I, personally, enjoyed the film Shoah. The word Shoah is another term for the Holocaust, in which the film is focused around. The film was produced by Claude Lanzmann, and took over eleven years to make. The film was fascinating and really drew me in. I remember my early educational years, learning about the Jewish Holocaust during World War II. This film enhanced my previous teachings by utilizing eye-witnesses.

It is the way in which the film was produced that intrigues me. I found it odd that Lanzmann did not incorporate any historical footage or archival materials. He relied heavily upon interviews with people and visiting the sites that still remain. I have never been to a Holocaust concentration camp or any memorials that exist in Europe except for one that was in Normandy, France. I have seen footage from such remembrances, but not like this.

After watching this film knowing that the film struggled financially and with trying to ensure ethical integrity, I have a much deeper respect for Lanzmann. I never understood those who believed that the Holocaust never existed. We’ve all seen historical images and footage; however, Lanzmann’s lack of historical archival materials, to me, enhances the reality of the Holocaust’s existence. Initially the film had the support of Israeli officials, but they eventually withdrew. I am curious to know why they chose to withdraw their support. I believe that with some of their financial support Lanzmann’s film could have gone through better editing, enhancing the overall experience.

Nevertheless, Shoah is a must-watch film. While I was reminded of Schindler’s List, Lanzmann does not need fictional characters to bring the truth of the Holocaust to life. These first-hand accounts and visuals of actually visiting the sites and memorials does justice to those who were victim to such atrocity.

Errol Morris

Truth isn’t guaranteed by style or expression. Truth isn’t guaranteed by anything.

-Errol Morris

I personally like this quote by Errol Morris. After watching two of Morris’ documentaries, I feel as though I understand his perspective a little better. Shawn Rosenheim’s article Interrotroning History: Errol Morris and the Documentary of the Future, clarified some of my misunderstandings that I had while watching both: Fog of War and Standard Operating Procedure.

I actually like the interrotron idea. I could feel the personal touch between the people being interviewed and myself. It was as if they were talking to me and not at me. Occasionally a voice would sound engaging the interviewee to continue speaking or to change the subject, but it was as if I was a part of the set process.

Now the content was a lot for me to take in. I found both films quite boring for both entertainment and intellectual engagement. While I enjoyed the personal touches, the way the message was relayed to me just didn’t take. Perhaps it’s that I find the history of which he is trying to depict, unflattering. I can tell he has a fascination with people in authority, or at least think they are. It is funny because he has a way of twisting the lens to portray the negative aspects of the American government.

In Fog of War, archival footage is used to help support the film’s narrative based on information supplied by McNamara. Standard Operating Procedure relies heavily upon the interviewed subjects. The film focuses on the brutality of war, rather than the concept of warfare. Looking at a specific military prison, Morris tries to provide an understanding to the photographs that were taken of the violence occurring.

Now re-analyzing Morris’ quote, I question where is the truth. The narrative follows the perspectives of the interviewee(s) and doesn’t deviate too much from their personal accounts. I wonder how other perspectives would have explained the same event. Is Morris acknowledging that even he cannot depict Truth with the capital “T”? I think there is much that can be said. I think that Morris understands that there are multiple versions of the truth because each person has their own experiences and biases and reasons to “forget” details.

I know this blog post is different than my usual ones. While Morris does utilize his films to focus on certain areas of historical wars, I just couldn’t retain much of the information. Instead, I chose to look at everything around. He relies on interviewees to help dictate the narrative, but he also engages archival resources to enhance the personal accounts with visual meaning. Using an interrotron provides a personal touch for the interviewee, interviewer, and the audience watching. There is consistent eye contact made, which makes the interviewee appear to be honest. There is some music, but not so much where the film needs it to assist in narration or dramatic effect.

For style, I like Morris. If I were to try and create a documentary I would do something similar. The personal touch makes it seem inviting. With new technology available, the audience can now feel as if they are there with the person. I have never seen a documentary quite like Morris. I do suggest watching at least one just to understand the clear difference.

Beginning to Think About Film

After completing the readings for my course this week, I found a similarity between André Bazin’s article (“The Ontology of the Photographic Image”) and Bell Hooks’ article (“The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators”). I honestly didn’t know what to expect while reading these. There was no film to back it up, but one film did come to mind after being taken aback by some of the messages.

The gaze the Hooks refers to is a gaze that “has been and is a site of resistance for colonized black people globally […] Certain looks were seen as confrontation, as gestures of resistance, and challenges authority.” Hooks previously stated that “when most black people in the United States first had the opportunity to look at film and television, they were fully aware of that mass media was a system of knowledge and power reproducing and maintaining white supremacy.”

The film that most readily comes to my mind is actually a TV miniseries, Roots inspired by Alex Haley’s novel. It is this film example that enables me to understand Bazin’s statement that “cinema is also a language.” Cinema I knew was an art and a way of seeing a different aspect of reality: literally or figuratively. Roots allows Black America to experience a new telling of their history. A history that begins for them in Africa and how they came to be in America and the reality of the hardships they experienced. The “photographic image has changed the very essence of the picture.” We see how Africans lived during the 1700s in Roots, and unfortunately many interpret that as truth. At the same time, Alex Haley’s family history was called into question.

I do wonder how others may interpret and draw enlightenment from these readings. Is there a sense of understanding? Is it because I identify as a female, racially black spectator that I understand and enjoyed these perspectives? While Hooks encourages and empowers the African American female spectator, I neglected to acknowledge the oppression of African Americans within film and photography. That may be for a different post, but for now, these are my thoughts.

Tell me what you think below…





Rodney King Beating Footage

What comes to your mind when you hear the name, “Rodney King”?

Initially, what comes to my mind is:

  • Los Angeles, California
  • LA Riots
  • Police Brutality
  • O.J. Simpson Trial

These are the initial thoughts that I have. When I finally went to see footage, I watched three different versions (supplied below).

Looking at the original footage, I can tell that it was taken from a distance, compared to the other two videos that depict zooming in effects and possibly enhanced lighting. This distortion removed the true number of cops that were present at the scene of the crime, but draws attention to the true brutality and inhumane nature that the cops were acting out. However, if we, for a second, consider the videographer, we start to try to understand the setting. The individual is speaking and seemingly trying to justify what is going on. We can also tell that maybe the individual was nervous or anxious from the shakiness of the camera. There is a brief period where the camera may have been put down.

To me the interpretation is still one-sided. The same one video that was cropped and edited, still makes the cops look bad. In the ABC News video, I question why now? Why now is police brutality amongst the African American community being recognized. As a viewer I am curious to know more about the history of police brutality against African Americans. It is noted that because of the footage, this became a national case, why?

After a discussion with my class about the videos, I truly felt enlightened. Some of the things I noted were observations of my fellow classmates. Some these observations I would not have, and did not, initially pick up on. I didn’t consider the multiple angles to interpret the footage and the effects one video can have on the nation. I wonder how I would have reacted had I been born and older during this time. I know that this footage only tells part of the story, but no one deserves to be treated that way. I’m sad that this footage and the results of the case impacted justice in future court cases that involved African Americans. At the same time, I’m glad that this surfaced so that people could retaliate and protest for fair justice.