Category: Documentary

SPECTATORSHIP REVISION 5 – Past Paper Questions

What might I be asked in the exam?

Here is a list of all the questions that have ever cropped up for Spectatorship & Documentary.

What are these questions about?

In pairs you should go through and see if you can spot any repetition / trends in questions that have arisen in previous years.

Alongside each question try to summarise what it is asking you about.

OK – where do I start?

You should then pick 4 different questions and complete 5 minutes plans for each.

You could do this as a mind map for example.

When planning –

  • start with your significance – what are the points that you want to make (aim for 4 different ideas). (S)
  • then think What examples would be great to back that idea up? 2 per point would be great (E)
  • then – what terms can I use in this example and what meaning is being communicated to the audience. (T/A)
  • and finally – how can I link this idea and analysis back to my initial point in the paragraph & the question as a whole. (Q)

You should then pick one of these to plan more thoroughly for a timed essay on Thursday 10th May. Which you will complete without notes!

SPECTATORSHIP REVISION 4 – The Imposter Micro Analysis

As with Grizzly Man you should now do the same for 3 (or 4 as they’re shorter) of the following sequences from The Imposter:

  1. Missing Boy: 00:00:16 – 00:05:30
  2. No Other Way: 00:27:20 – 00:30:54
  3. Going to School: 01:02:00 – 01:08:00
  4. They Killed Him: 01:08:00 – 01:14:30
  5. Frederic Bourdin: 01:17:00 – 01:22:08
  6. Digging: 01:27:24 – 01:31:45

Remember in your analysis you need to consider micro features & specific terms:

  • mise-en-scene
  • cinematography
  • sound
  • performance
  • editing

 

SPECTATORSHIP REVISION 3 – Grizzly Man Micro Analysis

When studying Grizzly Man we did some textual analysis in small groups. Which can be found below. But, for your exam it is important that you can talk about multiple scenes and not just be an expert on one.

You should select 3 scenes that you will re-watch and read over the analysis that has been completed so far by both classes.

You should then create your own document and for each of your 3 selected scenes try to include one micro example from each micro feature as well as evidence of at least one documentary convention.

Everyone revises in different ways – so you pick what is going to be best for your notes & best to help you learn the information.

Remember the examples are absolutely key to evidencing your ideas/ points & getting in that film specific language. The important thing is that you have a range of specific examples at your finger tips that you can apply to whatever question arises.

  • Herzog’s Agenda: (00.00 – 05.46) (Miss Hales) (Mr Gregson)
  • Herzog defends Treadwell as a film maker (22.37 – 26.06) (H) (G)
  • The camera as confessional (39.54 – 46.17) (H) (G)
  • Herzog’s verdict – farewell to Treadwell (1.36.45 – 1.44.05) (H) (G)

Here is a link to the film.

SPECTATORSHIP REVISION 2 – Fact or Fiction

Task 1: Why are documentaries made?

  • Why do audiences watch films?
  • Why do they watch documentary films?
  • What does an audience seek from a documentary film?

Task 2: What are the key issues we are faced with when watching documentaries? 

Discuss the key issues as a class and consider how you could debate these in an exam essay. Put your ideas on a post it note & stick to the board.

In small groups develop a hand made poster to consider how the following macro ideas create issues for the spectator in a documentary film. Particularly reflect on ideas of truth & persuasion or the trust in the documentary film maker. Remember to add any macro terms you use to your glossary.

Try to think of those ‘so what’s’ those ‘points’ those elements of ‘significance’ rather than considering the specific examples at this stage. What questions would you ask about these macro elements? What challenges do they present for an audience?

The pre reading post of helpful articles & videos may help you with some of the overarching ideas.

Task 3: What are the different ways in which the audience might be positioned with a documentary film? 

Consider the idea of the ‘present’/ ‘distant’ positioning and how Imposter / Grizzly Man fit into these. Add these terms to your glossary

The Imposter : Your Analysis

Next Monday you will submit a 750 word essay on The Imposter. Your question will be a choice from the following:

Either:

‘When watching documentaries, we are just as involved in narrative and character as we are when watching fiction films.’ Discuss how far this is true in relation to your own studies of  documentary spectatorship.

Or:

‘For the spectator, the viewing of documentary films is really no different from that of viewing fiction films.’ With reference to the films you have studied for this topic, how far do you agree with this view?

For your essays it is crucial that you have MICRO evidence from specific moments in the films.

In pairs or 3s you will be analysing one of the following sequences from The Imposter:

  1. Missing Boy: 00:00:16 – 00:05:30
  2. No Other Way: 00:27:20 – 00:30:54
  3. Going to School: 01:02:00 – 01:08:00
  4. They Killed Him: 01:08:00 – 01:14:30
  5. Frederic Bourdin: 01:17:00 – 01:22:08
  6. Digging: 01:27:24 – 01:31:45

Remember in your analysis you need to consider micro features & specific terms:

  • mise-en-scene
  • cinematography
  • sound
  • performance
  • editing

Use this template to help you make notes on the micro and macro impact of the scene. 

