Read Documentaries (2006) in the Week 4 Electronic Reserve Readings.
Part One: Because of your special knowledge, you have been contacted by the one of the world’s largest nonprofit public benefit corporations and offered a $3 million grant to produce a documentary that will change the world for the better.
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What global problem would you most like to solve? Link to at least one scholarly resource to document the seriousness of this problem. How will you structure your documentary to feature an effective solution that could support lasting change for the better? How will you measure the impact of your documentary?
Part Two: Please end your responses and comments with open-ended and thought-provoking questions that assist further discussion on the topic.
Very early films such as the LumiÃ¨re brothers’ footage of workers leaving a factory are known as â€˜actualitiesâ€™ rather than documentaries. The latter term only came into common usage after a New York Sun reporter used it in a review of Robert Flaherty’s South Seas-set film Moana (1926). Documentaries use factual information to convey reality as it is, not as invented for fiction. Of course, the true meaning of these â€˜realâ€™ images can be manipulated through editing, carefully worded interview questions, selection of camera set-ups and the inclusion of archive footage.
The documentary form came of age in the 1920s with a series of European portraits of urban life, known as â€˜city symphonies’. During World War II, documentaries fell prey to propaganda, rousing the patriotic spirit and demonizing the enemy. Russian and Dutch schools developed the form’s avant-garde potential, while the British documentary movement of the 1930s established a more worthy educational tone. As equipment became more portable in the late 1950s, two overwhelmingly influential styles emerged. In the USA and Canada, â€˜Direct Cinemaâ€™ eschewed planning and film-maker interference in favour of a spontaneous, fly-on-the-wall approach. In France, the cinÃ©ma-vÃ©ritÃ© style was similar in its immediacy, but included film-maker interviews during which the very presence of a camera crew encouraged subjects to part more readily with answers.
The genre today
Cheap and widely available digital camcorders have opened up the documentary format to new voices from wider backgrounds, with a growing network of independent cinemas using digital projection to allow them to be seen. Strong box-office returns for the likes of Super Size Me (2004) and March of the Penguins (2005) have also given documentaries a mainstream commercial boost.This question has two parts. Please be sure to answer both parts.