Today, for our documentary module, we had a lecture by producer/editor Amanda Blueglass on whether documentaries are produced and filmed in a natural and balanced state or if they’re actually manipulated by it’s producers, editors, researchers and by political parties before they’re broadcast to us, the audience. It seems that most documentaries are manipulated and altered in such a way that it seems irrelevant for us to question it’s structure and it’s morals or we’re oblivious to the possible changes that have gone on during production and the documentary’s making which will acquire comments from the director, producer, test audiences and possibly channels for the documentary to be altered in a specific way. I can’t think of many documentaries that don’t have an ulterior motive or are produced to head towards a certain direction that changes a meaning or message from what it could be situated in a normal state. Although, speaking in this case, ‘normal’ can’t really be defined with documentaries as there is no normality or regular standardisation of the term in this context.
I think the only genre of documentary which isn’t really manipulated is probably nature documentaries as the role of a nature documentary is to observe the animals or the nature in it’s natural habitat and surroundings without interference unless the animals are a danger to the camera crew’s life. Even though, they aren’t as manipulated and staged as other documentaries such as Educating Yorkshire or some of Louis Theroux’s work, they have had cases of manipulation such as past criticisms for a one or two documentaries that filmed a polar bear and it’s two cubs in zoo in Germany, rather than in the wild due to the idea of time consumption and potential danger. I think it’s an example of manipulation as we’re perceived to think that the film crew are in the Arctic filming this family of polar bears but they’re really capturing a family in captivity, yes, it does give a sense of the same thing that we might see if it was actually filmed in the tundra but I think because of the morals and it being a programme about animals in the wild, it is manipulation.
The much-recently debated Benefits Street that has even reached the benches of the House of Commons is considered by some to be seen as a neutral documentary although it is broadcast by Channel 4, a channel famous for it’s exclusive and contentious documentaries that they offer to it’s audiences. Despite the fact that it’s narrated by a person without a specific regional accent and it’s music soundtracks aren’t of a particular genre that refers to the documentary’s subjects, I think it still has an edge to it’s directions. In a ‘normal’ untouched documentary, none of the residents of the street would carry personal microphones either, but as they are the main topics and have to be constantly heard then they have to have their voice amplified. Benefits Street based on a street almost entirely on benefits in Birmingham follows a collection of it’s residents around their daily life, presenting a range of issues from struggles with immigrants on their street to thievery by some of the residents who are then to be arrested after failing to stand by their ASBOs. Personally, I’m not a fan of documentaries like that but after being instructed to watch the first few episodes of Benefits Street, I’m still not a fan but I can understand why some people would enjoy something of that format. However, after watching those episodes, as a viewer, I seem to be even less tolerant of people on benefits. I was never a fan of people on benefits if they’re not trying to get a job and resorting to crime to feed their lives. It may not perceive to shed a light onto the matter but depending on your own self, it can convey a message. The message towards me is that it’s reinforced my beliefs.
I think manipulation is a cautious topic with documentaries as a whole because of the possible dangers and the idea of misleading audiences rather than informing them of the true nature that shows the true reality of facts.