The Purist of Direct Cinema

Robert Drew might be considered the creator of American Direct Cinema, but it is Frederick Wiseman who is one of the only filmmakers who have stuck to the strict rules in all of his films.

ImageIt class we watched his first film, TITICUT FOLLIES (1967), which is about the Bridgewater State Hospital.  Wiseman films his subjects over several months, shooting an enormous amount of 16mm footage.  He never interviews.  He never uses additional lights.  He never stages any of the actions.

ImageBelow are a couple of quotes from Wiseman about Documentary.

“Any documentary, mine or anyone else’s, made in no matter what style, is arbitrary, biased, prejudiced, compressed and subjective.  Like any of its sisterly or brotherly fictional forms it is born of choice – choice of subject matter, place, people, camera angles, duration of shooting, sequences to be shot or omitted, transitional material and cutaways.”

“Sometimes, in his lofty condescension, a filmmaker seeks to bring enlightenment to the great unwashed and force feed this or that trendy political pap to an audience which has not had the opportunity, or perhaps even the wish, to participate in either the experience or the mind of the filmmaker.  This…suggests to the filmmaker that he is important to the world.  Documentaries like plays, novels, poems – are fictional in form and have no measurable social utility.”

Cousins, Mark, and Kevin Macdonald. Imagining Reality: The Faber Book of Documentary. London: Faber, 2006. 279,282. Print.

Discussion Starter: After reading the above quotes comment on your viewing of TITICUT FOLLIES.

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1 Comment

  1. I do realize this comment is late, but I am chosing to comment even if I don’t receive credit for it. I agree to an extent that even documentary films are fiction simply because of the choices made to create them. I agree that having the responsibility to make those choices and countless other decisions in regards to making a film can make a filmmaker feel “powerful” because he or she gets to decide what is important versus what is not important. However, I disagree with the opinion that documentaries have no measurable social utility. Regardless of the number of choices a filmmaker makes during the production of a film, there is still an overall theme leading viewers to at least one but frequently several truths through simply watching and critically examining the finished material of any documentary film. In my opinion, something need not be “true” for the lesson it teaches us to be “real”.

    Reply

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