Assessment 3 · Sound and Image

Introduction to Documentary

After reading Bill Nichols’s seven modes of documentary film, I thought that it is slightly uneasy to choose one mode. The reason was that I think if I have five stories to create a documentary about, it is possible to film them all on one mode. However, the film would be more successful if I choose the suitable mode for the story so I can represent it properly. Aside from that, the mode that caught my interest and I would like to work with is the Poetic.

Bill Nichols described the poetic mode as a way of a documentary film that presents “a truth” subjectively from the characters and the film maker’s point of view. The filmmaker in this mode gathers the raw materials and adds the poetic aspect and his perspective to them. The poetic documentary mixes many different kinds of expression techniques that give a texture and a feeling of fiction. For example, it incorporates the point-of-view shots, flashbacks and freeze frames with oratorical techniques.

The poetic mode takes knowledge as an effective and a new way to understand the world. The sound is expressive, and it is usually used for pattern and rhythm. The poetic mode’s time and space are disconnected, and it uses images to build a style without consideration for the original proximity. Although I chose this mode as a documentary mode that I would work with, it has some ethical concerns that need to be considered. One important matter is that poetic mode uses actual people and places without a consideration of their own identities as might misrepresent or exaggerate for an artistic effect. The voice in the poetic mode is distinguished by the urge of giving the viewers a new perspective of the world that is represented in the film.

It can’t be denied that when we watch a documentary, we watch it to know the truth that the filmmaker sees as truth. It is never the ultimate truth, which in my opinion the beauty of documentary films that it represent a story from a different perspective. For example, watching a documentary about the Holocaust by a jew filmmaker in a poetic mode would be entirely different from a Nazi filmmaker. The truth wouldn’t be the same. Also, the reason that made me choose the poetic style is the fact that people can watch two documentary films about the same story and ended up with complete different experience due to the reasons above.

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