by the Paste Staff.
In documentary filmmaking, truth is almost always filled with lies.
It’s just the nature of the form, really—of any filmmaking at all, for that matter. Even a home video recording, if you’ve ever made or watched or starred in one, is marred by manipulation: Whether you’re aware you’re being “watched” or not, your truth is a sort of surreal quilt of camera placement, cuts and atmosphere, totally mitigated by the lens and then, further down the food chain, the ultimate observer. If you know you’re being watched, you act accordingly; if you don’t, the recording may carry a subtle tone of voyeurism, of intrusiveness—the feeling that something isn’t quite right.
And yet, from direct cinema to Dogme 95, truth has always been an idealistic goal for many filmmakers, and not necessarily the purity of it, but the translation of its most deeply held essentials. Arguably, documentary filmmaking has always been at the forefront of that aim, though during much of its primordial beginnings—especially throughout the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s—documentary filmmakers trolled truth as if it was yet another stuffy branch of bourgeoisie power.
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