by Cody Goggins
In the “Domain of Documentary” written by Nicholas, he brings forth Documentaries in order to examine them. To see what they are made of and how they are driven, viewed and used in our society. With Documentaries, they are given three formal definitions to be used and interpreted.
The first being Documentaries as an institutional practice. Essentially stating that in order for a filmmaker to get their point across by any means necessary. Even if that means manipulating the evidence in order for them to create the best possible argument. This can be seen in Katie Couric’s gun control documentary where she posses a question during an interview with several pro-gun people and there is a palpable silence in the room before the scene cuts and a revolver is being loaded. This was an example of recontextualization as in the original before editing one of the interviewees responds almost immediately. Now, it’s a recontextualization as if she allowed the interviewee to answer in her documentary it would’ve opened the door for a discussion or argument in this case but since she didn’t it was never allowed. Which in turn got her point across which is the whole point of documentaries as an institutional practice.
The second definition is through text; Corpus of Texts (as the text calls it). It revolves around informational Logic. Thus requiring a representation, argument and/or case about the purpose of the film whether it be about gun control, food shortages in 3rd world countries or teenage pregnancy and its consequences. With that being stated on how documentaries are structured in that sense it would lead to the actual documentary in 4 steps for the whole thing. 1st being the establishment of the documentary (what it’s about), discussing what it’s about in its current context in the world, the background of it, and then the conclusion where a solution is offered towards fixing the problem the documentary is about if there is one to fix at all. A great example of this being the Super Size Me documentary that we watched parts of as a class and the entirety of in our own time.
Then, of course, there are different types of Documentaries. Examples being Band of Brothers could be considered a historical documentary, while a documentary about how Trump won the 2016 election could be an informational documentary. There are many different types or “modes” as the text calls them for documentaries but they can still overlap each other and be compatible with one another. The two examples just used are an example of that. Both historical (although recent history, it is still history for one of them) and both informational. Link below for the Trump doc.
The final definition is through the viewers. How our psychology when watching a documentary and how that is exploited by a filmmaker make a documentary so much more powerful/influential. One such way is to give motivation. Mostly through realism, an example of this being the Beaches during D-day; specifically Omaha Beach. Link below if you haven’t seen the scene.
Moving on another way they do this is through “teach a lesson” within the documentary whether it involves history or anything else. A good example of this being in The Big Short
In short, the final definition for Documentaries is how exactly to affect the audience and influence them in order for them to learn from the documentary. In whatever manner that may be.
As for the core of what Nicholas was getting at; it is all about knowledge. The knowledge that comes from the documentaries we see, no matter where or what format they’re in. What we learn and subsequently “know” and how we use that “knowledge” we have. Where is our “knowledge” from and can we trust it? Knowledge then becomes a source of a guilty pleasure and can be manipulated.