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Quillen
07-13-2005, 05:18 PM
In reading through the posts, I see that some documentary styles or methods are less approved of in this board. In order to set my goals in the right kind of field, Iwas wondering if anyone had films that I could watch on random subjects and comments on what made it good.

I want to do a behavioral documentary on a group of people, but I have three possible storylines. I could execute all three, but I don't want the film to be crowded. One of the storylines would depend on specific timing of footage, which may or may not be possible to do in a concise fashion.

Any suggestions?

XCheck
07-13-2005, 05:35 PM
Spellbound, My Architect were two movies I really liked. Both very well done. Spellbound is probably closer to what you are looking for.

I saw a couple of docs at Silverdocs festival in DC last month. Story of a beautiful country and Melting Siberia were very good, but I don't know if you can get them on DVD.

pmark23
07-13-2005, 08:53 PM
Get a book on documentary theory from the library, and copy the bibliography. Then go to your nearest University library and watch as many as you can -- they'll usually let you do it there even without being a student or member since you can't take them from the libarary.

That's the hardest part of doing documentaries -- you have to pick the BEST story, and leave a whole lot of good stuff on the cutting-room floor (figuratively speaking, of course.)

Is there a common theme between these three stories? Maybe concentrate on that instead of the individuals?

Rasquachemedia
07-14-2005, 10:07 PM
I'm not sure what you mean by behavioral but like xcheck I think spellbound is a good start, but I also really like farmingville and girlhood, both available at blockbuster or amazon.

go tiger is an example of bad in my book. bad because it was boring, overextended, slow paced, and full of unnecessary footage.

fixitinpost
07-14-2005, 11:02 PM
Check out Dogtown and Z-Boys. It's a classic. The only reason I don't like it anymore is that I was forced to watch it waaay too many times. I find it to be an excellent example of combining interviews, archival footage, etc. Very well told story. I also found it interesting that all of the interviews were shot handheld. Despite this, they came across very well. I would definitely recommend it if you haven't seen it.

Rasquachemedia
07-15-2005, 03:58 AM
I second fixitinpost when it comes to Dogtown and Z-Boys. I used it as a model for a short I made. Paul Crowder is an amazing editor. The handheld shots for the interview gave it a raw, urban, and grounded feel. Also the way the documentary was organized was excellent and allowed for coherence. Some documentary's go in too many directions and lose their coherence. What is amazing is that the film was made in only 6 months (conception to the end).

Peralta's Riding Giants is also very good and was edited by Crowder as well. What you can appreciate from both these films as well is the impact and importance of music in documentaries.

discs of tron
07-15-2005, 12:17 PM
there is so much. in terms of newer stuff, i like jem cohen's music films (instrument and benjamin smoke.) i love every thing errol morris has ever done. going back to the classics, you really can't do better than fred wiseman. he helped invent the whole "verite" thing, and though i think that a lot of the assumptions underpinning that style of filmmaking are thankfully starting to change, i think he does it better than anyone else. you have to go to a school library to see his stuff usually, or wait til he does a new one and it'll be on pbs.

HorseFilms
07-15-2005, 12:26 PM
I'm a huge fan of American Movie. That is the documentary that I use to measure all others.

Quillen
07-15-2005, 01:26 PM
In general -
Thanks for the suggestions guys, I really appreciate it. I'll be making a trip to Best Buy tonight. Keep 'em coming!



Get a book on documentary theory from the library, and copy the bibliography. Then go to your nearest University library and watch as many as you can -- they'll usually let you do it there even without being a student or member since you can't take them from the libarary.

That's the hardest part of doing documentaries -- you have to pick the BEST story, and leave a whole lot of good stuff on the cutting-room floor (figuratively speaking, of course.)

Is there a common theme between these three stories? Maybe concentrate on that instead of the individuals?

I know my old University does not allow non-students to view their docs, but there may be a college in town that does. I would like my husband to watch these with me, since I don't currently have the ability to make a documentary without him. I really have a lot to learn, although I'll do my best to become competant.

As to what the common theme is, I think I have the answer to that. However, since I haven't done anything of this magnitude before, it helps to have alternatives. I have until Chris gets the majority of his film done before I need to have a full plan. If I don't have a main story/central theme, I could get one if I can go to NH early next year :) .

Sean Michael
07-15-2005, 11:25 PM
I loved Spellbound. Perfect example of how a seemingly arcane topic (spelling bees) can produce riveting drama. The film exposes inherently compelling personalities in telling its story. Interesting people are always . . . interesting. Heck, even boring people can be interesting. :laugh:

Salesmen is an oldie but must-see.

The Fog of War is also excellent.

Shaun Patrick
07-16-2005, 02:56 PM
Errol Morris is probably the best documentary filmmaker working today. Films like The Fog of War, Mr. Death, and Fast Cheap and Out of Control are unrivaled (at least in my opinion) in terms of story structure, style , and editing. Also, his earlier work (Gates of Heaven, Vernon, FL, The Thin Blue Line) is being released on DVD at the end of this month. All must sees...

Also, Sans Soleil by Chris Marker is mesmerizing and fascinating as well. A little harder to find but it changed my whole perspective on what a documentary could be when I saw it my senior year in high school.

On the other end of the spectrum, Verite stuff by the Drew Associates (Primary), Frederick Wiseman (Titicut Follies), and Chris Hegedus (Startup.com, The War Room) are all excellent examples of the movement--just don't get too hung up on the whole 'documentary as objective' thing. "David Holzman's Diary" by Jim McBride is a nice response to the whole movement in general and also a great film.

