This is my essay for English class about documentaries. Please critique before Wednesday! If you can, plz provide info about how to write a good thesis (something that I'm not sure I'm doing right). And any thing that could just help me get an extra mark, please say so!!
Oh, and yes, I know my essay overall does not answer the question provided.
Question : ‘No documentary is totally objective. They should all serve the purpose the director intends’. How do directors go about communicating their intended purpose to audiences? Discuss with reference to an episode of ‘Australian Story’ and one other documentary studied in class.
Documentaries are ‘constructed realities’ created by the director, in order to depict their view of a certain subject. As a result, they are never completely objective. The director uses various cinematic techniques in order to convince the audience to sympathise with their opinion. This is demonstrated in both documentaries Cane Toads: The Conquest (2010) (CT) by Mark Lewis, and the Australian Story Episode, The Planet They’re On (7/11/2011) (Planet) by Trudy McRobert. In CT, Lewis portrays his view of the impact of the cane toads upon the residents of Queensland, coastal NT and inland WA, by providing useful commentary throughout the entire documentary. McRobert’s documentary however, is more of an observational documentary with interviews than a normal persuasive documentary. Throughout the journey to comedic success of Aamer Rahman and Nazeem Hussain, we are subtly swayed to sympathise with the 2 stand-up comedians, partly because of the different types of footage used and partly because we are mostly shown their perspective.
By using informative commentary throughout a documentary, directors help the audience better understand what is being relayed to them. Voiceover is a technique effectively used in both CT and Planet. In Planet, there are many occurrences of this technique, most notably when we are shown video footage of Aamer attending a protest against racism, while Aamer’s mother is giving a voiceover, telling us that ‘he always has something to protest about’. By doing this, the director gives the audience a sense of how Aamer keeps on fighting against racism. There are few instances in CT where voiceover is used, however, the subtitles scattered throughout the documentary can be considered commentary. In the intro of CT, we are given an establishing shot of the Amazon rainforest, with the words “Amazon Rainforest, South America, 40 million years ago”. This gives us a sense of how ancient the cane toads are, and how they are aliens in Australia.
Directors use different types of footage in order to create a sense of authenticity, which in turn gains the audience’s trust and willingness to believe what the director is giving them. Techniques in this category include interviews. These are used frequently in Planet, often with Aamer’s or Nazeem’s family, close friends or work colleagues. An example of this is when we ‘talk’ with Nazeem’s sister Azeema. To her, “it’s a big deal”, showing the audience that what Nazeem does in the comedy industry really means a lot to the family. In CT, there are many interviews with a range of people – professors, ecologists, sugar cane farmers, normal residential people, MP’s – just to name a few. One of these interviews is with sugar cane farmer Tom O’Laughlin, who thinks that ‘they are the worst thing to ever happen’, while on the other side is an interview with ecologist Peter Ravenset who believes that ‘the cane toad have a right to be themselves’.
Showing a certain perspective is the most influential thing that a director can do, for it is what the audience sees. This is used in all documentaries, not only CT and Planet. In CT, Lewis uses the technique juxtaposition by showing shows the ‘evil’ side of the cane toad first, by giving you scenes of their invasiveness through a map, and interviews with people who voice their hatred of the toad. But after a while, he shows you the people who love the toads and the people who sympathise with them, making you think ‘which side should I take?’ McRobert gives the audience interviews with people who say that they are good people, nice to be with and friendly, such as the interview with manager Bec Sutherland, who gives us the impression that ‘they’re nice people’.
In Cane Toads: The Conquest and The Planet They’re On, the Director constantly uses different techniques in order to sway the audience to their point of view. With their tools of commentary, footage and showing perspective, they have the power to do what they want with the audience’s opinion. In this respect, no documentary is completely objective, and instead, they serve the purpose the director intends, whether it be to persuade, motivate, or merely inform.
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