates into film truth, to truly see what the camera sees. Some films use this method of film-making to gain empathy from the audience and to give them a new perspective in which to view the media; such examples include Blair Witch, Cloverfield, REC, District 9 and Children of Men. This style of film-making has always had mixed reviews from their audiences. This may be judged on how well they use this technique as it’s hard to use traditional shots mixed with the handheld shots, as the two styles clash. It may also be how well the film can draw the audience into actually feeling like they are there with the characters that give the method its credibility

Direct cinema is predominantly more neutral than Cinema Verite. Albert Maysles was one of the first film makers to harness the style of direct cinema. It was characterized initially by the filmmakers desire to directly capture reality and represent it truthfully, and to question the relationship of reality with cinema. It is a method used to create a film without subjectivity within the production, with little interference or manipulation as possible. It is possible to have the camera covertly positioned to show ‘real life’ without any bias but does raise questions in terms of ethical practice. To have permission to shoot and to have people have to sign forms in order for a filmmaker to publically release the film defeats the object of trying to covertly shoot them, but you can’t shoot someone without their permission. Direct cinema can be summarised by the following: Direct cinema is a mode variation that is used primarily by the documentary sub-genre of film, to show the truth on a certain subject without any opinion, or as little as possible.

Alex Lee