Good Luck!

ShaunPatrick
www.hometeammovie.com

seejay1031
07-17-2005, 02:05 PM
I recently saw Enron- Smartest Guys in the Room. It was the best Doc I've seen in a long time. The film outlines quite well what happened at that company - the epitome of corporate corruption. But it doesn't stop there it anylizes the environment and attitudes that exitisted in that corporation since its inception. Incredibly well done.

As an example of a poorly done doc. I suggest "Outfoxed". This is a film thats premise I agreed with one hundred percent before I saw it- yet I just found myself groaning by the time they put up their source anonymous #4. I think they best docs are always at a length that their subject dictates. "Outfoxed"'s thesis could have been, "Fox is a very conservative company that forces its ideals into their news under the guise of being Fair and Balanced". This would have been better supported in a shorter edit where the least convincing stuff is cut out. Instead the producers seem to be stretching the boundries mearly to fit into a arbitraty feature length.

I also second American Movie as one of the greatest Docs of all time. I actually just finished up film school at UWM and have ran into Mark Borchardt, Mike Schank and Chris Smith in my few years here. All decent folks. Mark has a new movie coming out real soon.

AshG
07-18-2005, 03:55 PM
Saleman, Fog of War, Spellbound, Dogtown, Hype, Startup.com, American Movie, Trekkies, American Dream, The War Room, Some Kind of Monster... etc. etc. etc..

I just completed my first feature doc, it has been submitted to Toronto. You can check out the official website at www.strongenoughtobreak.com I am currently working on a newer, much better tralier...


ash =o)

dustino
07-18-2005, 06:48 PM
"Wild Birds of Telegraph Hill" - a bit sappy but spectacular nonetheless; still in theaters. About a half-homeless (intentionally so) man who decides to "adopt" a mysterious flock of parrots that arrive in San Francisco.

"The Kid Stays in the Picture" - about 70's mega-producer Robert Evans (Godfather, Chinatown, etc.). Really good doc made primarily from stills.

"Ghengis Blues"-about a blind blues singer who teaches himself Tuvan throat singing after accidently picking up a radio station playing the stuff. Travels to Tuva and becomes a momentary hero and celebrity. Watch the DVD extras - very inspiring. Filmmakers were not very experienced but pulled off a great film and even Oscar nomination!

"The Corporation" - definitely has its flaws, like the fact that it's made up almost entirely of talking heads and has a very long running time (bad combination for short attention spans). I still loved it, however, as I found the content made up for a sometimes lackluster form. It's concept is brilliant, though. It seeks a psychological analysis of the modern "Corporation" as if it were an individual (given that the supreme court has granted corporations the same rights as individuals).

"Born into Brothels" - heartbreaking movie, probably still in some theaters, about the children of prostitutes in Calcutta's red light district. The filmmaker taught photography to the students, gave them cameras, and did what she could to positively intervene in their difficult lives. She didn't simply teach them photography, but also tried to offer other opportunities. Great film.

"The Yes Men" - A great film about a couple of egghead pranksters who manage to worm their way into very important places, like World Trade Organization speaking conferences, and disrupt the proceedings in brilliant and hilarious ways that actually leave the "victims" sometimes applauding them. Same guy who did American Movie directed.

I'll also highly recommend what others have already mentioned -

Spellbound, Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room, American Movie, Fog of War, Trekkies

Also, consider getting Netflix if you watch alot of DVD's. Less than $20 a month for almost every film or video in print. Especially good for docs, which can be harder to find in chain stores.

XCheck
07-18-2005, 07:31 PM
"The Corporation" - definitely has its flaws, like the fact that it's made up almost entirely of talking heads and has a very long running time (bad combination for short attention spans).I was anticipating "The Corporation" eagerly before its release, and was VERY disappointed.

Bad compositions, bad sound, long running time (already mentioned), long, meaningless takes...


I still loved it, however, as I found the content made up for a sometimes lackluster form. It's concept is brilliant, though. It seeks a psychological analysis of the modern "Corporation" as if it were an individual (given that the supreme court has granted corporations the same rights as individuals).
And here is where the biggest flaw was, IMO. Not all corporations are the same, just like not all people are the same. It is suggesting that the very institution of a corporation is responsible for the mess humanity finds itself in... well - think about it. If I made a movie about 'The Human', I could practically make an identical film, just change the words.

There are many corporations that are model citizens, many of them 'not-for-profit'. Many that encourage their employees to get involved in the community, often on the corporation's account, many that sponsor educational, cultural, or other philantrophic activities.

If someone made a movie like this about an ethnic group or social group, we would hear all sorts of cries about racism, bigotry, stereotyping, etc. I hardly condone any of the bad stuff that was portrayed in the film - I am as appalled as the next guy. But you have to remember that all these things were perpetrated by PEOPLE first. It's really too bad, because the film makers could have made a much better film with the access and the material they had, with a similar alarming message, without making the broad generalizations they did, and without pointing to the concept of corporation as the great Satan of our age.

Now - this could easily slip into a political debate, so this is all I am going to say on the subject. The bottom line - in my book, 'The Corporation' = 'A bad film'. It may touch the nerves of some viewers, but it's hardly something worth emulating.

dustino
07-18-2005, 09:16 PM
And here is where the biggest flaw was, IMO. Not all corporations are the same, just like not all people are the same. It is suggesting that the very institution of a corporation is responsible for the mess humanity finds itself in... well - think about it. If I made a movie about 'The Human', I could practically make an identical film, just change the words.

