The late 1960s and 70s were a time when the conventions and premises of documentary film came under close scrutiny and criticism by a young generation of filmmakers and film critics. While the Griersonian traditions of "Voice of God" narration and self-righteous points-of-view had long since fallen out of favor, even once-radical departures from expository documentary tradition, such as Cinema Verite and Direct Cinema, were not exempt from this interrogation. The notion of Direct Cinema avatars such as D.A. Pennebaker and Ricky Leacock that the camera could act as an non-obtrusive, recording "fly on the wall" was increasingly shot down in flames. The historical tendency of socially and politically engaged (generally white male) documentary makers to speak on behalf of their beleagured or marginalized subjects was questioned, as members of these "spoken for" communities increasingly chose to document their own lives. By the end of the 1970s, the most fundamental claims of documentary film, including the implicit claims of priviledged access to "truths" about the "real" or historical world, were being questioned or rejected by many young filmmakers.
Recognition of the failures and shortcoming of past documentary film strategies and styles, and a recognition of the limits and ethical problems of presenting documentary evidence, has often resulted in filmmakers turning to new hybrid forms, self-reflexivity, or parody. The following films reflect various ways filmmakers have come to grips with the limtations of documentary representation.
-No Lies. Produced & directed by Mitchell W. Block, 1978. "No lies" unfolds as a conversation between a male interviewer and a young woman who has recently been raped. The interviewer's probing questions strip away the woman's defenses, offering an intimate view of the trauma suffered by a rape victim as she confronts the police, her doctor, her friends, and her conscience. The film is notable because it rigorously adheres to documentary form, but in reality is a "fake" -- not a "real" documentary. DVD 9055
Bontoc Eulogy A personal and poignant docu-drama that examines the Filipino experience at the 1904 St. Louis World's fair. The film focuses on the filmmaker's grandfather, an Igorot warrior, one of the 1,100 tribal natives displayed as anthropological 'specimens' in the Philippine village exhibit. A unique fusion of rare archival images, verite, and carefully orchestrated visual sequences shot in the present, the film is an innovative investigation of history, memory and the spectacle of the "other" in the turn-of-the-century America. A film by Marlon Fuentes. 1995. 56 min. DVD 8781; vhs Video/C 4168 (also as a second feature on Video/C 4393).
David Holzman's Diary. A film by Jim McBride. "An early black and white example of mock-documentary, this features a young filmmaker who attempts to discover the "truth" about his life by recording it on film, drawing on Jean-Luc Godard's observation that "Film is truth 24 times a second." [from Faking It] 74 min. Video/C 999:1439
Daughter Rite. An experimental film that explores the relationships between mothers and their adult daughters. This classic illustrates the missing link between the 'direct cinema' documentaries and the later hybrids that acknowledged truth couldn't always be found in front of a camera lens. Scandalous in its day for bending the rules of representation to enlighten its audience. Written, directed & edited by Michelle Citron. 1979. 53 min. DVD 8456; vhs Video/C 3267
Thin Blue Line. "The Thin Blue Line" is the fascinating, controversial true story of the arrest and conviction of Randall Adams for the murder of a Dallas policeman in 1976. Billed as "the first movie mystery to actually solve a murder," the film is credited with overturning the conviction of Randall Dale Adams for the murder of Dallas police officer Robert Wood, a crime for which Adams was sentenced to death. With its use of expressionistic reenactments, interview material and music by Philip Glass, it pioneered a new kind of non-fiction filmmaking. Its style has been copied in countless reality-based television programs and feature films. Terrence Rafferty in The New Yorker has called it "a powerful and thrillingly strange movie. Morris seems to want to bring us to the point at which our apprehension of the real world reaches a pitch of paranoia -- to induce in us the state of mind of a detective whose scrutiny of the evidence has begun to take on the feverish clarity of hallucination." [http://www.errolmorris.com/film/tbl.html] A film by Errol Morris, 1988. 102 min. DVD 4165
Nichols, Bill. Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Bloomington : Indiana University Press, c1991. (MAIN: PN1995.9.D6 N54 1991; MOFF: PN1995.9.D6 N54 1991)
Stone, Tammy. "(Non)Fiction and the Viewer: Re-interpreting the Documentary Film" The Journal of Moving Image Studies (Avila University), vol 2, number 1&2, Fall 2003/Spring 2004 http://www.avila.edu/journal/fall03/StonePaper.htm
On February 27, 2008, William F. Buckley, conservative author, journaoist, TV commentator, and all-around pundit died at 82 (SEE CNN article for details ). For those of us who came of political age in the 60s and 70s in the embrace of the New Left, Buckley was something of a right-wing anti-Christ. We loathed his patrician accent and showy erudition; his quirky mannerisms and his maddening condescention. But mostly, we hated him for his infuriating habit of glibly bashing everything we held sacred.
