I would like to do my paper on the 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams by Steven James. This film follows two young basketball prodigies, William Gates and Arthur Agee, over the course of their high school careers who end up following very different paths trying to achieve the same goal. The reason I want to do this is because I have personal ties to the documentary through a basketball coach. My AAU coach, who has been my coach for many years, knows Arthur Agee personally and used to put on an annual Hoop Dreams basketball camp with him in my home town. My hope is that I would be able to somehow contact Arthur personally and ask him about his experience having his life being filmed for so long and having cameras there for such intimate and painful times throughout his life. This would provide a very interesting point of view that most audiences don’t get to see. This is one source I plan to use. Another source I found is a fantastic article online which talks about the impact of the film and the emotions one goes through when watching it. Part of the article goes into specific details on which scenes were the most effective and why. The article can be found here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/blogs/the-w/2010/03/hoop-dreams-15-years-later/ . My last source of information will be the film itself, due to the fact that most of the paper will be analyzing the entire film. This is a unique documentary because it follows the lives of these two young men over time and the film makers didn’t really know what the outcome would be. It took years to make, and in doing so they realized that the stories they showed may not have panned out the way they thought they would, but had an even deeper message overall.
After watching the film Salesman, I found that I actually enjoyed it. I never thought I would be even remotely interested in a black and white movie about bible salesmen, however the story told and the way it is presented made it fairly intriguing. Having previous experience in sales, I can see and relate to the frustration of not making sales and not reaching a certain sales goal. At the same time, watching the sales techniques made me cringe with how pushy they were. This was especially evident in the scene where they are practicing a particularly tough sales scenario amongst each other, and the salesman who is acting as their teacher comes off as completely arrogant and extremely rude. He actually says, “Stop figuring, and start writing!” while pointing to the checkbook. I would have given him the boot and possibly a certain gesture involving the middle finger!
The free cinema or cinema verite technique used by the Maysles brothers is truly great. I was skeptical on if I would be interested in a documentary without any sort of narrative, but the way in which the film was edited made it even better than if there were dialogue added. I truly loved the way the story was portrayed using this technique. Messages were portrayed using the actual dialogue, facial expressions, and even establishing shots of the weather and trees and/or snow. This transformed the film from being just a documentary to being very artistic. As an aspiring film maker, I couldn’t help but marvel at the mastery of editing that made the story come to life. It would have been much easier to add narrative and tell the story, but the way the story is shown in this film, made me really appreciate Charlotte Zwerin and the Maysles brothers’ skill.
Personally, knowing that we will be making our own documentary next semester, I have been brainstorming all year. I have basically known what I want to do for some time now, and even have some footage already. This year is my senior year playing basketball here at SAU, and the last chance I have to end things right. Not only that, but this is a rare year in which we have a brand new coaching staff and almost all new girls on the team. I have all the faith in the world that this will be a turn around year. Last year, our record was terrible. We won absolutely ZERO games. This year, with all of the new changes, has the potential to be one of the greatest comeback seasons this conference has ever seen. All I think about is how amazing it would be to document that type of season and show all of the hard work it takes to make it. I love sports documentaries (I watch them every day on Netflix), and when I am with my team I just feel this sense of family and love that transcends simply putting up wins and I know, if it’s done well, would be amazing to capture on film. Our coaches, and even our players are so inspiring, I would love to share that with the world. As a person who loves sports documentaries, I envision this film as one that I would want to watch even if I had no idea where SAU was.
Watching Night and Fog brought up some extremely intense emotions for me. The unique way in which the stories were told took a different approach on the Holocaust that I had never seen before. It was very interesting how it went back and forth between footage of an abandoned Auschwitz and actual historical footage. Almost everything else I have ever seen involving the Holocaust has either been a reenactment, or avoided the graphic material entirely. The gradual way in which the graphic images were shown made for a more dramatic and emotional response. As a viewer, you get drawn in and start feeling empathy for the victims, and then at the end are bombarded with graphic footage that is extremely shocking. The fact that they did not use any reenactments makes it even more emotional for the audience because when we are shown the shocking videos of thousands of emaciated bodies being moved with machinery into a mass grave, we have to come to the realization that these are REAL images.
I believe that there is good reason to show scenes of extreme violence whether it be real or reenacted as long as it is in a historical context. Many people are told about the horrific things that took place in the Holocaust, which does make a person feel empathy, however, once you actually see these images it is much more effective at showing exactly what was happening. Simply saying “millions were murdered” is not nearly as effective as showing footage of thousands of bodies stacked upon each other. Many would think it is unnecessary, however when it comes to issues such as people denying Holocaust, this is important. Also, I am a firm believer in that if we don’t learn from the mistakes made in our history, it will repeat itself. These powerful images can be used to try and prevent something like this from happening again. (Though, sadly, it already has in other places in the world.
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?
I completely agree with Iven’s view of objectivity in documentary. It is a really nice idea to think that a person can be completely objective in these situations. However, that’s all it is…a nice idea. Most of the time, even when we think we are being objective, we aren’t. And as a documentary film maker this dilemma grows, because we don’t make films about things we aren’t passionate about. When a film maker is passionate about what they are documenting, they WILL have bias. There is no way that the film will be completely objective, even if he/she tries. I have had to learn this personally, when at times I feel that I am being objective, and it is pointed out that I still have bias. As in anything we examine, there is always the element added of human nature, and being in the field of art and creativity it is kind of the whole point as film makers to show what we want and what we believe in our own creative ways. When it comes to a film such as Iven’s, it is especially true that one can’t be objective. Iven’s approached the film knowing what he wanted to convey because he was so extremely opposed to fascism.
Matuszewski makes some great points in his pamphlet about the power of documentary cinema. He points to an undeniable truth that film brings. He mentions that photos are so easily manipulated, but manipulating film is near impossible. This was a very great point….when he wrote it. As the prompt suggests, things have changed since then. The things he presents are very positive in his time, because film then would prove to be an absolute truth. However, these positives then become negatives as time goes on and film manipulation becomes so extremely common. For example, very recently, a video on youtube received millions of views when it portrayed a girl “twerking” and accidentally catching on fire. A week after the video went viral, Jimmy Kimmel revealed to the world that it was fake.
In the video, Kimmel shows the multiple world famous news outlets that had been deceived and aired the video as an example of the dangers of twerking. These days, simply having video cannot be considered cold hard proof.