I think that the most important thing that I got from the three articles was the importance of honesty, in the content of the documentary.
First of all, if it’s not honest, then it isn’t real, and it isn’t really a documentary. If something’s fabricated, then nothing’s being documented in its state of existence because there is no state of existence. You could make up an idea, and it would exist because it’s an idea (that’s how that kind of stuff works), but making up a situation or lying about the state of something or leaving out important information that gives meaning to a situation are types of lies. A lot of people don’t consider omission to be lying, but I think that omitting details that seriously affect meaning is still lying because it has such a strong effect on interpretation. Omission is misrepresentation and misrepresentation is lying.
Okay, that’s my ramble about lying and lying by omission and misrepresentation.
The reading that resonated with me the most, and which I have chosen to quote, is Sheila Curran Bernard’s interview with Per Saari, from Bernard’s book Documentary Storytelling: Making Stronger and More Dramatic Nonfiction Films.
Before he talked about honesty in the interview, Saari mentioned that having a small camera, to record his own reactions and to shoot other things that would be difficult with the larger and more expensive camera equipment, was very useful. He went on to say that people, “forget that the story isn’t really dependent on how grainy the image is. As long as the subject is there, that’s really important.” The subject is the story and that’s the honesty of the documentary. That other stuff that goes into documenting (the ordering of everything and editing) aren’t really what matter the most because what people are going to take away from the project is the story and what it means – to the story teller, to themselves to the world. You can enhance the experience of a documentary using lots of techniques, but the experience is the story.
Saari later went on to talk about the role of honesty in the documentary about his brother. When looking for people to interview, he stated that he wanted his interviewees to, “be honest and who had interesting things to say… even if they were critical.” Saari’s whole documentary wasn’t some heavy, depressing compilation of sadness, but a mix of the honest/interesting/critical things with things that were “honest and not always easy things to say.” He finished his response about the people he chose to interview by saying that “the most important thing… was making sure that [the crew] had brutally honest people to interview.”
I think that using media in its purest and most truthful form is the most important because that media is the documentation, the physical record, of the story and of its spirit.