Today we kicked off our Screenwriting module with a first glance of a genre we are going to be talking about for the next couple of weeks. Yes, it is Documentary time. When I first started in this module, we learned all that we needed to learn about Melodrama which was nice but I am glad that we can now move on to something different.
We learned that even though a documentary needs to be truthful and “follow the rules” in order for it to be an accurate representation of an actual event in time and space, it can still be creative. We, potential filmmakers, can still let our creative juices flow and let them show through it. It’s just a matter of editing: the cutting, the order in which we put the footage, photographs, locations, interviews, the use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound, amongst so many others. It is in post-production that we can make a masterpiece out of a documentary. And that was interesting to acknowledge.
And to kick start our classes, we were shown a Spike Lee documentary entilted “4 Little Girls” which follows the story of four young children that were brutally murdered by a bomb explosion while at church in Alabama in 1963. This is the basis of the story yet Lee tells us much more than that, he tells us all the events that led up to this massacre as to show the audience the “why” this happened. He doesn’t condone these events but instead feels the need to justify and to bring a clarity to the world, of who, why and what happened or needed to happen to give a reason for these murders. I don’t know if he succeeded but at least he told a story that deeply moved audiences, well at least it moved me. Lee goes deep into the begginings of racial prejudice in Alabama with the showing of archival footage, still photographs and even interviews with victims or bystanders that were there at those times.
Later on in the afternoon seminar, our teacher mentioned something that I found quite alluring, when he said “Film is a ghostly medium”, right when he said it, I felt a chill come over me. The complete truthfulness of that statement caught me off guard. It is something so obvious yet it had such a poetic meaning to me. The idea of each film, even the current one’s, are and will someday be mere ghosts of the past is something morbidly fascinating to me. Yet, I always knew that film was such a beautiful medium where some of the greatest stories and pieces and History are forever “trapped” in film stock (or SD cards!) is something beyond precious. That beautiful moment when you can watch your favorite movie from the 1940’s and feel yourself being immersed into the wonderfulness of the acting, story and location. It’s priceless.
Though this viewing, I learned the difference between the different types of documentaries that exist as well as the basis of what type of documents I would need to obtain in order to, try, and give justice to the piece of history I would like to portray on screen.
P.S.- And I also learn that I rant too much. I am sorry.
Here is an interview with director Spike Lee talking about his documentary film.