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The Power of a Documentary
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Posted 7/20/09
I recently engaged in a brief discussion concerning the academic value of a documentary with another crunchy roll user (you know who you are). He was of the opinion that a documentary was the perfect tool for educating and introducing somebody to an issue. To quote him:


I don't think there's any better way of informing someone about a serious subject than through a good documentary. […] To actually see and hear what's happening and how it happens is much more effective than just reading about it, and you get sucked in emotionally.



The documentary basically gives you all the information but also puts you into the situation and lets you see things for yourself and make your own judgments.


I however feel that the documentary is a tool designed for people who would like to feel informed but don’t want to dedicate themselves to in depth research. I described documentaries as the predecessor of the Wikipedia age, but thinking back we actually expect more out of Wikipedia than we do a documentary. Wikipedia is at least required to provide its viewers with a bibliography page. Only documentaries get away with throwing random information at us without providing context, source, or background.

I’ll give you an example. The 9/11 Conspiracy documentary “Loose Change,” supports its argument via a series of screen grabbed newspaper headlines. This makes it appear as if they’re providing you with information cited from a reliable, academically acceptable source. The truth is that every single one of their headlines were snatched from the “American Free Press,” an online neo-Nazi tabloid dedicated to revealing the Zionist campaign for world domination.

After discovering this I paid a visit to the American Free Press website myself.
http://www.americanfreepress.net/html/

Some headlines that caught my eye include: “Near war with Mexico on Boarder,” and “Massive Israeli Spy-ops on America,” “Non-Mexicans Causing Increasing Mayhem,” and “The Secret History of how America’s Neo-Conservative Trotskyites came to Power and Orchestrated the War Against Iraq as the First Step in Their Drive for Global Empire.”

In addition popular documentaries like tend to take out of context sound bites and quotes and display them together even though they were originally unrelated. This humorous video on youtube demonstrates how well this can be done (by an amateur browsing the internet,) and how misleading it can be.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9ueKKXjssg

They also use paparazzi tricks to get their photo. For example, they may script out a scene and portray it as unedited and entirely natural material or they may intentionally enrage somebody prior to filming and then put false context behind their flustered state. Michael Moore is perhaps one of the greatest offenders.

In his “Bowling for Columbine,” Moore attempts to demonstrate how easy it is to attain firearms. He discovered a small bank in Michigan that offers deer-hunting rifles in exchange for a long term account. Moore opens his account, retrieves his rifle, and states: "I put $1,000 in a long-term account…and within an hour, I walked out with my new Weatherby.” He also claims that the rifles were stored in the vaults of the bank.

Jan Jacobson, the bank employee who worked with Moore on his account, later revealed records showing that his film company worked months in advance to stage the scene. The bank does offer free hunting rifles to customers looking to put one grand or more in a long term account. However, they also run thorough background checks and there’s typically a ten day waiting period. The rifles are also not kept in the vaults, they’re ordered in from a local gun store.

During an interview with NBC’s Today Show Michael asserted, “I agree with the National Rifle Association when they say, ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ except I would alter that to say ‘Guns don’t kill people, American’s kill people,’ we’re the only country that does this, and we do it on a personal level in our neighborhoods and within our families and our schools, and we do it on a global level.”

He tries to demonstrate this in his, “Bowling for Columbine,” by portraying two mentally ill teenagers as the typical American adolescents and acts as if they were driven to violence because they grew up in a community connected to a Lockheed Martin factory developing what he called ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ There is some truth. The factory was connected to the community, but it produced rockets –for launching television satellites into space.-

Moore also blames a government program requiring welfare recipients to work for the shooting of an elementary school girl by a six year old boy. He doesn’t mention that the Flint boy’s mother had given him away to crack addicts.

http://www.opinionjournal.com/diary/bio.html

Moore also denies that he’s a political activist and claims that’s he’s just balanced.
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/topic/
Yet he engages in political activism:
http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/latestnews/index.php?id=9903
Which brings me to my next point. The documentary directors like to pretend they’re just trying to do something good, to show us the truth. But as I demonstrated in the zeitgeist discussion, the producers of these documentaries also make large sums of money by being controversial. Bowling For Columbia made grossed at fifteen million dollars. It’s a bit like Planned Parenthood. It describes itself as “non-profit,” but actually makes over nine hundred million dollars a year in excess revenues from providing abortions.

