From Documentary to Video Activism
an introduction to Documentary Film Making Video Activism and Community Video
Documentary Film Making
Documentary is a form of film making which concentrates on non-fiction. The action element is non-scripted with any interview element also largely non-scripted. Obviously the nature and order or the questions will lead any interview. There will also be a certain amount of preping the interviewer. This will be partly to keep the interview on topic but also to help the interviewee and interviewer collect there thoughts There is also an artistic element which is lead by the film maker. Issues of what is reality and objectivity are as always relevant as someone is going to edit the film. This will have a great affect on how the viewer understands/reads the subject and the impact the film has on them.
The Politics in Film Making
The power and appeal of Documentary is the way it alters and plays with the way the viewer relates to and understands the subject. In this way film making is inherently political in that it affects and changes the viewers perception of the world. This is indeed not only relevant to Documentary but is evident is most type of film making. The film often mirrors the experience, understanding and politics of the director. In this way most films are inherently political, commenting on the politics and culture of the subject - else they tend to be dry.
Partisan Film Making.
Due to the political nature of film, partisan film making, especially where the subject is close to the film makers hart, tend to be the norm, rather than the exception. Indeed it can be argued that to make a powerful film you must care about the subject, therefore powerful films tend to be both political and partisan in nature.
Inherently participatory in nature, Community Video focusing on using video to enable communities to communicate amongst themselves as well as with others. In the process those participating will learn skills such as communicating, working as a group and technical skills around film making. The finished product is often of less importance than the skills and confidence gained through the process and the way in which the community is strengthened through people in in it work and are brought together.
There are only certain stories that will get onto the main stream news. The actual stories depends on many factors. The current political climate being one, in North America after September 11th there was a political climate which meant that mainstream news rallied round bush supporting his push for war. In New York many wanted to understand why it had happened and were against the war, feeling that there had been to much death already. The main stream media did not give them a voice. These people included those who had lost loved ones. Another factor is the cost of checking accuracy of independently reported events. Press releases from large companies and governments are reported without the need for expensive accuracy checking. After-all if they get it wrong it is not the media fault, indeed they can probably create another news story out of it. It simply is not cost affective to cover storys from independent sources. There is also an increasing reliance on large news agency's giving a very monolithic view of the world. Alternative media tries to fill this void allowing individuals and groups as well as governments and corporations a voice. To get a full picture watching Alternative and Main Stream news is a pragmatic approach.
Activism and Direct Action
Activism could be defined as activities engaged in by individuals to change there of others situation. Activists are generally doers - rather than watching television and thinking about the world they will put there energies into doing something 'active' to change the (political) situation. Direct action is engaging in actions which directly affect the situation of themselves and others. Squatting is a very good example of Direct Action as it changes there situation from Not having a home to having one - in aa very direct way. An office occupation is another example as not only douse it disrupt the activities of the organisation it also can raise the media profile of the campaign.
Wile documentary making is often political and partisan Video Activism actively tries to be. It is a campaigning tool used by Activists to convey there issues. There is indeed a inherently honesty to it. Not only douse it often shy away from creating a veneer of objectivity it is also tries to be very careful about getting its fact correct (obviously it douse not have the resources of the main stream to ensure this). It can also be argued that it creates a juxtaposition to the main stream media and advertising we are bombarded with every day. While mainstream media is led by profit, ratings and popularist culture and filtered by the current political climate, Alternative Media is lead solely by the convictions of the campaign and film maker.
(c) 2004 Ben Edwards