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Mockumentaries And Documentaries

2004 words (8 pages) Essay in Film Studies

11/05/17 Film Studies Reference this

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A documentary film is a film that shows true-life histories or current event exposure. A documentary film often records the truth as well as reality. In order to have the audiences’ attention, a documentary film also contains some entertainment value while educating the audience about the topic. Documentary is a discursive structure, which creates style of immediacy and ‘truth’, using photographic technology in order to present first-hand experience and piece of information. In addition, documentaries often take care of particular cultures, nations, ethnic groups, or regions. Documentary needs fictive element to make it appealing. Salaam Cinema and Cannibal Tour were the examples of documentary films. As for mockumentary, it is defined as a type of films that reproduces the stylistic elements of documentaries by using filming techniques. Mockumentary is a television program or movie captured in the way of a documentary film is captured but it contains fictitious and frequently mocking subject matter that presents in a non-fiction or documentary format. It mocks the basic characteristic and argues that documentaries try to claim. There are similarities between documentaries and mockumentaries as mockumentaries use all the documentaries codes and conventions, such as that turn a mockumentary into a documentary, be determined to show the film as a documentary even though it is not a documentary. A mockumentary is successful when it is able to combine history and present through a false lens as well as leading the audience to doubt the reality. Mockumentaries have been made to the audience to challenge the audiences’ beliefs as well as the director’s imagination. Forgotten Silver and Quarantine are the examples of mockumentary films.

Forgotten Silver (1995), by Costa Botes and Peter Jackson, is a mockumentary which records the process of life of a silent filmmaker from New Zealand, Colin McKenzie as well as his incredible progress that were lost since olden times. The film offers an interesting and entertaining take on the issues of film reality against film fantasy as well as backups eyewitness testimony or interview sessions including films and photographs. Therefore, it seemed real. It claims that this mockumentary was real because it uses all the documentary codes and conventions. Mockumentaries use the aesthetics of documentary in order to undermine any claims to truth. (2001, p.46). It captures and read the complication of real life. “Mock-documentaries tend to assume an archetypal generic form rather than recognize the complexities of the genre” (Roscoe, Hight, 2001, p.50). Besides, Forgotten Silver reminds us that the event actually happened as it has recorded everything in it. In Forgotten Silver, it uses interview to authenticate views. The interviewees included Jonathon Morris (archiviste), Costa Botes (Realisateur), Harvey Weinstein (Miramax Film), Leonard Maltin (Historian), Sam Neil (Actor/Realisateur), and May Belle (Research Assistant) as his wife. Film reality and film fantasy are supported by the use of “real” footage. Forgotten Silver uses archive footage as another documentary code to add authenticity, such as landing at Anzac Cove war footage and New Zealand City footage. Camera effect such as slow zooms has been used in Forgotten Silver in order to show the audiences that there are no exaggerate actions. Besides, pictures of Colin McKenzie throughout whole film, his pictures taken throughout his life, pictures with mother, Colin McKenzie’s recreated city, pictures of documents such as Deputation from the New Zealand Communist Party. Old video clips have been showed in the film such as Richard Pearse’s flying video, Salome & John the Baptist (casting), Gallipoli Footage (Brooke McKenzie 1915), Stan the Man (Stan Wilson) spontaneous shots by Colin McKenzie. In addition, there were newspaper shots such as Richard Pearse’s flying video and Incredible Taking Picture Sensation. Other than that, current videos such as his journey to discover the recreated city, discovery of Salome’s production storeroom, Alexandra Nevsky Attaché Cultural de Russie prove the signed contract between McKenzie. Mockumentary filmmakers wish to engage the audience in discourses about fact and fiction. As Roscoe and Hight put it “Mock – documentaries foreground their fictionality, their intention is to play with, undermine or challenge documentary, rather than to seek validity through an association with the genre.” (2001, p.46)

Another documentary code used in Forgotten Silver is the use of texts or graphics. The names, title, year of each interviewee as well as the name, year of each video have been showed in the film. Realism in any representation, like documentaries, has also to be a construction as it is impossible to achieve a perfect match between events in a historical world and the texts that represents them (Kilborn and Izod, 1997. p40). Effects such as zoom in and highlights the important wordings on pictures, documents and newspapers have been used. “Reconstruction, a re-enactment of another time or place for a different audience, a graphing of history in and through the cinematic image and taped sound, onto the present.” (Rabinowitz:1994:16). This film has utilised natural sound such as old film rolling sounds and movie original background sound in The Natural Season 1908, Stan the Man and Stable Stumbles. Non-digetic sound, is defined as the background music when narrator narrates a story, such as a dramatic background music as narrator narrates a sad scene. This has been found in Forgotten Silver as the background music for pictures such as celebration sounds when the war ended. Forgotten Silver has used reconstructions or “set-ups” to convey realism as another documentary code, such as old films, Made-up of McKenzie’s Salome production storeroom, old Egyptian statues, hand-made costumes and crafted swords and shields for Salome shooting. Mockumentaries also deconstruct the socio – political stance that documentaries tend to adopt in relation to the socio – historical world (Roscoe and Hight, 2001).With all the documentaries codes and conventions used in Forgotten Silver, has made the film real to be believed by the audiences. For examples, Richard Pearse’s flying video, Colin McKenzie’s first alleged talking movie and color film as well as a discovered city in West Coast. However, it was a hoax, said by the Wellington filmmaker, Costa Botes, which is also the director of Forgotten Silver, established that it was a documentary-style programme that he co-directed with the filmmaker Peter Jackson. In addition, McKenzie was a pure fiction. Even though it was with proves from the interviews by local celebrities and film experts as well as a mockumentary adopts documentary’s behaviour and codes.

