Analyzing non- fiction films.

Essay by manoiUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, January 2004

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It is through difference that similarity is discovered. In genre analysis, films of a cinematic genre are analyzed with relation to how they conform to, or stray from, the conventions of other films within the same genre. By remaining within the context of a genre, yet at the same time moving as far from it as possible, certain filmmakers test the limits of a genre. Nonfiction cinema has long been upheld as providing an objective, truthful presentation of reality. It is precisely this conception of nonfiction cinema that the following filmmakers question: the work of Frederick Wiseman challenges the possibility of being objective, Errol Morris explores the nature of truth, while Bruce McDonald asks "what is reality, anyway?"

Viewers of nonfiction film have long since had the expectation of being provided with a detached, objective, accurate depiction of reality. In "The Ontology of the Photographic Image" , Andre Bazin outlines how "photography and the cinema...are

discoveries that satisfy, once and for all and in its very essence, our obsession with realism" (Andre Bazin, "The Ontology of the Photographic Image", from What is Cinema?, 12). Arguing that these technologies fulfilled an ongoing quest to successfully capture reality, Bazin claims that with these technologies "an image of the world is formed automatically, without the creative intervention of man" (Bazin, 13, emphasis added). While arts such as painting or sculpting may possess an iconic resemblance to reality, they rely on the subjective interpretation of the artist. Photography and cinema, however, possess not only an iconic relation with their signified, but also an indexical one. The perceived realism and objectivity of the photographic image stems, firstly, from its natural dependence on the pre-existence of its signified (the object in the photograph must actually exist), and secondly, from the automatic, unmediated, method by which the...