As someone who generally has their books colour coded weeks before the semester begins, I’ve uncharacteristically missed my first and long awaited New Documentary class. So, as I naively delve into the world of documentary, I’ll focus on the theory for this week from Henrik Juel, as a full copy of Lovely Andrea has been hard to come by.
I found myself smiling with relief as a read through Juel’s piece. It’s exciting that this field of work hasn’t and shouldn’t be branded and memorised as one specific mode of film. Rather than confusing me with his multifaceted definition, Juel largely confirmed my suspicions. The piece thankfully lay to bed the argument of subjectivity vs objectivity in reporting or representing fact. While a documentary might be based around truth and reality, anything that is created with some purpose or message in mind will always be subjective. It was also refreshing to see the author recognise that the virtuous quality he ascribed documentaries might only be his own aspiration for the genre.
This leads me to the mention of propaganda. While Juel didn’t dismiss it (“propaganda is a documentary made by my enemy” – love that line), I don’t believe he considered it fully in regards to his defining features. Something widely considered propaganda, such as Riefenstahl Triumph of the Will, might fit the documentary bill in all areas besides truth (again a subjective term) and the idea of it being socially beneficial (which Juel recognised more as his personal criteria). The piece is praised for its artistic merits and criticised for its pro-Nazi sentiments…but Is it still valuable to history and film despite being propaganda? I suppose what I’m trying to say is that, in a global society of constant social development, it might be dangerous to disregard works that stand out on the sliding scale of persuasion and propaganda in our effort to portray the genre of documentary as something “good”.
Ever-so briefly; the film. From what I can gather, the film examines the attitudes and questionable activities within the Japanese bondage porn industry, as well as how images are recycled for different purposes. The segment of the film that I accessed underwhelmed me – despite this being a personal story for the documenter, it had an air of indifference. But maybe that was the whole point…perhaps representing a desire to disassociate from that personal history.
While this film is rather straightforward in ‘documenting’ the story, hidden beneath poetic expression sits much more complex ideas about power and consent. I’m left wondering, which element – the fact or the message – makes this a documentary?
(One particularly funny comment from Juel to note – “art for art’s own sake” – that’ll make some heads roll).