There are many corporations that are model citizens, many of them 'not-for-profit'. Many that encourage their employees to get involved in the community, often on the corporation's account, many that sponsor educational, cultural, or other philantrophic activities.

Ok, the main crux of this documentary was to point out that corporations, amoral agents with no conscience either good or bad, have been granted the legal rights of individual human citizens. In fact, they have more rights because individual citizens are limited in how much they can donate to political parties while corporations have no limits. They secondly point out that that corporations are legally beholden and bound to put profitablility (shareholders economic interests) above ALL OTHER CONCERNS.

Whether you agree with this premise or not doesn't matter, but I find it erroneous to say that this doc simply "is suggesting that the very institution of a corporation is responsible for the mess humanity finds itself in...." Over and over and over again it emphasized this central thesis about the inherent conflicts of American law with respect to corporations:

Conflict #1. Corporations are amoral agents. They have the same legal rights as individuals. Legal rights are based in society's conception of morality and depend on the moral decisions of individuals.

Conflict #2. Corporations are also legally beholden to shareholder profits above all other concerns. Legally beholden as designated by American federal courts. So, even corporations that might be run by well-intentioned individuals are legally bound to place profits above ethics (not laws, ethics.)




If someone made a movie like this about an ethnic group or social group, we would hear all sorts of cries about racism, bigotry, stereotyping, etc.

This is precisely the point of the doc. Corporations are not human beings with feelings, emotions, and physical limitations - but they are granted those rights. The point of the film is not even to criticize corporations per se or "the very institution of a corporation", but to criticize how American law not only legimates but forces many of the worst actions of the modern corporation.

I should also note that the film has a sense of humor (albeit a dry one) as well as a sense of its audience. I think it starts from the premise that most of its target audience believes that corporations have an unchallenged overabundance of influence in contemporary culture. I feel its intent is to offer explanations as to how this influence works, and how we've come to this point in history. It is not trying to give "corporations" a fair shake or a trial of any sort - it is seeking to offer explanations and outlets for a concerned and frustrated target audience. The search for supposed fairness and objectivity is always expected of nonfiction films - why is that? First of all, objectivity is an impossible ideal, and secondly - what's wrong with having a decided point of view and espousing it. Narrative films do it all the time with no criticism - why are documentaries held to the standards of the (suppossed) objective journalist?

Rasquachemedia
07-18-2005, 10:45 PM
Question:

Are there any documentaries out there that were made using a dvx and accessible for rental or purchase? I know Murderball was made, in part, with a dvx but I can't get to a theatre playing it and am sure that it will be a while before its on dvd.

My interest of course is to see the quality of the dvx when it comes to a doc. With fiction and music videos there is more time to focus on composition, lighting, etc. But with a doc some stuff needs to be done with little or no control over lighting etc. (this does not buy may include interviews).

I am very impressed with what the dvx can do in and would like to see how it performs with say a video journalism style.

Any references to dvd's or web docs would be great?

thnx

xander76
07-18-2005, 11:14 PM
My recent faves have mostly been mentioned: "Spellbound" and "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" being the two most important ones. I tend to like and be engaged by films that have:

1) interesting, kooky, unforgettable characters
2) a dramatic story that builds to a conclusion
3) dynamic verite scenes
4) little or no narration

Some other films I liked and didn't see talked about as much above:

"Dig": a fascinating look at the rise (and in one case, fall) of two indie bands. Spanning seven years of the bands' careers, this doc is, in my book, impeccably structured. The leader of the successful band (The Dandy Warhols) narrates the story and brings the viewer into the twisted tale of the brilliance and dementia of the other band (The Brian Jonestown Massacre). It ends up seeming like a bizarre social experiment where the Dandys are the control group and the Massacre are an experiment gone very, very wrong.

"Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family": This isn't out yet, but it premiered at Toronto last year, and I saw it at the SF LGBT film festival. It is a stunningly intimate look at a romantic relationship among three people (two men and one woman). The film starts when they decide to have a child together and follows them for seven joyful and painful years. It has fantastic character development.

"Murderball": Saw this at the SF International FF, and it's the best movie I've seen this year, fiction or non. See it.

"The Grace Lee Project": Saw it at the SF Asian American FF; it's not out yet. It chronicles the journey of the director, Grace Lee, as she seeks out other women in the world who share her name. Although the concept could have devolved into silliness, she crafts the film to be a very funny and personal reflection of what it means to be an Asian American woman.

"Same Sex America": Playing on Showtime now, this doc followed 7 gay and lesbian couples during the fight over same sex marriage in Massachusetts. The filmmaker completely gained the trust of the couples, and he shows their foibles and fights as well as their high points. Also, he has some secondary characters who are activists fighting against same sex marriage, and he treats them with respect and dignity even though he clearly disagrees with them. Very compelling character development.

I also have to say that I really did not think that "Enron: Smartest Guys in the Room" was a very good documentary. Its content was compelling, and for that I give it props. I almost wasn't able to pay attention to the content, though, because so much of the film was filled with bizarre cutaways (as an example, the narrator would intone something about Enron pulling off a magic trick, and we would get a clip of a hand pulling a bunny out of a hat). There was also an ill-advised dramatization of the suicide of an Enron exec at the beginning which almost made me lose respect for the film completely.

