Documentaries have always been deceiving. As a matter of fact, the first film ‘Exiting the factory’ which was presented to audience in 1895 by Lumière brothers, was not entirely genuine because it showed workers leaving a factory without even looking into the camera or coming close to the camera, because at that time it was awkward to ignore a big machine positioned in front of them. George Méliès was the first and greatest cinema fictionist who created “A trip to the moon” in 1902, it became one of the exemplary, famous and best silent film worldwide. We can remember a lot of films by their renowned dialogue scenes, but in this film, anyone can recall the film through an illustrious picture (Moon’s face and a rocket in his eye) who have never seen a silent film in their life (Kramer 2015).
Documentaries are considered to be realistic because people think the content in it is real or is being portrayed realistically by a filmmaker. Fictional documentaries can deliver an instructive method of telling the truth, history or a social issue with a seamless balance of truth and fabrication. The fluid connection of fiction and reality in a narrative can make an effective documentary. People normally don’t change their views by contemplating the information, charts or even documented proof, but if facts are revealed in a creative visual storytelling technique their minds can be deeply affected in an affirmative or an adverse manner, which varies upon the viewer. By representing how actually and efficiently a documentary can be falsified makes an astounding association between audience and this genre.
These kinds of documentaries are similar to fiction film because It has similar features of fiction film for e.g. guiding the actors, lighting, manipulation of the actual story. There is always a very intimate relationship between a filmmaker and the topic. In recent years, conventional views of documentary have been transformed by some directors, for instance Michael Moore documentaries are not completely genuine and are edited in a dramatic way. (UK Essays, 2013) Furthermore, sometimes a filmmaker is bound to create propaganda between the subject and viewer, by not screening the whole truth. “You could make people do anything if they are afraid” (Moore 2004). In Fahrenheit 911 first scene Moore shows extreme sorrow of eyewitnesses to twin tower attack and then cuts to second scene we see American President glad and assured. The director has used effectual propaganda strategies by personifying Bush as a self-interested person, by presenting (playing golf during war) how disconnected he is from ordinary Americans (Psy Blog 2007)
The creation of a documentary has always been underestimated, it is presumed to be a simple matter. In fact, it is not just about directing a camera at ‘the truth’, but it involves essential decisions to what to comprise and what to eliminate. Film-maker has to decide the residue of fiction and reality and above all, the material he selects to structure his documentary which includes actual footage, charts, maps, interviews, music (including sound effects). It’s in director’s hands to stick with genuine footage or to re-enact the scene by appropriate actors through which they can obviously convey their narrative of the documentary, with the access to high quality equipment and resources available at the time. (Branston & Stafford, 2010: 360). In the last 15 years, documentary makers are able to produce better work as now documentary is being practiced in a broader range. Moreover, documentary festivals and websites have been formed, for instance ‘Hot Spring Documentary Film Festival’ where documentary makers can show their content and get recognized, beside all that YouTube is an exceptional platform where one can show his vibrant content to the world.
In production, cameras can undermine the authenticity of a story; if you use cinematic angle or unusual editing in a documentary the audience response will be spontaneous and the performance will lose its legitimacy. For example, “A shooting style often stimulating the jostled, hand-held shakiness which used to be a guarantee of the authenticity of news or documentary footage.” (Branson & Stafford, 2010: 363). For a long period, capturing a hand-held or a cramped shot with ordinary lighting and the subtle sound was supposed to be more authentic and realistic film rather than a smooth movement, this shooting style is called Cinéma Vérité or observational cinema conceived by Jean Rouch. The use of motion in these shots makes an impact on the viewer that it is an actual footage, the director is trying to convince the audience that these are not actors performing but people like you, otherwise with more stable and cinematic footage its un-relatable to the audience.
Drama-documentary must be fortified in contradiction of its critics as it is the most significant dramatic form. Moreover, distinctive persuasive techniques can be utilized to illustrate important opinions, as a matter of fact that is the only dramatic form that television has grown and refined, apart from the daily melodramatic programs which are almost unconventional, furthermore the manifestation of drama documentaries to the viewers carries a vigorous incitement to contemplate judgmentally and solemnly about all the programs they watch. (Edgar, 1981: 62).
Newman’s first novel was on crime and police corruption, Sir You Bastard, which was a 1970 bestseller, Newman choose fiction for his exposures as the most effectual way to converse ‘the whole picture’ (Woodman, 1980: 23). Either the narrative is fabricated or not, the inclination and attraction of a documentary totally lies in its capability to persuade the audience about the certainty and reality of the story. These kind of documentaries presents naturalism and fiction in the narrative gives more emphasis on it. Many critics argue that drama-documentaries has propensity to shape, overstate and misrepresent the known facts of past or modern life, just to construct intense impact of the doubtful conclusion they are supporting. They have indicated that drama-documentaries have seized the purpose of chroniclers, a position which they don’t deserve, and accused them for creating an imaginary character instead of showing the true dramatic role. (Edgar, 1981: 64-65)
Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won 2012 Academy award for Saving Face as the best documentary short subject, which provokingly represents Muslim women in Pakistan as the acid attack victims by their husband or relatives. Junge’s attention was carried to this thought when he heard about acid attack victim Katie Piper on BBC. Junge contacted her Surgeon Dr. Jawad about this occurrence, Dr. Jawad led him to his acid attack patients in Pakistan. Junge got in touch with Chinoy and created the documentary. The question appears why didn’t Junge acquired Katie’s incident while it was easily accessible? Junge and Chinoy imposed a western model to conflict the narrative in which the victim has to unveil her personal life and her scuffles on camera in trade off reward and reimbursements offered by Chinoy to the victim; which motivated her to appear on camera, but failed to fulfil her commitment. Despite the Oscar and admiration, she received in Pakistan, Chinoy actually fails to ‘save face’ for the sufferers she represented in her documentary. The documentary feats over its deliberate audience (Western people), however, it appears to belittle Pakistan as it is the matter of Pride for Pakistan and its women, and such idea’s shown tend to seek attention from the western media (particularly the U.S.A). It seems to be that the purpose of this documentary serving in the U.S was nothing but to be praised and earn revenue (Khan 2015: 82-86).
To concatenate my thoughts, if the truth is not counterfeit, then documentaries and fiction can represent truth in a better way. Every director has his/her own technique of bringing a narrative to the audience, usually related to social life issues, historical events, Cinéma Vérité is one of the finest style to document facts and figures in a documentary as film makers do not fabricate in it. A viewer’s perspective can be changed if the film-maker uses persuasive propaganda methods. For instance, Michael Moore. Although documentaries uncover flaws in culture, and it might bring Oscar home, but it doesn’t assure to resolve all the contradictions for the victim.