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


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