This is an essay that I wrote to be the base of an oral presentation that I had to do at school. It has been written by me and is designed to remove the audience from their comfort zone.
The original statement:
"There is little difference between a documentary and a feature film; both are contrived fictions. To what extent does your viewing of one documentary and one feature film support this view?"
You know? I absolutely love all this documentary stuff that we do for English! It's great! I want to spread the news that English is good! I want you all to know how informative it is! So how should I go about that? Well, in order for the masses to stay attentive long enough to even understand this opinion, I would have to entertain them whilst being exceedingly subtle with my brainwashing attempts. So how do I go about that? I could write some long story with some subtle morals and themes planted in there that are designed to stick in your mind, or I could give you some real life analogies and stuff, but that would be boring! The former suggestion represents a feature film's way of making you believe something, whereas the latter is theoretically going to be a documentary. Essentially, what I am getting at is that both documentaries and feature films are using entertainment (or, infotainment, if you will) to influence the way you see the world. As I said, to create a feature film some guy sits down and writes a screen play that can both entertain and covertly infringe upon your sentiments. This can be rather an effective medium to advertise opinions, so why use a documentary?
Well, lets first look at what a documentary is. Documentaries are designed to inform you about something rather than to simply entertain mindless masses. One such example of of a documentary that informs rather then entertains is Eddie Koiki Mabo, Life of an Island Man. This documentary is as boring as sliced turnips. However, as I said, the documentary isn't supposed to be full of sluts, guns and exothermic redox reactions! It's supposed to be full of information about Eddie Mabo and his life. So I suppose that we'll hear stories of his oppression and his struggle to have the rights that we take for granted. Of course we'll also hear about the people of his island shunning him in spite of the fact that he was fighting to protect them. What a guy! But unless you are promoting fighting for land rights this doesn't really apply to you. So how does a documentary manage to get an idea across to people?
Well, throughout the documentary I get the feeling that something is being left out of the story, that I'm not being told something. Is it possible that I am not being told everything?
Yes. Why was he kicked off the island? He must have done something wrong to deserve banishment! Then to not go back to the island once he is allowed to says something. I have a feeling that he had done something pretty bad and was afraid to go back. The reason why we weren't told more about this important event in Eddie's life is because it's like a black spot on his name. Why ruin the hero by telling us about that?? Selection of detail warps the story to fit the producers' ideas and opinions. If the producer doesn't like what the audience is going to see then they can just leave it out and cover it up. This contrives the 'true' story and makes it more suitable for the producer. So, in essence, to make a documentary you simply need to get a story and cut it into pieces so that you can take out what you don't want and include what you do. All you then need to do is add a little sensationalism and you're set!
So now that we can see how both forms work, lets look at how they are the same. It is now apparent that both forms have a controlled plot, the two forms only differ when the amount of control is considered. But what about the techniques used to convey the meanings behind the plot? Well, music in a documentary is used to invoke emotions. This is plain to see in Life of and Island Man. Everytime something favorable happens they play emotive music that suggests happiness or success. Everytime something bad happens there is no music....just silence. I have seen the same thing in the Matrix. Neo has died, Trinity is obsessing about love and some old woman's whacked out reading of the stars and there is no music! All you can hear about the place is destruction! Then she kisses Neo and after some weird allusion to Snow White the music starts up! The use of music to spark emotions and encourage the audience to be happy or sad is essentially the same in both forms.
Characterization is also used in the same fashion for both forms. The Matrix represents Neo as a computer cracker. Not as a computer geek as he is in the book! The audience won't accept a geek as their hero so Neo is made out to be a cool 1337 h4X0r. By the same token Eddie is made out to be a nice guy. They talk about what he did for his people, how he'd dance and sing and his love for his boat. They don't tell us much about when he got drunk though, do they? Characterization is all about selection of detail. In both feature films and documentaries, selection of detail plays a major role in characterization.
As you can see, documentaries and feature films are rather covert and evil! They work to challenge your beliefs in such a way that you don't know that they're doing it! They want to dictate how you think and have the same ideas as them! Just because they have different names doesn't mean that they're not the same. My viewing experience of Life of an Island Man and the Matrix both agree with the statement that There is little difference between a documentary and a feature film; both are contrived fictions. Both are versions of reality.
I really don't believe everything that I said in the above essay. I believe that Eddie fought for a great cause, and that he really deserved to win his battle. I think that it's ironic how the English course is designed to teach you how texts lie and deceive but at the same time allow me to do the same. *sigh*