Ivens on Objectivity

“I was often asked, why hadn’t we gone to the other side, too, and made an objective film? My only answer was that a documentary filmmaker has to have an opinion on such vital issues as fascism or anti-fascism – he has to have feelings about these issues, if his work is to have any dramatic or emotional or art value. And tee, there is the very simple fact to consider, that when you are at war and you get to the other side, you are shot or put into a prison camp – you cannot be on both sides, neither as a soldier nor a filmmaker. If anyone wanted that objectivity of ‘both sides of the question’ he would have to show two films, THE SPANISH EARTH and a film by a fascist filmmaker, if he could find one…”

“I was surprised to find that many people automatically assumed that any documentary film would inevitably be objective. Perhaps the term is unsatisfactory, but for me the distinction between the words document and documentary is quite clear. Do we demand objectivity in the evidence presented at a trial? No, the only demand is that each piece of evidence be as full a subjective, truthful, honest presentation of the witness’s attitude as an oath on the Bible can produce from him…”

“I continue to make documentary films because I know there is unity between what I believe and what I do. If I felt I had lost that unity, I would change my profession. A documentary filmmaker has the sense of participating directly in the world’s most fundamental issues – a sense that is difficult for even the most conscious filmmaker working in a studio to feel”

Cousins, Mark, and Kevin Macdonald. “The Spanish Earth.” 1969. Imagining Reality: The Faber Book of Documentary. London: Faber, 2006. 138+. Print.

Discussion Starter: Comment on Ivens’ view of objectivity in documentary.  Can a documentary filmmaker be objective?  Are there certain subjects/circumstances were it is impossible to be truly objective?

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  1. Kylie sun

     /  February 7, 2012

    Ivans had his clear position and was also dare to show it at that time. I don’t think that there are that many people who have their own position dare to speak them out. Majority of them chosed keep silence. That’s why Ivans is a great master of documentary history.

    I wonder that if there had a fascist filmmaker in the world? I’ve already know that government would involved into films’ making, so… the fascist power must did some propaganda media thing for instigating people, didn’t they?

  2. I think Ivans was one of few people to show his side on things in his films. Most people would try to avoid showing their opinion in fear of the possible outcome. I Believe it is very possible for a film maker to be objective and still find some success, but this all depends on a variety of things. How big is the group that believe of follow the film makers thoughts. What the film is about also has a lot to do with it. It’s hard to be objective on films where you are trying to show people something that they did not know anything about and be honest with it at the same time. For example the film about the people with the snakes and fire in church. They members of the church said that many of the film makers who tried to document them only showed what they wanted, that’s not truly showing the people what their church is all about. There are times when you need to be objective as well, for example trying to convince someone that your opinions are should be sided with. But as time passes and things change we may never know what’s to come with film making.


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