Remember also to reflect on Bourdin as the central focus of the film’s narrative and the spectator’s relationship with him. His role as protagonist or antagonist and how we as a spectator respond differently to him at different moments within the film. Remember Layton’s overarching intention in this film:

“He invites sympathy. He has this childlike quality about him, and he can be very charming. And at other times he can be quite repellent, because he can be remorseless and you’re reminded about what he did. So as a filmmaker, I was asking, How can I find a way of getting the audience to experience a bit of that?”

These are the questions we considered before watching the film in class. How can you develop your answers and include them in essay format? You could use some of these questions as part of your plan for your mini essay. (In 750 words you won’t be able to answer them all!)

  • What documentary conventions is Layton using to tell this story?
  • What genre does Layton borrow conventions from in order to tell this story?
  • What is Layton’s agenda?
  • What is The Imposter a documentary about?
    • Is it about a missing child and a ‘whodunnit’ style mystery?
    • Is it a character study of a con artist?
  • How does Layton guide us to respond to Bourdain?

A Intro to The Imposter – Deceit and Cinematic Technique

We will now be looking at our second documentary ‘The Imposter (2012) Layton.

Before we get started let’s think about some of the key issues / conventions / debates that are arising from the film and from issues of spectatorship.

In class we will discuss these questions:

  • What documentary conventions is Layton using to tell this story?
  • What genre does Layton borrow conventions from in order to tell this story?
  • What is Layton’s agenda?
  • What is The Imposter a documentary about?
    • Is it about a missing child and a ‘whodunnit’ style mystery?
    • Is it a character study of a con artist?
  • How does Layton guide us to respond to Bourdain?

Here is a great video from Every Frame a Painting about The Imposter.

The video describes how the spectator is drawn into Bourdain’s deceit and how Layton uses cinematic techniques to deceive us. In particular, the video makes several excellent observations about the set up of the interviews:

Here’s a great quote from *cough* wikipedia *cough* where the director Layton talks about his intentions for the audience/spectator response towards Bourdain:

“He invites sympathy. He has this childlike quality about him, and he can be very charming. And at other times he can be quite repellent, because he can be remorseless and you’re reminded about what he did. So as a filmmaker, I was asking, How can I find a way of getting the audience to experience a bit of that?”

Reflecting on Grizzly Man

Grizzly Man Essay

Now that we have finished watching and making notes on Grizzly Man we need to think about how we can apply this to an essay in the style that would be required in the exam.

The question you will be answering is:

In what ways might Grizzly Man (2005) Herzog be described as, ‘fabrication, imagination and stylization’?

As ever the assessment criteria are TEAS:

  • Terms – think micro terms, macro terms AND documentary specific terminology such has modes of documentary, different types of spectator positioning and documentary conventions.
  • Examples – detailed micro evidence from specific moments in the film – it is not enough to say ‘Herzog uses narration’ – pick a specific moment when he does and give detail.
  • Analysis – what does this mean? how is the example constructing meaning for an audience – how does it represent the ‘characters’ / information? how are the audience invited to respond?
  • Significance – Link it back to some of those big issues / debates we have discussed about documentary and spectatorship.

Task 1

First off you need to complete a textual analysis of two sequences from the film with particular reference to sound and editing. In pairs you will consider one sequence in which Herzog makes his point of view known in the voice over.

  • Herzog’s Agenda: (00.00 – 05.46) (Miss Hales) (Mr Gregson)
  • Herzog defends Treadwell as a film maker (22.37 – 26.06) (H) (G)
  • The camera as confessional (39.54 – 46.17) (H) (G)
  • Herzog’s verdict – farewell to Treadwell (1.36.45 – 1.44.05) (H) (G)

Here is a link to the film.

Task 2

Recap Roger Ebert Review 

Consider the key points that Ebert is making about Herzog’s treatment of the footage and Timothy Treadwell himself.

Task 3

Discuss/recap the key issues and debates surrounding spectatorship & the documentary genre.

Participate in a whole class debate on one of these three contentions. Your teacher will assign you a topic to prepare for and chair the discussion.

  1. What is Herzog’s agenda for Grizzly Man (2005)?
    1. How is it at odds with Treadwell’s?
  2. Does Herzog treat Timothy Treadwell fairly in Grizzly Man (2005)?
  3. Does Herzog use or abuse documentary conventions & techniques in Grizzly Man (2005)?

Task 4 

Plan your essay.

In the exam the documentary essay will be 1 hour long. In this time you will discuss Grizzly Man & The Imposter equally.

