Cultural theory and Documentary film

Construction of fiction and unfiction
August 27, 2009, 17:39
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Constructions of reality, construction of fiction, everything is construction..
The construction of fiction is very near the stage where real life actions are made obsolete. You can build a whole movie pixel by pixel according to your wishes and the technique is providing means for getting nearer the feel of reality for every new version of several 3 D programs. The animated movie makes progress and brings reality to such semblance that we don´t always even notice it in the movies of today. But still we have a maybe diffused, but in general clear divide between fiction documentary and animated film. But borders are trespassed and, I believe, does so even without the audience noticing it.
And how easily we are deceived depends on how culturally trained we are to read film. Backlighted backgrounds isn´t read as such even today, though most of us are aware of the ”fakeness” of the Hollywood studio productions and do recognise a backlight background as such and lending the movie a historicity.
What impact has this on the documentary film? We have access to more documentary shots than ever before by internet. The perspective of telling the ”truth” is moved from the traditional media to the blogosphere. People will need assertions from the blogosphere to judge what they see in the news to decide upon ”truthness” of the message. And maybe likewise something revealed firstly in the blogsphere or the internet has to be confirmed by traditional media as to establish that it has happened in the real world. This is not affecting all yet, but I see a thread here which is accumulating greater impact all the time.


Vertov again
August 24, 2009, 14:34
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I thought I had embedded the Vertov clip from YouTube here. But I hadn´t so here it is. I really like this version with the music from the Alloy orchestra, the movie is edited in a way, that it  still feels very modern and the footage from the time is interesting. Our course literature has several articles that dwells upon this movie and it´s supposed objective to acccomplish a “international cinematic language”.
As it is, one could state that the Hollywood drama movie has moved to a level of international movie language, as it´s format is understood and imitated all around the world. Several TV-formats are also spread around the world and made over and culturally adapted by television companies for their home markets. Formats are being used from everywhere in the world in the TV-companies constant chase for new entertainment that could sell advertising time. The latest import from the “Otherness” were the japanese gameshows that have been widely both adapted and shown in their original format with contestants from home markets.
Or should we say, as the old Hollywood actors said in a earlier post I wrote, that the international language of silent movies was for ever lost with the introduction of sound movies. As sound is very much less understood over boundaries. Had they really, as they claim, come to develop a internationally understood pantomime?
Well, let´s see if I manage to introduce the clip here, you´ll have to go to YouTube for the 8 other clips that makes up the whole movie.

    Update 2011-01-13
    It seems like all versions with the excellent soundtrack with the Alloy orchestra is drawn from the net, so the link was not working, now I found the clips with orchestration by Cinmematic Orchestra, which has to do…

    Update 2011-01-13
    Found an interesting comparison of DVD:s with the film here:

Back from vacation
August 24, 2009, 13:56
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So a summer course has it´s downfalls. As a working person you would want to  have some real vacation also. Now I´m back and will try to fulfill the courseplan.

The subject of documentary film has been along with me since the course started. At the Serlachius factory museum at Mänttä, Finland there was occasion to reflect upon the usage of documentary footage. The exhibition was obviously done with great effort taken to make it as vivid and living as possible. All kinds of multimedia enactments was present and scenery exhibition and scaled model buildings, presenting a variety of presentation modes.

Of course, as regarding any museum the question rises, who´s history is presented and what was left out and why. The Serlachius patronage seems to have been mildly progressive as the family had some ambitions on care and housing conditions. Good architectural designs was one favourite ambition on one of the patrons and Mänttä has several buildings with architectural value left. But naturally the patronage supported the white side in the interior war in Finland 1918, and had their clashes with the union at times.

The Serlachius foundation has much photos in archives and a good deal of filmfootage from the late thirties onwards, which could be material for scientific exploration, if someone already has done research, I´m not aware of it yet.

I watched some telvision in Finland and have to admit, that if I ever had a innocent eye watching documentaries now it is for ever lost as the teachings from literature and classes rings in the back of my head watching any documentary…

Speaking up for the silent movie
July 24, 2009, 14:14
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Without knowing if this is a commissioned material, you can still look at it so long it is presented on the tube. It is a presentation of the early days of Hollywood production and the silent movie. I think the old actors defense for the silent movie is a wonderful attitude, “we spoke a language understood in the whole world”, “had the highest niveau of pantomime” etcetera…

A important reminder is, because we are mostly going around with a inadequate opinion on how this films were shown to audiencies. They didn´t see bleached out films with strange flitter and other damages to the pictures and jerky movements. They could see the total greyscale of the original copy of the nitrate film, and what is more they could, sometimes, hear a live orchestra doing the soundtrack, it is something very much more vivid and enthralling with a the sound of live instruments rather than a often bleak electronic representation.

The first part makes this clear showing a maybe restored filmclip and telling about the grand theatres in New York.

