Friday, April 22, 2016

Participatory Documentary

Over the years, the Western world, particularly the world of Hollywood, adopted a mode of documentary that is highly observational and conflict-centered. The popularity of the Western Observational Documentary is evident in the Oscar winners of recent years. Amy, CitizenFour, 20 Feet From Stardom, Inside Job to name a few over the most recent years. However, Inside Job began a breaking of the fourth wall in the interview setting - partly out of necessity.

In this scene from Inside Job, filmmaker Charles H. Ferguson inserts himself into the documentary through his questioning. This participation, I believe, is out of necessity, since the man isn't answering the question, rather than the purpose of referencing the filmmaker. When a documentary film becomes participatory, the film becomes a narrative of interactions between the filmmaker and the subjects of the film, rather than a report on a topic. As VICE gains in popularity, this mode of filmmaking becomes more popular in an online forum.

In Screwed in Houston, the filmmaker is integrated into the story. His demographics become increasingly apparent as he interacts with the Houston hip-hop community. These moments of interaction are a part of the story, rather than something that is off-screen. In my opinion, this creates a more honest depiction of the community as well as builds the filmmaker as an author of this history in a particular moment, not an expert or objective observer.

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