Grierson begins his work with the explanation of how documentary is a type of film that is made from “natural material.” That is, material that hasn’t been in any way tampered with or changed. I completely agree with Grierson in the sense that documentary is the filming of certain images or stories that, in some manner, show truths. He then goes on to explain an example of what he believes is type of documentary- the “peace-time newsreel.” Of course, Grierson believes that this type of documentary is “just a speedy snip-snap” of something that is “unimportant”, like the “babblings of a politician.” I think that Grierson does have a point in that, many times, this journalistic documentary is less entertaining. But I think this is because journalism aims more at informing, and less on entertaining.

Grierson then brings up the filmmaker Flaherty, stating that the documentaries that Flaherty makes are the ideal documentaries. Grierson states that Flaherty believed the story of the documentary must be “taken from the location…” Grierson defines the principles of documentary that Flaherty accomplishes with his own films- the documentary must master its material it is showing and it must “follow him in his distinction between description and drama.” Grierson goes on to say how Flaherty uses “story” to go about his documentary. But, even though a certain stories are used in his films, they in no way change facts. And this ties up to what Grierson was saying earlier- in the end, all documentaries are formed though natural material. They just happen.

Grierson brings up many good points about what documentary really is. And although they can be shown in different forms (newsreel, with a story, expanding on the individual) they all have one thing in common- they tell the truth with facts.

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2 Responses to “First Principles of Documentary”

  1.   Beatrice Pana Says:

    I completely agree with you, documentaries are supposed to “tell the truth with the facts”, but I feel like there are not many films left out there in the cinema industry that do so. Like I said in my post, most films now-a-days conform to what the filmmaker believes will attract more viewers and that, I think, is really bad.

  2.   Kevin L. Ferguson Says:

    I also was struck by the last thing you said: “they tell the truth with facts.” It made me first wonder if it was possible to tell the truth with lies? If there is a greater truth to tell, but that requires manipulating reality or “natural facts,” would that be acceptable or appropriate? I have the feeling Wiseman would definitely say “no,” Eisenstein definitely “yes,” but I don’t know about Grierson.

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