XCheck
07-19-2005, 07:55 AM
Conflict #1. Corporations are amoral agents. They have the same legal rights as individuals. Legal rights are based in society's conception of morality and depend on the moral decisions of individuals.

Conflict #2. Corporations are also legally beholden to shareholder profits above all other concerns. Legally beholden as designated by American federal courts. So, even corporations that might be run by well-intentioned individuals are legally bound to place profits above ethics (not laws, ethics.)
That's a very interesting analysis. I think I'd agree with that, except for a small contradiction I see in your description of the second conflict. If legal rights (i.e., law) are "based in society's conception of morality and depend on the moral decisions of individuals", then the comment "(not laws, ethics.)" seems to make little sense.

I would also point out that the law is always behind the times - it's reactive, rather than proactive. Only after the society has adopted some sense of a moral standard in relation to a social issue, that standard makes its way into a legal norm. The opposite of that would probably be undesirable. I am not an expert in anything legal, but I am guessing the current legal framework was mostly created in times when technology and the speed with which products and services got distributed across the globe were on entirely different level. Few people, if any, could foresee what would eventually ensue if big business goes unchecked.

I would like to see the recent developments as a sign of improvement in the trend. Take Enron, or Worldcom. The Enron guy got 25 years. I think these scandals brought more attention to ethics in business, and I am sure that with a more sophisticated consumer, this trend will continue. Eventually, the "moral conscience" will reach a critical level, and the laws will change.

That said, I, as a small corporation owner, still have to object to the basic premise. What the film makers had in mind was "The big, global corporation", not the small incorporated mom and pop shop - I know because I had some e-mail conversation on the topic with the film director. I object because by its title and by its premise, the film puts me in the same lot with the very people and organizations I despise.


The search for supposed fairness and objectivity is always expected of nonfiction films - why is that? First of all, objectivity is an impossible ideal, and secondly - what's wrong with having a decided point of view and espousing it. Narrative films do it all the time with no criticism - why are documentaries held to the standards of the (suppossed) objective journalist?I don't think objectivity is an issue. I think double-measure is an issue - and no, it's not one and the same. I agree with you - objectivity is impossible, and I personally favor films with a point of view. But you need to have some sense of balance.

For example, comparing "The Corporation" with either the Nazis or the Communist party is not just a point of view. If they did that, they should have pointed out the differences in ideologies. Both Nazis and Commies had obliteration of their enemies as the goal number one (one based on race and ethinicity, the other based on social status and ideological disagreements). I don't see any of that in the very idea of a corporation, and not even in the practical conduct.

As a final point - if you look at all the good (or successful) documentary films made in the last few years, I don't think you will find one that doesn't have a decided point of view. Your assertion that "The search for supposed fairness and objectivity is always expected of nonfiction films" doesn't seem quite right to me. However, it's in the very name of the genre: fiction vs. documentary. Fiction is a fiction is a fiction. It doesn't need to be based in reality at all. Documentary 'documents' something, so it should show the 'facts' (if not the truth).

discs of tron
07-19-2005, 09:08 AM
i think it's pretty clear that the film was about large corporations and not mom-and-pop places. though i'm sorry if the title offends the small business owner, i suspect it's just a case where "the multi-national fortune 500 corporation" probably wasn't as catchy for a title. but the content of the film makes it explicitly clear where the critique is directed.

i think the inclusion of the ceo from the carpet corp who decides to take a much more responsible stance on the environmental ramifications of his business was an example of balance. this in a person, who runs a corporation, who has decided to act in a more responsible, ethical manner.

i'm not gonna touch the nazis, but the communists' primary goal had to do with the redistribution of wealth and power, supposedly in a more populist way (which of course never happened.) the obliteration of "enemies" was merely a tactic (a bad tactic,) that was understood as a necessary step towards the realization of that primary goal. just as any number of governments, and businness entities, have obliterated people believed to operate in opposition to their principal goals, whether we're discussing the genocide comitted on the indians or coca-cola employees murdering would-be union organizers in central america.

no documentary (or any other film) has ever been made that doesn't have a point of view. personally, i'd rather deal with a filmmaker who acknowledges a position than one who hides behind some sense of presumed objectivity.

the contradiction that exists in corporations is that while they have the same rights as individuals, they don't have the same accountability. coca-cola can employ subcontractors that literally murder people who stand in the way of profit. but if i hire someone to kill my landlord (who is a huge drain on my personal profitability,) i'll do 25 years. i agree that the enron thing shows a small measure of change in corporate accountability. the oxley-sarbane act is a step in that direction too. but this is largely symbolic progress. the fact is that we won't see meaningful change or regulation until the connection between political power and wealth is severely limited. i think it's great to have faith in democracy and think that the will of the people will make meaningful changes. but to go back to your nazi allusion, let's keep in mind that hitler was democratically elected by "the people." the right to vote doesn't ultimately mean that a greater good is being achieved. the current symbiotic relationship that exists between huge, global corporations and the political power structure ensures that the corporate constituency will continue to have a great deal more political influence than you or i.

XCheck
07-19-2005, 01:54 PM
i think the inclusion of the ceo from the carpet corp who decides to take a much more responsible stance on the environmental ramifications of his business was an example of balance. this in a person, who runs a corporation, who has decided to act in a more responsible, ethical manner.Agreed.