And yes, these documentaries can stir your emotions, because the people producing tem know HOW to get your goat. Not to linger on Moore, but he also directed the music video for “Rage Against the Machines,” obviously he knows how to get inside your head and insert emotions. That’s what he does, it’s his job, and he’s an expert. But just because something can play scary or humorous music while showing pictures of politicians doesn’t mean it’s a logical source of academically accepted information. It just means that it’s manipulative, much like any other form of propaganda. It’s a bit like citing a statistics from a political add.
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Posted 7/20/09
i like documentary movies. there's many i learned alot from cause many display what's happening in the world that people hardly talk about. i would list some, but i don't feel like looking for them atm. most are from GPB though~ that movie, "Bowling for Columbine,” from Moore was awesome IMO. don't remember if it's labeled a controversial film, but the message was pretty straight to the point. i'll edit my message later~
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Posted 7/20/09
'I have to agree with that person you happen to be talking to. '

Documentary can be very good to srping up intrest in a topic. Now that can lead them to searching out even more facts about that topic them self. That is why I my self like Documantaries.

For every bad one you might find you find 3 others that are good, that are made by people who happen to just wanna get the real facts out to the people. and Yes YouTube is a good place to show this.. For YouTube is a source to get your voice heard.

So its good and bad, but do to the fact it sparks the person intrest there more chance there going to gather infermation about it them selfs.
So I again agree that a Documanetary is a good way to pas out the evidence or facts for what your debating. Aslong as you your self have looked at the sources where they got there infermation.
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Posted 7/20/09

Darkphoenix3450 wrote:

'I have to agree with that person you happen to be talking to. '

Documentary can be very good to srping up intrest in a topic. Now that can lead them to searching out even more facts about that topic them self. That is why I my self like Documantaries.

For every bad one you might find you find 3 others that are good, that are made by people who happen to just wanna get the real facts out to the people. and Yes YouTube is a good place to show this.. For YouTube is a source to get your voice heard.

So its good and bad, but do to the fact it sparks the person intrest there more chance there going to gather infermation about it them selfs.
So I again agree that a Documanetary is a good way to pas out the evidence or facts for what your debating. Aslong as you your self have looked at the sources where they got there infermation.


Documentaries can be a gateway for the intelligentsia. However, I’m afraid that I think most people just watch a documentary and assume the content is true. Which is fine, I don’t think it makes a real difference.

Documentaries can be good for source citation, sure. It just depends on what you’re citing. For example, if you were to cite a headline it’d be better for you to cite the newspaper itself. Should you link me to a documentary, I would probably assume that you simply didn’t want me to know what news paper it was from. Now, if you cited a statistics I would also expect you to link me to the actual statistic. But if you were discussing something broad and bland like troop movements, a documentary might be fine. In operation “Free Iraq,” the American tanks drove up Highway Six, see this documentary. That would work for me.
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Posted 7/20/09
Sure documentarys can be useful at opinionating someone.
But it's nothing on first hand experience.
I am rather passionate on the issue of gay rights, and the social stigma surrounding them, it didn't come from a documentary but from the fact that I have a lot of friends who have been through a lot of shit for their orientation.
But if there's something they can't get first hand experience of (e.g. war in Iraq) his point is still very valid.

:)
Posted 7/20/09
Most documentaries are objective and biased though. They only concentrate on the views that they think it is right. They compile sources from a bias point of view to support their argument.