Therefore, for this essay you should use your plan and time yourself to hand write the question for 30 minutes as independent study.

(If you use a computer in the exam then you can type it and if you get extra time add on 8 minutes)

Introduction to Grizzly Man (2005) Herzog

Task 1

Consider the following:

  • What is Grizzly Man about?
  • What was Herzog’s agenda or intention in making the documentary?
  • Do we think the film is a truthful representation of the subject matter?

Complete this document with your initial ideas on the codes and conventions of Grizzly Man as a documentary as well as initial understanding of spectatorship.

Task 2

Research the term Cinema Verite

Task 3

When studying Grizzly Man as a documentary it is essential to understand the type of film maker that Herzog is and his views on the genre. Werner Herzog is one of the most influential and important documentary makers alive today.

Read his declarations of truth and fact in documentary cinema, entitled…

‘Lessons of Darkness’

  1. By dint of declaration the so-called Cinema Verité is devoid of verité. It reaches a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants.
  2. One well-known representative of Cinema Verité declared publicly that truth can be easily found by taking a camera and trying to be honest. He resembles the night watchman at the Supreme Court who resents the amount of written law and legal procedures. “For me,” he says, “there should be only one single law; the bad guys should go to jail.”
    1. Unfortunately, he is part right, for most of the many, much of the time.
  3. Cinema Verité confounds fact and truth, and thus plows only stones. And yet, facts sometimes have a strange and bizarre power that makes their inherent truth seem unbelievable.
  4. Fact creates norms, and truth illumination.
  5. There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.
  6. Filmmakers of Cinema Verité resemble tourists who take pictures of ancient ruins of facts.
  7. Tourism is sin, and travel on foot virtue.
  8. Each year at springtime scores of people on snowmobiles crash through the melting ice on the lakes of Minnesota and drown. Pressure is mounting on the new governor to pass a protective law. He, a former wrestler and bodyguard, has the only sage answer to this: “You can’t legislate stupidity.”
  9. The gauntlet is hereby thrown down.
  10. The moon is dull. Mother Nature doesn’t call, doesn’t speak to you, although a glacier eventually farts. And don’t you listen to the Song of Life?
  11. We ought to be grateful that the Universe out there knows no smile.
  12. Life in the oceans must be sheer hell. A vast, merciless hell of permanent and immediate danger. So much of hell that during evolution some species—including man—crawled, fled onto some small continents of solid land, where the Lessons of Darkness continue.

His fifth point is highlighted because here he makes an important distinction between fact and truth in documentary films?

In what way does this particular declaration inform his film making in Grizzly Man?


Task 3

Read this review of Grizzly Man by the Roger Ebert.

Problems with Documentary Definitions

Of course in this unit – spectatorship is at the heart of our discussions. You need to understand the genre, but you also need to understand the appeal of the genre and the problems that the genre raises for the spectator.

Task 1

Discuss  –

  • Why do audiences watch films?
  • Why do they watch documentary films?
  • What does an audience seek from a documentary film?

Task 2

Documentary maker presence/ Audience relationship with the film-maker

The presence of lack of presence from the film maker themselves can make a significant difference to the spectator experience and reading of the film.

Discuss to what degree the documentary maker is a presence within the documentary you have watched. What is the impact of this on this spectator?

Task 3

Reflect on the following issues in relation to your documentary:

  1. To what degree is the spectator guided (you might even say manipulated) by narrator or filmic technique (micro) to adopt a particular intellectual or emotional response to the subject matter?
  2. What is the agenda of the documentary film maker?
    1. Do we trust them?
    2. Are we presented with the unvarnished truth?
    3. How is the representation of the subject(s) structured for the spectator?
    4. What values or messages (ideology) does the filmmaker seem to have?

Task 4

From your discussions highlight some of the problems for a spectator with Documentary film.

Documentary Conventions & Positioning

As with all genres, documentary films have a set of generic conventions – a repertoire of elements.

Task 1

Based on your reading from last week & the documentary(s) you have watched, construct a mind map that shows what conventions, techniques etc an audience can expect from a documentary film.

Task 2

As with all genres documentary films have many different ‘types’ within the genre itself.

Modes of Documentary – read this document that highlights different types or modes of documentary. Are there any additional conventions that you could add to your initial mind map / list?

Task 3

As we are particularly interested in spectatorship it is interesting to look at how different conventions position the audience to gain a different response.

How are the audience positioned in relation to the ‘characters’/subject matter?

Are they: Present (subjective positioning) or Distant (objective positioning) or a combination of both? Use this document to note which conventions within documentary could make an audience feel involved with the subject matter (present) as opposed to those that may allow them to feel more objective. Then consider the documentary you watched last week and how you think the audience are positioned in that film.

Independent Study

Review and reflect on your definition of documentary film. Has your definition altered based on your discussions?