Documentary Disconnect (Pt. 2)

Rather than my usual stereotypical choices, I’ll go for something other than Grey Gardens (which is at the top of PBS’ list). I did enjoy Grey Gardens, as well as Drew Barrymore’s portrayal of Little Edie years later. The Beales are something else — and they’re related to Jackie O! Oh, yeah, I said I wouldn’t talk about Grey Gardens. Moving on. Instead, I’d like to discuss Man with a Movie Camera (1929), simply because I’m a filmie and I like the  poster:

Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)

Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)

In classical film theory, the Kino-Pravda (Film-Truth) Group’s “We: Variant of a Manifesto” was one of the most fascinating pieces of academic literature I have come across. The reading is dense, but the ideals are clear: they are the kinoks, members of the kinoglaz, which is a film movement to promote kinopravda (or camera truth). What? Basically, a group of filmmakers believed in revealing truth through a camera lens. They were less concerned with artistic methods of filmmaking and more concerned with documenting life. Their obsession with revealing the truth produced films like Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera (although, the manifesto began ten years previous). To get an idea of what this type of filmmaking looked like, I’ll share a clip:

Please ignore the film score — it’s atrocious.

I think the film, in total, is around an hour. If you’re not accustomed to silent film with a distinct plot or narrative, then I will deter you even further by saying Man with a Movie Camera may not be your cup of coffee. There are clear ideologies present within the film, but unless you are willing to wade through the montage… you might stick to Grey Gardens. Silent film is trying for our generation; therefore, silent film without a clear plot may drive you to insanity.

Kino eye.

Kino eye.

For me, Man with a Movie Camera is a prime example of early documentary style filmmaking. The Kino-Pravda and Dziga Vertov had original ideas which, at the heart of it, still represent documentary filmmaking today — filmmakers continue to be concerned with exposing camera truth. The humourous side of Man with a Movie Camera is… I’ve never lived in 1929 and I know very little about Vertov’s culture or history. The farther our cultures move in time, the more disconnected we are to the truths of a particular era. I have to accept Man with a Movie Camera at face value unless I want to do extensive research on the socio-historical context (and let me tell you, without research… there is definite propaganda involved). The humour extends itself to documentaries made today: are the films we produce a truthful representation of our era? Which films would you suggest someone to watch in 30 years to know what the world thought to be true in the 2000s?


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