John Pilger is a fine example. In his documentary, Death of A Nation: The Timor Conspiracy, his objective was to blame the government for the cruel treatment of the Timorese exiles. Footages of them telling the brutal treatment they received from the government however Pilger didn't consider the same amount of footage explaining the reasons why the government did that.

And Supersize Me follows Morgan on a journey to the fast food nation. His objective was McDonald is bad, but it wasn't a fair argument. I personally think, not many people eat McDonalds everyday.

The Media control your judgment. I mean it's just not documentaries, news as well. They let you see the bad side of things inside the positives.

It is informative but we failed to realized what is going on in the opposition's side of the argument.
Posted 7/21/09 , edited 7/21/09
The docs you mention are overall poor examples of what a true Documantary can teach. Moore can and does use some "tricks" to get his message through, I agree with him on many things but do not like his attempts to over dramatize or cheat in his films. The best docs for me are the ones that do not come from corporate studios but rather from public brodcasting like The CBC, BBC, and PBS. I think that documantaries are a great form of media provided that you understand that some are dubious in getting their message through.
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Posted 7/21/09 , edited 7/21/09
Documentaries are sometimes useful for us, but after watching you have to confirm the show by researching it. Not all directors are so evil enough to scam the people in the streets. Is up to the viewers if they think its reliable, but some certain issues such as documentaries about controversial 9/11 then viewers watch out! Open up your mind, if you think the documentary is misleading then so be it, if not then go on....make sure you are totally EDUCATED on that particular subject.
Yei
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Posted 7/21/09 , edited 7/21/09

I don't think there's any better way of informing someone about a serious subject than through a good documentary.


That's the key word there. The examples you used were horrible, there are so many other amazing documentaries that don't have some crazy, deceitful agenda.
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Posted 7/21/09 , edited 7/21/09
I think most documentaries are legit, since, as far as I know, most of them are about things that no one would have a biased opinion about, like ancient civilizations or animal mating behaviors. I don't think anyone's made a documentary that depicts animals reproducing rapidly to overthrow humanity and establish a new world order. I think it's safe to assume that they are objective and factual if they come from a reliable publisher like BBC or PBS.
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Posted 7/21/09 , edited 7/21/09

Yei wrote:


I don't think there's any better way of informing someone about a serious subject than through a good documentary.


That's the key word there. The examples you used were horrible, there are so many other amazing documentaries that don't have some crazy, deceitful agenda.


Bowling for Columbine won that Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary Feature, and the Cesar Award for Best Foreign Film. In other words, this is not only a good example it’s also a model for other documentaries. This is what other documentaries are encouraged to shoot for.

Loose Change was selected because it's so popular, with over 100 million viewers.

Now I know you can’t generalize all documentaries. Front Lines did a documentary on Abortion in Mississippi that I felt was very fair. Although some people complain that it makes the pro-life side look like rednecks, I think it’s generally portraying things the way they are and it did find people able to articulate most of each side’s arguments. However, I still say that a documentary is not reliable without other, external research.
Yei
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SeraphAlford wrote:


Yei wrote:


I don't think there's any better way of informing someone about a serious subject than through a good documentary.


That's the key word there. The examples you used were horrible, there are so many other amazing documentaries that don't have some crazy, deceitful agenda.


Bowling for Columbine won that Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary Feature, and the Cesar Award for Best Foreign Film. In other words, this is not only a good example it’s also a model for other documentaries. This is what other documentaries are encouraged to shoot for.

Now I know you can’t generalize all documentaries. Front Lines did a documentary on Abortion in Mississippi that I felt was very fair. Although some people complain that it makes the pro-life side look like rednecks, I think it’s generally portraying things the way they are and it did find people able to articulate most of each side’s arguments. However, I still say that a documentary is not reliable without other, external research.


