films/videos dealing with power

From: David Tetzlaff (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Jan 09 2009 - 14:11:30 PST

In experimental films I'd suggest George Landow/Owen Land 'Remedial
Reading Comprehension' The opening text assertion of 'This is a film
about you.' is relatively disconcerting. "New Improved Institutional
Quality" is pretty on point as well.

There are many, many documentary films that apply here, given the
self-reflexive turn in documentary/anthropological film. Check out
'Stranger with a Camera' an indictment (camera = gun) of all
documentary basically (that goes way too far IMHO).

Nick Broomfield films put the power exchanges between the maker and
his interview subjects on screen: "Aileen Wournos: The Selling of a
Serial Killer" is the best example.

There is a lot of academic literature savaging more traditional
documentary forms, especially direct conema. for a supposed power
imbalance where makers exploit their subjects. See Pryluck
"Ultimately we are all outsiders..." various writings by Jay Ruby,
Brian Winston "The tradition of the victim in Griersonian
Documentary" and the multitude of anti-Flaherty diatribes written
about 'Nanook of the North," which wouldn't be a bad film to show.

A paradigm case of documentary filmmakers getting very close to their
subjects, and then facing accusations of abuse of power for revealing
everyday life on a larger stage, is "Seventeen" (1983) by Joel DeMott
and FRAMEWORKer Jeff Kreines. It's an amazing film by a variety of
measures. A book on the Middletown film series by Dwight Hoover,
devotes many of its pages to an extended attack on the film, and on
DeMott and Kreines. It's a bit harder to find defenses of the film.
DeMott and Kreines prepared a brief statement "Notes on Seventeen"
but I can't find it published anywhere. (Jeff can speak for himself,
of course, but he seems to consider this ancient and unpleasant
history he'd rather not deal with anymore.) Not that it's that hard
to cobble together a defense of this film, and documentary in
general, on your own...

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Shelly Silver" <email suppressed>
> To: <email suppressed>
> Sent: Friday, January 09, 2009 7:48 AM
> Subject: films/videos dealing with power
> dear all:
> i'm putting together several classes that deal with power - different
> varieties of power relations between those filmed and those doing the
> filming. this could be extreme (or less extreme) interactions where
> the filmmaker/cameraperson has power (most typical) or where it's
> firmly in the hands of the people being filmed. This power can come
> through the presence of the camera, through verbal interaction, or
> anything else.
> I'm most interested in those cases which would make the audience feel
> uneasy/queasy watching.
> suggestions?

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