...but the communists' primary goal had to do with the redistribution of wealth and power, supposedly in a more populist way (which of course never happened.) the obliteration of "enemies" was merely a tactic (a bad tactic,) that was understood as a necessary step towards the realization of that primary goal.Really? Have you read The Communist Manifesto? Long before it delves into redistribution of wealth, it talks about class struggle. Furthermore, it's quite explicit in its goals:


The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: Formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.

No word on democracy, sharing of powers, or (God forbid!) redistribution of wealth. On the contrary, all the talk about redistribution of wealth in the manifesto is subjected to one overriding principle: conquest of political power by the proletariat (see above).


no documentary (or any other film) has ever been made that doesn't have a point of view. personally, i'd rather deal with a filmmaker who acknowledges a position than one who hides behind some sense of presumed objectivity.Yes, I thought we agreed on that.


the fact is that we won't see meaningful change or regulation until the connection between political power and wealth is severely limited. i think it's great to have faith in democracy and think that the will of the people will make meaningful changes.Yes, and like in most of history, it's a long, painful, and frustrating process. Most political changes take decades to implement. A decade is nothing from a historical perspective. From a single human life perspective, it's a major part of one's productive life. I guess that's where the frustration comes from. But we really ought to ask a question: are we better off (and I don't mean just economically) than fifty years ago?

We (you and I) today have much more power than our predecessors. We have the power of creating, publishing, and distributing compelling media content, and sometimes, we actually have more power than the big business because people have the tendency to favor the underdog. We have the internet, the DVX, Vegas, DVRack. They are products of either corporations, or the government, or both. I fail to understand how that's a bad thing.

Yes - I hate monopoly like the next guy. I can't stand Micro$oft. I can't stand bullies, be it in business or in the school backyard. But I think that on the whole, corporations (even the XXL ones) have had a net positive impact on the quality of human life. What's the cost of it remains to be seen.

I am tuning out... really not interested in having this thread locked up :beer: . It's not about "The Corporation", after all. I just wanted to say that I didn't think it was a good film, and why...

dat5150
07-19-2005, 04:05 PM
"The Long Road to Cabo" is a behind the scenes look at Sammy' Hagars tour a couple of years back. Is it a documentary?...as far as I'm concerned it is, its non fiction. I love the DVD....there's so much variety in the shots and effects along with telling a good story. You don't have to like Sammy to like the doc.

"Gunner Palace" is awesome. Best Iraq war doc either theatrical or TV, it should win Best Doc Oscar.

dustino
07-19-2005, 04:54 PM
Well, we've gotten well past what the original poster asked for - recommendations for docs and why you think they're good. But since you decided to take my 2 or 3 sentence quickie recommendation and quote it in your effort to express your beef with the makers of "The Corporation" I feel compelled to respond and keep responding.



That's a very interesting analysis. I think I'd agree with that, except for a small contradiction I see in your description of the second conflict. If legal rights (i.e., law) are "based in society's conception of morality and depend on the moral decisions of individuals", then the comment "(not laws, ethics.)" seems to make little sense.

You have only reinforced my contention that the doc criticizes American law with respect to corporations more than criticizing corporations themselves. The moral failure is in the LAW, not the corporation. I suppose I should have said that legal rights SHOULD BE or are EXPECTED to be based in society's conception of morality instead of ARE based in... I assumed the reader would understand that the "contradiction" you mention IS MY VERY POINT:

Laws are (expected/intended to be) based in morality/ethics. However, American Corporate law demands the priority of shareholder profits above all else (including ethics. )

Yes, that's a contradiction - the contradiction is the very point.


I would like to see the recent developments as a sign of improvement in the trend. Take Enron, or Worldcom. The Enron guy got 25 years. I think these scandals brought more attention to ethics in business, and I am sure that with a more sophisticated consumer, this trend will continue. Eventually, the "moral conscience" will reach a critical level, and the laws will change.

The Enron (especially!) and Worldcom scandals were only the most obvious and outrageous examples of illegal activity that should've resulted in easy convictions for a prosecuter fresh from law school. The purpose of the doc, however, was not to address criminal activities, but instead how legal activities result in adverse consequences due to, again, flaws in the LAW, not corporations so much.


That said, I, as a small corporation owner, still have to object to the basic premise. What the film makers had in mind was "The big, global corporation", not the small incorporated mom and pop shop - I know because I had some e-mail conversation on the topic with the film director. I object because by its title and by its premise, the film puts me in the same lot with the very people and organizations I despise.

Yes, the doc was intended to go after the big multinationals, but the mom and pop corporations are not immune to the legal obligation of profitability over all else. The reality is that multinationals have huge consequences because of their huge size.

For instance - perhaps a mom and pop corporation decides to lay off an employee to maximize profit. They are not in a financial position where they have to do this, but they decide they can increase the other three employees hours a little and still get by while earning a much greater profit. Or maybe they decide to downgrade their employees' benefits packages even though they don't have to in order to maximize profits. Well, if they decide not to do those things - that doesn't make a huge difference in the grand scheme. But if AT&T or General Motors decides to lay off 25% of their labor force (to maximize profits or "remain competive" - the current favorite phrase) that can devistate communities.

Now, as a mom and pop - you're less pressured to maximize profits and maybe you would never lay someone off just to increase the bottom line. But huge multinationals have powerful shareholder organizations which demand profitability and can threaten lawsuits and force out senior executives if they fail to realize potential profits.