But apparently, anything by Micheal Moore is deceitful and his style specifically is not what I would consider an ideal documentary. Bowling for Columbine was very good because it made a lot of great points though. What are the best documentaries you've seen, other than that abortion one?
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Posted 7/21/09 , edited 7/21/09

Yei
But apparently, anything by Micheal Moore is deceitful and his style specifically is not what I would consider an ideal documentary. Bowling for Columbine was very good because it made a lot of great points though. What are the best documentaries you've seen, other than that abortion one?


You mean excluding ones about ‘ancient civilizations and anima mating,’ then? Well, I watched a documentary from Lisa Ling (that reporter who’s always on Oprah and managed to infiltrate North Korea,) that seemed to be very good. Then again, I’ve never been to North Korea. I’m assuming her presentation of the communist country is accurate because I also read a book some time back written by a refugee from North Korea. And I heard the testimony of a Christian missionary who was arrested and put in North Korean prison for being Christian. All seem to agree on the treatment of Americans, foreigners, North Korean citizens, and religious poeple-especially Christians.


EDIT: I liked these a lot because they approached Korea from the humanitarian crisis front. Mostly all we hear about them is their nuclear program, which is also important but drowns out the other equally important issue.
Yei
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SeraphAlford wrote:


Yei
But apparently, anything by Micheal Moore is deceitful and his style specifically is not what I would consider an ideal documentary. Bowling for Columbine was very good because it made a lot of great points though. What are the best documentaries you've seen, other than that abortion one?


You mean excluding ones about ‘ancient civilizations and anima mating,’ then? Well, I watched a documentary from Lisa Ling (that reporter who’s always on Oprah and managed to infiltrate North Korea,) that seemed to be very good. Then again, I’ve never been to North Korea. I’m assuming her presentation of the communist country is accurate because I also read a book some time back written by a refugee from North Korea. And I heard the testimony of a Christian missionary who was arrested and put in North Korean prison for being Christian. All seem to agree on the treatment of Americans, foreigners, North Korean citizens, and religious poeple-especially Christians.


EDIT: I liked these a lot because they approached Korea from the humanitarian crisis front. Mostly all we hear about them is their nuclear program, which is also important but drowns out the other equally important issue.


That's it?

You should check out all the ones I described here: http://www.crunchyroll.com/forumtopic-533565/best-documentaries/

Especially Jesus Camp and Deliver Us From Evil. And I also loved The Tank Man (Tienanmen Square), Ghosts of Rwanda and The Devil Came on Horseback(Darfur).

Almost all of them can be seen on Youtube or Google vids.
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Posted 7/21/09

Yei wrote:


SeraphAlford wrote:


Yei
But apparently, anything by Micheal Moore is deceitful and his style specifically is not what I would consider an ideal documentary. Bowling for Columbine was very good because it made a lot of great points though. What are the best documentaries you've seen, other than that abortion one?


You mean excluding ones about ‘ancient civilizations and anima mating,’ then? Well, I watched a documentary from Lisa Ling (that reporter who’s always on Oprah and managed to infiltrate North Korea,) that seemed to be very good. Then again, I’ve never been to North Korea. I’m assuming her presentation of the communist country is accurate because I also read a book some time back written by a refugee from North Korea. And I heard the testimony of a Christian missionary who was arrested and put in North Korean prison for being Christian. All seem to agree on the treatment of Americans, foreigners, North Korean citizens, and religious poeple-especially Christians.


EDIT: I liked these a lot because they approached Korea from the humanitarian crisis front. Mostly all we hear about them is their nuclear program, which is also important but drowns out the other equally important issue.


That's it?

You should check out all the ones I described here: http://www.crunchyroll.com/forumtopic-533565/best-documentaries/

Especially Jesus Camp and Deliver Us From Evil. And I also loved The Tank Man (Tienanmen Square), Ghosts of Rwanda and The Devil Came on Horseback(Darfur).

Almost all of them can be seen on Youtube or Google vids.


Well, go ahead and give me a link and I’ll probably take some time to watch a couple of those. You should hook me up with a link to “For the Bible Tells me so,” as well. I’ll prolly watch that.
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