Amazing music
July 22, 2009, 22:35
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Much efforts for every film is made for their music/sound scores. In the days of silent film the accompanying music could be anything from nothing at all to a full scale orchestra depending on how fancy movietheatre you were visiting. Today were are all used to the intricate music/sound building of modern hifi techniques often in five channels if not more.

But to return to the silent era there was lot of standard solutions in the business. When restoring old silent movies they are tuned up with a totally new music score. Now I found out that there is a orchestra specialized on making music to silent film. They made a fascinating score to the “Man with a moviecamera” film by Voritov, which I will return to soon. In the meantime I would like to direct traffic to the website of “The Alloy Orchestra”, they seem to be on tour most part of year to screenings and filmfestivals of silent movies. Which doesn´t surprise me,  since they really do have a sense for making music for silent film. When I first saw Voritovs movie I thought it was some sort of of a larger orchestra that had made the music, but it turned out to be only three gifted members in the group using modern musical devices for making the musicscore sound nearly as a full set symphony orchestra.

The camera as a spectacle
July 22, 2009, 13:23
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Well, now I find myself immersed in Youtube in a new way, looking for old documentaries and films mentioned in my courseliterature. This little piece of documentary I had to share, it is a good case of the return gaze and you note that the cameracrew in themselves becomes as much attraction as anything else on Petticoat Lane. Which naturally rises interesting questions of the possibility to document anything as itself or “objectively” and in what purpose people stage themselves if they notice a camera. The awareness of cthe camera changes the subject clearly, much documentary photo lives on the unawareness of camera and on other hand, there is remarkable photos done in cooperation with the photographer. Are the “inbetweenies” only reconstructions of the moment when a subject discovers the camera, the moment from not being aware to the moment of cooperation. Is there something to be learned from different discoveries of the camera?

Anyway, enjoy this piece, and go on to the channel itself where very much more interesting material is hiding…

Thoughts in the rain
July 15, 2009, 19:07
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This immersion in cultural theory and documentary film is very much made easier by the the lousy summer weather so far. We have done four sessions and there are five more to go with screenings. One could wonder what sort of urge it is, that makes you do some choices. I have to confess that it just was unstoppable curiosity that made me apply to this course, and at first I thought, I do it just for fun and to see if it actually worked doing the application through the internet. I didn´t know if I really thought I´d attend the course. But as it was, I received  the admittance with the reading list, and there they began to tug me in, the screenings was of films I´d never heard of, the titles of the books and readings wetted my mouth. So slowly I stuck to the idea that this was a probable summertime excursion. Had we had more of documentary film in our education at my Media-Communication program at the university of Gävle, I could have evaded the matter all together.  And of course there is questions, that I sometimes ponder, that had a vague promise of answers in the course material, or else I wouldn´t be involved.  I think I have mentioned my own feeble attempts to make documentary notes with a videocamera.  A later question is of more actuality, namely my partys ambition to provide our websites with Youtube clips. At this time I don´t really feel comfortable with our clips and what we are supposed to accomplish with our clips, and feel it could be good with a deeper understanding of documentary film to achieve some working idea of how to use these Youtube-clips.  I feel little uncomfortable with the present status of our clips, but I also think that it is important to have them. But maybe there should a more specific media strategy behind.

We are supposed to deliver a 15 page research paper in the course, I still have a notion to make a reading of our literature, but try to apply more of my favourite theory to it. Some sort of classic history-materialistic view of the market conditions, production environment and a general review of the films as commodities could be interesting, also there could be som fruititive work in applying thoughts of rootnetworking by Gilles Delueze and Felix Guattari (, and their writing of the nomadic expansion of territory and the further enclosement of it by the state and its rulatory war apparatus. For I think it is obvious that this early history of the documentary bears evidence of the freewheeling development of a field, with individuals making their own sparking ideas to film and setting new standards for the whole field. And as time goes their films and writings connect to each other like roots spreading underneath the ground and accidentally meeting each other and making new connections.

The early soviet documentary, I think could be seen as an example of nomadic fim making with great liberty before the structures of state draws the lines and sets the rules to follow. The revolutionary situation led  to a rather short period when artists and writers could make
expeditions into unknown realms of culture before Stalins stonecold hand demanded order and line-up to socialrealism.

Another idea to follow in a paper could also be a close reading with Pirzig ideas of things always thriving to establish higher orders of quality,

Alas, that would mean that I would have reread mr Pirsigs book, and I don´t think  I have sufficient time doing that.

Though the screenings so far are  fine examples of how things evolve, try out different modes, of which some survive and other doesn´t, and how the films evolves in my eyes to higher orders of quality in settings, in the way they are edited and how sound is brought to bear.

Said all this, maybe the reader could understand that I am up this time been enjoying myself… and the findings in this course are valuable so far.

Note 17 july, did some editing, maybe I should find how to insert a english dictionary in my OpenOffice..?