Quarantine (2008), directed by John Erick Dowdle, casted by Angela Vidal as a reporter for the tv show ‘Night Shift’, was on duty to spend an evening with the Los Angeles Fire Department. Therefore, she and her cameraman, Scott Percival, join the fire-fighters George and Jake to an apartment building. This film is a remake film of the Spanish Horror film REC. The film was about the owner was accused with investigating and segregating a suspected Armageddon virus for a faction. Unfortunately, the virus lost control and transform into infectious virus, which infects the man. It is the reason why the people in the building were infected. The whole building has been closed for quarantine. This mockumentary was a hoax as there are no bloodthirsty savages in the world. It was just an imagination of the director challenging the beliefs of the audiences. Footage could be seen in Quarantine as there are few scenes have been zoomed in, such as when the bloodthirsty savages are attacking human. Lightweight camera has been used in Quarantine, which has similarity with Forgotten Silver. However, there is one dissimilarity, Quarantine did not use background music, and it uses sound effects. Voice-Over has been used in the film while capturing the subjects in front by Angela. Quarantine seemed to be real as it uses documentary codes. Interviews have been made throughout the whole movie. For example, a quick interview sessions with the fire-fighters George and Jake before heading to the infected apartment. Interviews have made the film more real. “The mock documentary form seems to be more typically used by film makers to parody aspects of popular culture, particularly media culture, than to encourage viewers to question their adherence to assumptions and expectations attached to documentaries.” (Roscoe and Hight, 2001. p.161).

In Forgotten Silver and Quarantine, they both have similarities with the documentary film, Cannibal Tours (1988), filmed by Australian director and cinematographer Dennis O’Rourke. They have used the skill of archival footages as they captured real images by using lightweight camera. . For that reason, it brings the audience nearer to reality as well as truth. Other than that, interview sessions and images captured with lightweight camera were done. In Cannibal Tours, there are interview sessions with the native and the tourists. It uses real footages to explain the history of how the Germans visited there before. Filmmakers have considered the problem of subjectivity and objectivity to be red herrings where they record about native people’s story. “We realized that the most important thing was not the film and the information in it so much as the way this information was debated. One of the aims of such films is to provide the occasion for people to find themselves and speak about their own problems. The projection becomes the place where people talk and develop their awareness.” (Chanan 1997:373). Documentaries hold a privileged position within society, a position maintained by documentary’s claim that it can present the most accurate and truthful portrayal of the socio – historical world…. They attempt to create a position for the audience in which we are encouraged to take up unproblematically the truth claims offered to us (R and H:2001, p.6, 23). Even though mockumentaries have documentary codes, it is still a fictional documentary, which is also called as a hoax. A documentary’s interviews are based on the interviewee’s true opinions whereas a mockumentary’s interviews are based on ready-made scripts. Mockumentaries cannot be viewed as real as everything is ready-made. It is not real images such as documentaries. In Salaam Cinema (1994), by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a film about people who would like to become famous. It is real as it captures the crowd by using lightweight camera. The crews were captured in the frame, not behind the camera. A handheld camera work and head shots convey a realistic sense of an historical truth. For example, the scene where people were trampled in a way it was real because people will do that but in salaam cinema, it was provoked. The usage of handheld camera could be seen in Quarantine to convey realism as it captures live images.

Mockumentaries manipulates the truth in a documentary manner. It is used to convey a constructed or one’s imagined view. In spite of the similarities in terms of its documentary codes, a mockumentary can never equal to a documentary. It is still, a fictional documentary. The whole agenda and practice of a mockumentary is to edit certain parts of a footage or image to present the constructed message and omit the parts where they are not coherent with the constructed message, re-make artifacts and a set of actors to be “interviewed” based on ready-made scripts. Hence, a documentary is to tell its audiences of the truth and findings while a mockumentary tries to manipulate a belief and convey an imagined view. The emerging of mockumentaries in our recent days of film industry has raped the pride of a documentary. Documentaries now are less promising compared to the olden days where there are no mockumentaries. It ripped off the value in researching and producing of a documentary as it leaves documentary in shades of doubts by the viewers. It is now hard to authenticate a documentary and disproof a mockumentary. Some critics claim that mockumentaries are a waste of time and resources as in the end of a day, the viewers gain nothing but a bad joke. However, the decision lies in the viewers’ ability to ensure clear validity of what they watch and what they believe. After all; a mockumentary is only an illusion where it manipulates within the premise of a viewer’s belief.

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