But most of the documentaries use the voice-over narration as a way to preserve smooth linkage between the incoherent images that have been mentioned above, and to lead the audience in a controlled interpretation of what is presented to them. Proceeding to a definition of ‘cinema verite’ or direct cinema, we may for a start embrace John Grierson’s general definition of it ”.
.. it’s about today not about yesterday, and the only good film is the one you are going to make tomorrow”.Cinema verite’, according to Bordwell and Thompson ”records an ongoing event ‘as it happens’, with a minimal interference by the filmmaker”. What is interesting here is that every filmmaker adds something diverse to its definition making it difficult to be specifically formed. However, there are the general characteristics that differentiate it from other types of documentary. It is based on the use of non-hidden portable cameras, constant observation and shooting, and editing that will give at the end the opportunity for the discovery of the truth.The quality of that type of documentary is ‘raw’ in terms of shooting with no personal interference from the filmmaker, amateur performance, low or available lighting, poor quality of sound, and shaking camera due to the ‘uncertainty’ of the situation.
Direct cinema challenges the idea of life being the director and encourages the audience and the filmmaker to make their own assumptions and discover their own truth. Walking forward to Fred Wiseman’s work and his documentary motion picture Law and Order we may notice his ’employment’ as a ‘fly on the wall’ imperceptible observation.There is intentional lack of voice-over narration that would provide the linkage of his images, and also lack of background music. The above are challenging the audience to develop their own ideas, as the authority of narration would persuade the audience to believe a specific viewpoint given by the filmmaker. In the extract given for analysis we experience the recording of an uncontrolled situation. A young African -American woman is being arrested as she is accused of making a living out of ‘hassling’ with men.She is not leaded to prison immediately but her hotel room is being searched and she is seriously warned of not ‘messing’ around again.
Hand-held cameras under low or available lighting and synchronous live sound were used to film the whole scene. It’s rough quality and ‘readiness’ is quite striking. There is a lot of unsteady framing, twitching of focus and jumpy zooms. It is clearly marked that the filmmaker has no interference and the whole focus is relying on the filming of the real people; the young woman and the police officers. There is no preference on specific issue but a general observation on the incident.There are no controlled impressions and it seems difficult and disturbing for the audience the fact that through the direct capture of the event everyone has to make his own assumptions and find his own truth. That is also why there is a lack of voice-over narration, talking heads, and music at this extract as well as the whole film.
Frederick Wiseman seems to relinquish his authority on dictating behaviors. Nevertheless, one would probably say that when it comes to the ‘social actors’, the real people of this extract – in this case the police officers – a quite ‘performative’ behavior is engaged.In many occasions they turn to the camera and address their responses to the young woman in a way they might not chose to, if they were not aware of the presence of the camera. In that sense they ‘act’ with an exaggeration, in terms of expressing their authoritative power to the woman and to the audience, as well. That element would presumably bring a problematic character to the notion of ‘cinema verite’ but not to ‘documentary’ as a whole, as there is another type of it widely known as ‘performative documentary’ including attention that is drawn to the social performance of others as well as the filmmaker’s.So, what we see is that not all the types of documentary exhibit the same common features and conventions. Maybe one uses characteristics that another avoids to, and in that way every time the definition of documentary is being expanded offering new possibilities for the creation of new types.
Following that idea we could say that there is not actual problem for the definition of ‘documentary’ provoked by the extract given for analysis except for what is stated in the previous paragraph regarding ‘cinema verite’ and ‘performative documentary’.The extract is functioning in the ‘framework’ of ‘direct cinema’ and defends its common features as already explained before. But considering what has already been mentioned for the character of ‘documentary’ and ‘cinema verite’ one could say that as long as the main ‘track’ is followed with the distinguished features preserved, there is no problem other than maybe that expansion – of the definition of ‘documentary’ – itself.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Blandford, Grant and Hillier; The Film Studies Dictionary; New York, Oxford University Press; 2001 Bordwell, David and Kristin Thompson; Film Art: An Introduction -sixth edition; New York; McGraw-Hill; 2001 Bruzzi, Stella; New Documentary: A Critical Introduction; London; Routledge; 2000 Nichols, Bill; Introduction to Documentary; Bloomington, Indianapolis; Indiana University Press; 2001 Rosenthal, Alan; New Challenges for Documentary;London; Berkeley, Los Angeles, London; University of California Press; 1988 Vaughan, Dai; For Documentary: Twelve Essays; Berkeley, Los Angeles, London; University of California Press; 1999 Word count: 1. 550 appr. Evangelia Koutoumani (St. Id: 01003096) Page 1 of 8 Page 1 of 8.