So, mom and pops are only immune to many of the nasty consequences of the corporate ethos because of scale, not intent. The former CEO of Shell (or some oil company) offered this very point. He said he had little power to change company policy because of executives' and board members' legal obligations to shareholders. Once again, the film is condemning the law more than corporations, be they multinationals or mom and pops.


I don't think objectivity is an issue. I think double-measure is an issue - and no, it's not one and the same. I agree with you - objectivity is impossible, and I personally favor films with a point of view. But you need to have some sense of balance.

As someone else already stated, the doc gave a great deal of recurring air time to the carpet manufacturer as well as the CEO I already mentioned. I find those instances of "balance" - though I disagree than a sense of balance is necessary for a good doc.


As a final point - if you look at all the good (or successful) documentary films made in the last few years, I don't think you will find one that doesn't have a decided point of view. Your assertion that "The search for supposed fairness and objectivity is always expected of nonfiction films" doesn't seem quite right to me. However, it's in the very name of the genre: fiction vs. documentary. Fiction is a fiction is a fiction. It doesn't need to be based in reality at all. Documentary 'documents' something, so it should show the 'facts' (if not the truth).

This film does "document" numerous interviews, historic legal decisions, archival footage. Surely you're not arguing that it doesn't document anything. What I think you're arguing is that the film didn't give corporations a fair shake - at least not mom and pops or non-profits. I say this was not it's intention. It intended to find examples that reinforce it's premise that corporations, and especially their legal status and exemptions, result in a great deal of adverse consequences for society as a whole. They accomplished that - whether it is fair or "balanced" is irrelevant to the intent of the film.

KingVidiot
07-20-2005, 06:55 PM
I completely agree with a lot of the movies listed here:
American Movie, Dogtown, The Kid Stays... , Fast Cheap... good stuff.

Also, pretty much anything by Ken Burns. His style has been copied so often it's amazing. I'm surprised Tarantino hasn't ripped him off.


Back to American Movie, I have seen it a bunch... cracks me up every time.
The commentary is great, with the star commenting an agreeing with himself in real time. Addictive!

The PBS American Masterpieces series on Calder, Rauschenberg, etc. is really good. Also, the Chuck Close doc with music by Philip Glass is excellent.

I can't stop myself... I love docs!

Rasquachemedia
07-24-2005, 12:07 AM
gunner palace may be the best doc on the iraq war (i haven't seen any others to compare it to). but i would not say its a great doc. Taped on an xl2 i believe and edited on a mac I think there are some accomplishments to praise. Including the guts to go in and take the footage.

The film itself is poorly organized, repetitive, and slow paced. I was not impressed by the editing and the film itself ran a bit too long.

The film has been criticized by some for being too bias. I disagree. The footage clearly shows what the soldiers go through and how they are reacting to the chaos of it all.

The narration has been critiqued as a take off of apocalypse now. I see it too. The narration is pretty bad and the cutaways or b-roll just don't make sense sometimes.

I was going to buy this dvd, but rented it and didn't like it. I was expecting something more sophisticated when it came to the editing. From what I recall the sound and cinematography was good.

double_agent_oo2
07-24-2005, 11:31 AM
Question:

Are there any documentaries out there that were made using a dvx and accessible for rental or purchase? I know Murderball was made, in part, with a dvx but I can't get to a theatre playing it and am sure that it will be a while before its on dvd.

My interest of course is to see the quality of the dvx when it comes to a doc. With fiction and music videos there is more time to focus on composition, lighting, etc. But with a doc some stuff needs to be done with little or no control over lighting etc. (this does not buy may include interviews).

I am very impressed with what the dvx can do in and would like to see how it performs with say a video journalism style.

Any references to dvd's or web docs would be great?

thnx

I know of a doc (that I liked) called BattleGround: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge that was shot on a couple of DVX100s in Iraq, it was showing on Showtime but that was a while ago. Showtime Page with Trailer (http://www.sho.com/site/schedules/product_page.do?episodeid=124484&seriesid=0)

Oh, on it's official site, it says it's coming out on dvd November 1st. Long wait.
Official Site (http://www.gnn.tv/videos/20/BattleGround_21_Days_on_the_Empire_s_Edge)

Rasquachemedia
07-25-2005, 08:38 AM
thnx double agent,

that looks great. It also looks like I'm going to get a chance to see murderball this week and look forward to checking it out.

dustino
07-25-2005, 06:41 PM
Question:

I know Murderball was made, in part, with a dvx but I can't get to a theatre playing it and am sure that it will be a while before its on dvd.

My interest of course is to see the quality of the dvx when it comes to a doc. With fiction and music videos there is more time to focus on composition, lighting, etc.

Hey Rasquachemedia,
Do you know if the DVX stuff was shot in 24p or 60i? I'm also interested in seeing how the DVX holds up (in 24p especially) in run and gun situations. Almost saw that this weekend but saw Hustle & Flow instead because I was too lazy to drive across town. Knowing that part was shot on DVX is huge added incentive to see a movie I was already looking forward to.

Rasquachemedia
07-25-2005, 11:46 PM
Dustino,

yes it was filmed in 24p, from apple website:

"The “Murderball” team completed the puzzle with the help of Final Cut Pro HD, using a mix of 30fps tapes shot on the Sony PD 150 and 24fps tapes shot on the Panasonic DVX 100. “When we started filming two and a half years ago, the 24fps technology was not available,” says Richman. “But once we got the DVX 100, it would have been stupid to keep shooting at 30fps.”

link to page 1 (qoute is from page 2): http://www.eworld.com/pro/video/richman/

It just so happens that this film has just come to town and I just came back from theatre. This doc was awesome in everyway: cinematography, sound, and especially editing. This film will become a classic.

