Food for thought. This text is written by a student from the Zelig Film School for Documentary at the exam in June after one year of the three year long studies. George Bocher has chosen direction for his further studies:
The essence of what documentary can be today is shown in the Canadian film “Manufactured Landscapes” (Jennifer Baichwal) in the very first shot. A very long shot, a never-ending camera-travel through a Chinese factory-hall.
It’s the most impressive dolly shot I have ever seen. Why is it so great?
Because it shows the conflict between our expectations for fictional representation of reality and the representation in documentaries/reportage.
The usual standard-pan inside the hall we would have seen in a TV-reportage would have made it easy for the viewer to swallow the image, to sort it intohis/her categories. It is through this dolly shot that we experience the full dimensions of the hall and the nature of the labour in it.
The sense of a motivated travel of the eye that the dolly usually promises is turned into a nightmarish caricature as we only see the ever-repeating landscape of people at machines. Strangely it is the use of means from fiction-films that makes this reality more real for us again. I think this is one of the paradox documentary makers have to live with today.