Now, forty years later and from the perspective of political developments in the last few decades, Buckley is looking better and better. Even if one still disagrees with his politics and social viewpoints, Buckley's wit and intelligence, his commitment to civil and informed discourse must be acknowledged and at least grudingly appreciated.
The Media Center has recently digitized a rather infamous debate between WFB and James Baldwin at Cambridge University (England), October 26, 1965:
James Baldwin and William F. Buckley, October 26, 1965. Sponsored by
the Cambridge Union Society, Cambridge University. The topic of the
debate was "The American Dream is at the Expense of the American
Buckely also turns up as an often puckish talking head in the following documentary titles held in MRC:
Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (about Hunter S. Thompson) DVD 8631
The Life & Times of Allen Ginsberg DVD 6808
Dirty Pictures (about Robert Mapplethorpe) DVD 2292
Arguing the World (about Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, Irving Howe and Irving Kristol) VIDEO/C 5541
Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media DVD 2211
New York in the Fifties DVD 1527
What Happened to Kerouac VIDEO/C 1058 (which features a clip from Buckley's TV talk show Frontline in which WF horribly demolishes a stoned and incoherent Jack)
MRC patrons frequently ask us why we don't own particular titles on on vhs tape. The answer to that question isn't as straightforward as you might think.
The most common reason for not owning a movie or documentary title on DVD is the fact that, well, it's not out on DVD yet. In this age of ubiquitous film and video, it seems as if EVERY piece of film ever shot should be available for purchase on DVD (if not for consumption online). Unfortunately, that's simply not the case. International DVD distribution is a fickle and strange business. Mainstream Hollywood titles one would swear should be available on DVD often aren't--even when they have formerly been available on tape. Titles once in DVD distribution may be taken out of distribution for various economic reasons. These problems tend to be even greater for foreign films than domestic. In some cases, it may simply be a matter of waiting patiently for the DVD release. In other cases, one may have to wait forever... The most maddening of all cases, are those in which a film WAS released on DVD for a short time, but is no longer in distribution in any format. It happens more than you'd think.
The lag in DVD availability is intensified ten-fold for non-theatrical films, such as documentaries and educational titles, and primary source media. For some of the "larger" (larger being a very relative term) catalogs of independently produced and distributed documentary films, DVD has made satisfying in-roads. For other titles of this sort, DVDs may never be available. Here's a maddening example: Jon Else's terrific 1997 documentary Cadillac Desert, about the role of water in shaping the American West, was originally released by PBS Home Video on vhs. It was never distributed on DVD, and now even the tape is no longer available (a victim of the same kinds of footage licensing costs that temporarily brought down the groundbreaking series Eyes on the Prize).
In cases where a commercially acquired documentary in the MRC collection is no longer in distribution in any format and is physically at risk of disintegration, MRC has been selectively making DVD preservation copies for use within the Center. Such copying is allowed by Section 108 of the US copyright law. You can identify these titles in the MRC web site or in Pathfinder by the designation "Preservation Copy" next to the call number.
The second reason for not owning a title on DVD IS more straightforward: MONEY! The MRC budget must accommodate the purchase of new titles, the licensing of currently owned titles for online streaming, AND the purchase of DVD copies of titles currently owned on tape only. In short, Although we are systematically attempting to acquire or reformat everything we own on DVD, it will take time.
In the late 1980s, physicist Stephen J. Hawking gave a series of riveting lectures at UC Berkeley. The Media Resources Center has recently digitized these. They are openly available for viewing by Berkeley and non-Berkeley users.
Hitchcock Lectures, UC Berkeley.
Physics/Astronomy Colloquium with Dr. Stephen Hawking, University of California, Berkeley Wednesday, March 23, 1988
The UCB Library subscribes to hundreds of international film journals. Full-text articles from an increasing number of these journals are available via the various article databases to which the library subscribes. For a complete listing of these, see http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/filmstudies/filmjournals.html
Included in this listing is a significant handfull of open access film journals which offer full-text articles to anyone with a computer and a network connection. Some of our favorite titles in this group are listed below. (Know about substantive open source film journals that are not listed below? Let us know!)
Bright Lights Film Journal no. 16 (1996) - current
The Film Journal 1 (2002) - January 2006
Film-Philosophy 1 (1997) - current
Films in Review 1997 - current
Images: A Journal of Film and Popular Culture Aug. 1996 - Dec. 2000
Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media Spring/Summer 2001 - current
Journal of Religion and Film (University of Nebraska) 1 (1997) - current
Kinema: A Journal for Audiovisual Media (University of Waterloo) Spring 1993 - current
Kinoeye: A Fortnightly Journal of Film in the New Europe 1996 - current
Millennium Film Journal no. 29 (1996) - current issue
P.O.V.: A Danish Journal of Film Studies 1 (1996) - current
Screening the Past (La Trobe University) 1 (1997)- current
Senses of Cinema 1 (1999) - current