Saturday, October 30, 2004

Mo(o)re From The Bulletin Board: On Documentary "Truth" 

A fac-brat whose parent recently went ballistic when son-in-question's 9th grade History class was shown Farenheit 911 (beheading and all) posted the following Friday on our First Class school announcement folder:
Go here for the truth behind John Kerry's career in Vietnam. It is a documentary...which means it is all true.

My public response:
We should be careful with this kind of statement, I think. Documentaries may technically be "true" by definition, but in many recent documentaries, the "truth" being presented is not factual, but true opinion. This can lead viewers to false conclusions about causality, and about the meaning and even actions in historical events, among other things.

In other words, I can say anything I want in a documentary interview, and the moment it hits the screen it is a true record of what I said. This is still a "documentary." However, this in no way means what I said is factual.

In other words, a documentary filmmaker can deliberately present "true" events in a sequence which makes it seem as if one thing caused another, or that a specific underlying cause made things happen, when in fact research may not bear out these conclusions. This is still a "documentary," but it doesn't mean that the conclusions the filmmaker wants us to reach at the end of the movie are true.

Recent critiques of both Michael Moore's Farenheit 911 and the Stolen Honor video to which Elias has sent us suggest that BOTH films fall into this fuzzy category of truth. They may be accurate records of people's opinion, and they may show real historic facts. But the way in which the films arrange and present that information have led viewers to conclusions which are currently not considered "fact" by the vast majority of the viewing public.

Hope no one's minded the plethora of "direct from the school bulletin board" posts recently. Of all the things I love about the community-scale virtual discussion space now endemic to schools, the ability of these forums to serve as a classroom containing every student in the school, while making the communication itself come across on an intimate level to the individuals reading in their rooms on their own time, is at the top of the list.

Just because it's worth posting there, is it worth reposting in a more universal forum? Maybe. But the benefits of reaching another, broader audience aside, regular readers may additionally conclude that the prominence of already-written, scavenged-for-print postings are an indicator of overwork, accompanied by the usual not-enough-time-to-blog-for-real. Such conclusions are indeed true. Can't wait for the term to end, man.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:44 PM |

Comments:
Got some interesting thoughts on the nature of truth, there. I am in the middle of writing a paper on documentary, truth, M. Moore, and propaganda and wanted to know if you'd be willing to post the rest of the parent's comment for me to read an possibly include in my paper.
Thanks, Amy
 
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