On the big screens some of the shots are pretty blurry especially the footage extracted from television. As for what they shot some of it is pretty sharp (I presume this is the dvx and the blurry footage I figure is from the Sony.

This doc is a must see. I wouldn't wait for DVD. Experience it on the big screen and appreciate the work. Yeah, I'm still going to buy the DVD and hope the bonus features are packed with great stuff.

As for the content of the film. It accomplishes a lot more than I expected. It really breaks down the stereotypes many of us have about quadraplegics. It is also very inspirational. If you have full able body and are in good health there sure as hell no excuses to what you can do.

GraduateSwine
07-28-2005, 02:54 AM
Two i would have to recommend are: Sans Soleil by Chris Marker- I know its already been mentioned but it is true, this film will make you question the very boundries of documentary filmmaking.
Secondly, and im suprised that it hasnt been already mentioned (unles i missed it??) is D.E. Pennebaker's DONT LOOK BACK, the story of Bob Dylan's British tour in the late sixties. This film is seen as the original benchmark of the music doco.

Rasquachemedia
07-31-2005, 10:36 PM
saw My Architect and is was less than okay. I wouldn't rec. it. I thought the sound was good, but that's it. Disappointed because I expected it to be so much more.

Rasquachemedia
08-01-2005, 10:04 PM
just saw american movie (based on recs here) and it was a riot.

[ I'm a newbie to all this so i was kinda blown away with the shots in the editing room. I've never touched film. Have only worked with mini-dv and after seeing the labor involved with film I will never touch film. I like the idea of the p2 cards for the hvx (is that what they are called) but it looks like they are way beyond anything i can afford). Maybe one day I'll buy those drives that attach to the camera and capture as you tape ]

It was fun to watch someone else at work. I'm into video journalism and want to do documentaries, so it was awesome to see all the labor involved in producing fiction, whew that's some work!

dancingcrane05
08-25-2005, 10:15 AM
Get Directing The Documentary By Michael Rabiger
Watch Mothers Of Life (by Some Finnish Couple I Cant Remember Their Name) It Is Epic 'observational'(?)

Mike Parker
09-10-2005, 11:56 PM
You and I must have seen different versions of "Murderball".

I thought the cinematography, if you can call it that, bordered on dreadful. The shots were, for the most part, poorly framed, poorly lit and lacked coherent sequences. In a word: amateurish.

I've shot documentaries for History Channel, Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, HGTV and CNN, among others. If I had submitted the quality of cinematography exhibited in "Murderball" I'd probably never work again.

In addition, I teach news videography through classes and workshops. I am, as I write, in Athens, Greece retraining two-dozen news photographers at Antenna TV. The biggest part of my job is to get them to understand that news/docu shooting is NOT what they've been watching on MTV: just as in writing, there are certain rules that make their work more understandable to others. Reporters work with descriptive words and well-written sentences. We work with well lit and composed shots and logical, editable sequences to create continuity.

While content IS important, the way it is presented is ALSO important. "Murderball" was a terrific story and it would have been a BETTER film had it been shot by someone who actually knew what they were doing with a camera.

And, yes, I know they got a movie deal out of it, but so did the producers of "Jackass".

Mike Parker
www.mp-tv.com

David G. Smith
09-11-2005, 10:05 PM
One doc that blew me away was "Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0263238/) by Robert Drew. It is pure Verite'. "Don't look back" was very cool also.

I've noticed a lot of the newer crop of doc "hits", "Dogtown and Z-Boys", "Capturing the Friedmans" and even "Tarnation" make use of a large amount of old archival footage. These movies are hard to use as models for doc production unless you have access to large archive libraries.

Rasquachemedia
09-11-2005, 10:50 PM
thnx for the suggestion on the film david, i just qued crisis on netflix

rgdfilms
09-13-2005, 10:08 PM
CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS is amazing

robmyers
09-14-2005, 06:01 PM
Secondly, and im suprised that it hasnt been already mentioned (unles i missed it??) is D.E. Pennebaker's DONT LOOK BACK, the story of Bob Dylan's British tour in the late sixties. This film is seen as the original benchmark of the music doco.

Dont Look Back. Watching this Doc again right now. I couldn't agree more. If you like music docs, this is the absolute benchmark. "Some Kind of Monster" is slow suburban slop compared to the no-rules, history-in-the-making, fire of this Dylan doc.

(Just so you know: I loves me my metal. I saw Metallica in the '80s with Danzig opening in a basketball court north of Belfast, N. Ireland - anyone know what "gobbing" is? Someone pulled the fire alarm twice. They kept trying to push us out of the venue until they realized it might be safer for the community if they just let the headbangers have their music.)

Octaboy
09-26-2005, 09:58 PM
GOOD GOD? Has everyone gone so completely batty as to leave out the unrivaled, unmatched, some might even claim unbelievable, "MAN BITES DOG" as the quintessential doc of our time? It embraces every cliche from the gritty black and white verite camera work to the self reflection of the film maker pondering his own commitment to the truth. Yet, it is one of those non-fiction films that manages to maintain it's integrity and unwavering purity through out the test of time.

