The pose of neutrality in social documentary films
Van Laanen, Michael Whitney.
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From the outset, documentary filmmakers have sought to achieve the unobtainable goal of re-presenting reality in a purely objective manner. What began with an attempt to document a dying/evolving culture in Flaherty's Nanook of the North led to a century of debate about how closely documentary film could come to achieving the ultimate goal of representing our historical and social world accurately, objectively, and truthfully. The stem cell research debate has produced three documentaries that illustrate two models of filmmaking process: engaged filmmaking and non-engaged filmmaking. Within these two models, the filmmaker may utilize certain aesthetic techniques of vision and voice that reveal subjective manipulation. I intend to show how the rhetoric of the filmmaker presides over the content even when he presumes to maintain an objective stance.