Janelle Erikson

Truthful Medium: The subjectivity of documentary

Abstract

The medium of documentary is one of controversy, with the critics debating if it is a medium of truth or a medium of selected truth. In essence this propaganda, influencing and controlling the minds of its audience. I believe that documentary is neither truth nor propaganda; it is rather an opinion or suggestion of the social structures, which assemble our world. I have researched into the technique of documentary filming and likelihood of capturing reality into a visual text. I propose documentary filming to be subjective, with the viewpoint of the subject matter reflecting the opinions of its maker(s) and funders. I personally experienced this when creating Human|Animal, the creative component of this thesis. Human|Animal was created from the foundation of Eliza (thesis partner) and my personal belief, that animals are unable to be raised and slaughtered in a humane manner within the meat industry. In our eyes this makes the practices of the meat industry unacceptable. Because of our beliefs and lifestyles we were unable to be objective in our filming therefore, not giving representatives of the meat industry a chance to defend themselves. The subjectivity of the documentary maker alongside the filming techniques (such as choosing what should be included in the shot) and the editing techniques (cutting the footage to create a sequence) makes this impossible. Documentary is a constructed story, which takes an event or subject matter of the real world, and restructures it to provide its audience with an informative, entertaining story. This does not however, make documentary filming a form of manipulation due to the subjectivity of the audience, as well as the viewer been aware of the techniques of documentary. The documentary maker may make a convincing argument, however if the argument contradicts the lifestyle or belief system of the viewer they may choose to reject the message of the documentary. When screening Human|Animal we found a minute selection of our audience did, with a couple of viewer’s leaving. The medium of documentary aims to form a connection with its viewer in order to express the ideas of its maker. It is up to the viewer if they wish to participate in this expression.

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