This film is not rated and is not intended for; children under 17, those with weak hearts or God fearing Americans with even a mild aversion to violence. Subtitled in French.

Kelly Olsen
09-27-2005, 08:33 PM
Mad Hot Ballroom. I liked the story and that is all it really comes down to for me in the end. As long as the filmaker dosen't get in the way he/she can do anything, in any "style" with any camera. A perfect example is "My Date With Drew". It really changed the way I think about my work.

On "MDWD" they used a consumer grade min-dv camera bought at Circuit City with in camera mike and no lights. Claims to have made it for $1,100 (no post production cost included I'm certain) but the "story" was engaging as were the "cast members".

I love things to be well edited and look great and all the rest, but the story and the way you tell it is the key for me.

MsManhattan
10-17-2005, 08:44 PM
I don't know if the style of this documentary would be relevant to the type of doc you are looking to make, but just based on your interest in exploring different documentary styles I wanted to suggest Sherman's March by Ross McElwee. A North Carolinian living in Boston gets a grant to make a film about Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, who burned a path through the South, but by the time the filmmaker starts his project, his heart's been broken. So his historical doc evolves into a personal narrative on his Southern roots, his love life and Southern women, and it's hilarious. McElwee has a style all his own, doing his own voiceover and unabashedly injecting himself into his films, but by making his subjects personal he actually widens the perspective by bringing the viewer into a similarly self-reflective state. And, he's just funny. Sherman's March, his first and Bright Leaves, his latest, would be a great doc double feature.

Shaun Patrick
10-18-2005, 05:11 PM
GOOD GOD? Has everyone gone so completely batty as to leave out the unrivaled, unmatched, some might even claim unbelievable, "MAN BITES DOG" as the quintessential doc of our time? It embraces every cliche from the gritty black and white verite camera work to the self reflection of the film maker pondering his own commitment to the truth. Yet, it is one of those non-fiction films that manages to maintain it's integrity and unwavering purity through out the test of time.

This film is not rated and is not intended for; children under 17, those with weak hearts or God fearing Americans with even a mild aversion to violence. Subtitled in French.

Last time I checked, MAN BITES DOG was a work of fiction--a mock documentary.

darst
10-29-2005, 04:29 AM
Picked up Paradise Lost the other day, and it is simply amazing..... Anyone interested in docs should for sure pick it up... I have no idea how the filmmakers got as much access as they did... It is amazing....

Shiloh Arts
11-09-2005, 01:30 PM
Check out "Children of War".... although it's from the behavior of a child during war times, the style and technique the director uses are just amazing.

jermz
11-09-2005, 09:17 PM
I just saw "Race is the Place" in HIFF. Amazing documentary, if I do say so myself. It follows slam poets' acts and juxtaposes them with candid interviews about racism in America, and how slam poetry is used as an outlet for expressing their feelings about the issue. Pretty interesting stuff, especially considering how surprisingly funny and informative this documentary actually is. I'm not sure of its availability, but it's definitely one to look out for if you see it at a film festival near you.

Other suggestions: Spellbound, Tarnation

jermz
11-14-2005, 10:39 PM
Add "Bus 174" to that list.

Trailers: http://www.bus174.com/trailler.htm

stidle
12-07-2005, 12:40 PM
Along bus doc lines, I liked _Das Bus_ a lot, despite its awkward editing and shitty shooting. It was all about the stories.

Likewise, if you were looking for a news-grade (i.e. well-lit, nice-sounding, highly posed) doc in _Murderball_, you were looking in the wrong place. I don't think there was any intent to make it that way. There is not always time, money, and reason to make a Hollywood movie out of real life.

Garry Lash
12-24-2005, 08:00 AM
Has anyone seen 'Dark Days' ?

valdez
12-26-2005, 02:29 AM
Yes,
I saw dark days and really liked it. plus on the DVD the filmmakers explanation of how it was done actually led me to feel more respect for it than I would have otherwise, since it's dicey material that deals with some class and race issues that I would have found hard to overlook. A nicely done film, I think. Generally speaking there are just to many to narrow down though. "Cane Toads" is a neat one that is done a little differently than the average nature doc. ALL of Ross McElwees docs are great must sees. See them in order From Shermans March and then Time Indefinite, then Six O'clock News, then Bright Leaves. They're cronological and work best that way I think, though they don't have to. "The Self Made Man" is good. "Troublesome Creek" is great. "Speedo" is great. Many great ones are just hard to find since generally speaking, docs don't do well so distribution is limited and expensive if it's not a big distributor. I liked "Straight No Chaser" if you like Jazz or Thelonius Monk like I do. "The Gleaners and I" is great. "Streetwise" is a good classic. Maysles Bros. films are mostly good classics.

mcshyd
12-26-2005, 08:22 AM
lost boys of sudan

Tainted
01-04-2006, 09:19 PM
This thread is awesome, thanks to all who have posted.

Now, I've got a question for everyone...

Can anyone recommend any of these docs (or others) that have really good EXTRA FEATURES on their DVDs about how the docs were made? Extra voiceover tracks from the director's, or minidocs about how they made the doc itself? That type of stuff...

Thanks!

cpyle
01-05-2006, 12:13 AM
Winged Migration had a good "making-of" on the DVD that shows how they did some of the amazing photography. Also, Riding Giants DVD had a nice bit about the editing process which I found very interesting.

Chris Pyle
Wildland Films