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Essay questions documentary film

The two girls were not exactly whole-cloth inventions, but in the form Nev had come to know them online, they were the alter egos of their mother, Angela Wesselman-Pierce, a fabulist of considerable talent and nerve. Wesselman-Pierce does not seem to be their creation, any more than Mr. Surely, young adepts of the Internet like these New Yorkers would know better than to take Facebook self-representations at face value.

By insisting otherwise, Joost and the Shulmans manage the trick of looking like patsies rather than cynical con men. For most of the movie, they sustain the idea that they or at least Nev are innocent dupes, even as their film is built on, and ends by affirming, the assumption that they are smarter and more sophisticated than Wesselman-Pierce. It is hardly news that documentaries manipulate reality with effects that can be morally toxic.

Uncovering footage that the Nazis took, and staged, in the Warsaw ghetto, Hersonski shows that what later generations have taken to be firsthand, raw images had instead passed through the machinery of ideological illusion making. They were real, but not exactly in the way they appeared to be. In that case, it is troubling to contemplate how easily we can be deceived.

But more often, audiences consent to being fooled just for the fun of it.


  1. Documentary Storytelling MA Essay – Page 1.
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  3. Documentary Storytelling MA Essay – Page 1.

View all New York Times newsletters. The most radical reality effects today may come from young filmmakers who adopt an almost willfully guileless attitude toward the artifices of filmmaking, recording themselves and their friends playing people like themselves and their friends in situations barely distinguishable from ordinary existence.

Mumblecore, as this tendency is unhappily called, has already moved beyond its D. Reilly, who played variations on their usual roles as half-grown men looking for love and reassurance. What makes these movies interesting and difficult to assimilate is less the fact that they blur the line between real life and representation than the way they accomplish the blurring.

The scenes feel improvised; the stories emerge almost haphazardly out of long takes and meandering shots. Your expectation of seeing life framed, organized, made somehow more coherent, is teased, frustrated and sometimes thwarted outright. This is not entirely a pleasant or comfortable experience, and you may find yourself asking, Where is the art?

Or even, What is the point? What else would you call it? Legend has it that the assembled public fled in panic, seized by the momentary belief that, in spite of the absence of either a railroad track or a soundtrack, an actual locomotive was bearing down on them. This anecdote can be used to remind us of the now-unimaginable novelty of cinema, a strange and wonderful lateth-century invention that must have seemed, at the time, to refute the very laws of physics. We know better than to believe what we see.

But we also, sometimes willfully, let go of that knowledge, and it is possible to discern in the frenzied reaction of that ancient Parisian crowd the first recorded eruption of a distinctively modern form of pleasure. We may not be fooled by images, but maybe sometimes we would like to be. The refinement of digital special effects, displacing the camera with the computer, has only extended its domain.

Everyone with a flip-cam or a cellphone can be a documentary filmmaker, or at least an Internet auteur. You want trains pulling into stations? The appetite for actuality has hardly waned, but it remains an unstable, contradictory hunger, compounded of doubt and credulity, the will to believe and the wish to be tricked.

What did you see this year? And more to the point: What did you believe?


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    A Teacher’s Guide to Use of Personal Essay Films

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    TEACH WITH MOVIES – LESSON PLANS BASED ON MOVIES & FILM CLIPS!

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