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Here again is the idea of documentary truth being found in the way the perceivers of a film construct the film within their own minds, searching between what is overtly presented on screen to find the links between them that facilitate coherence and organization. Truth in documentary film, then, might be approached as a way of creating meaning from a filmic text. Thus the search for documentary truth, a search for an understanding of what we are presented with, can be seen as a phenomenological undertaking. McIlroy sees this phenomenological approach to documentary as being a middle road between two extreme theoretical positions.

So it would seem that truth in documentary exists in the heart of competing arenas that need to be collated and assessed in the same fashion as the mind deals with the realm of the quotidian.

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The picture I have been attempting to paint here is that of the importance of the spaces between the worldly phenomena with which we are presented. The construction of meaning from the world lies in the joining together of contradictory elements through a bridging of the gaps between those elements. It is my wish to suggest that the truth that documentary film seeks to put forth is precisely that construction of meaning that takes place when confronted with contradictions.

The truth of the Holocaust thus does not exist in any totalizing narrative but only…as a collection of fragments…. What role, however, does the text play in an understanding of truth as being the process of human perceptual organization? We are used to understanding documentary as placing a special interest on a belief in the indexicality of the photographic image: What has been suggested thus far, however, is that the reality contained within a film is dependent upon the reading of that film. An examination of the appearance of animals on film might help illuminate the relationship between text and perceiver on a number of levels.

In the distinction between fiction and documentary film, the animal on screen often presents us with a bridge across the gap between these two categories.

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Occupying a sort of limbo space, I would like to suggest that the animal on film is an embodiment of the contradictions that force the human mind to search for coherence and meaning in film. Because of what many of us inherently know about animal behaviour, combined with our knowledge of the ethical boundaries of our own cultures, when we see animals on film we understand that they do not occupy the same space as humans. Although animals can be trained, we understand that there is far less of a consent on their part when performing for the camera, and often times we understand that mistreatment of them is considered more socially acceptable than the mistreatment of human beings.

In particular, the question of violence on film involving animals presents an interesting port of entry into the liminal world of animal presence in the cinema. When violence involves animals, the emblem of the real takes on an even greater sense of actuality. It ruptures and interrogates the boundaries of narrative representation. Here the contradictory elements of the film are provided by our understanding of how a particular animal was treated.

Had we seen a human appear to die on screen in a film read as a fiction, we would most likely assume that the death was faked.

This poses an interesting question with respect to how we come to believe in what we see on screen. Technology is currently advancing to the point where very convincing illusions can be presented. As a result, as Williams noted, there is an increasing distrust of the photographic image. How much of this belief lies within the text itself, and how much within our reading of it? Here it will be useful to examine some of the implications that new digital technology is having on our understanding of the role of the text in the construction of meaning from film.

As I have discussed thus far, the idea of documentary truth arrived at through film now extends beyond our understanding of the indexical relationship between photograph and photographed. With new technologies in digital imaging becoming increasingly the norm, it seems appropriate that our more traditional approaches to reality on film be replaced by something more applicable to the current situation. This says to me that we are not ready to give up on finding truth in images altogether. If this is true, then it makes sense that current documentary theory and practice would seek to define truth in the documentary as being a process of the search for meaning in the contradictions of film instead of relying on the representational nature of the medium.

Instead, the truth found within film transcends indexicality as the basis for its integrity. I suggest that new digital imaging technologies need not threaten documentary truth if we look at this truth as being the human experience of meaning construction. He suggests that digital imagery in film does not necessarily demand our understanding of such imagery as illusionist, but that such imagery can be used to create a realism which is much like the documentary truth I have been outlining: Perceptually realistic images correspond to this experience because the filmmakers build them to do so.

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We understand such realistic digital images as being realistic because of the correspondences we make between them and our own experience. Here the contradiction between something that we understand as being non-existent and its apparent existence on film provides us with the necessary tensions for our minds to balance in order to make meaning. Bill Nichols observes that:. Nichols speaks here of the tensions through which the perceiver of a film must sort in order to create meaning, describing how the various forms of film presentation vie against one another as well as against our understanding of the indexicality of the photograph.


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However, he suggests that digital technology eliminates this indexicality from the interpretative struggle. There was a time — not so long ago — when the implications of this [special effect], in terms of discomfort and endurance, would have remained present for us in the sequence; now they did not. A sense of the effort and impediment of the represented world is one thing lost when we cease to see that world as necessary to its representation.

The Gap: Documentary Truth between Reality and Perception

This is the price we pay for Terminator 2 Just as Laurie Anderson had to spend fourteen hours in make-up to morph into a baboon, so too actor Robert Patrick had to spend many hours nearly naked with a grid painted over his body so that his physical attributes could be mapped into the computer for Terminator 2 However, I suggest that his notion that we no longer see the world as necessary to its representation is not what is going on when we are confronted with digital imagery. In such digital image creation as described here there is still a kind of indexicality at play, albeit one that is a couple of steps removed from the indexicality of the standard photograph.

In this example I suggest that all reality is not lost through digital manipulation, and that a kind of indexicality still exists in the manipulation process. You know from, as a kid making skateboarding videos to this current film. Not really. Growing up in Rockford, the film industry capital seem like such a remote thing. Like this possibility in the sky that was unattainable. But I love making films. A friend when I was a teen inspired me to start making my own films.

The horizon just kept expanding. I got a job when I was 19 as a production assistant.

The new documentary follows three young men trying to skate free of the cycle of abuse.

A few years later, I joined the camera union. All of a sudden I am working on sets where they are making fun of my tennis shoes. Everything became both weird and real. This is an extension of that. Like, oh you have a film that won at Sundance? And people actually like it? The director drove all the the to Rockford just to interview him. Zach ended up beating out all of these professional actors to get the lead role. Zach is playing this head of the household father who is having a lot of issues with his family.

Keire is working at an upscale salad place in Denver. And still skating. Nina works a lot. My mom is doing fine. What are you currently working on?

What should we be expecting to see from you? We started filming it a few months ago. That should be wrapping up some time next year. And then I plan to film Into Fiction , a story about how intimacy is very difficult to obtain in this day and age.


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