Research into Documentary Theory (CW2)

At times I did consider making a short film, possibly experimental for my FMP. I had some success with a short I wrote, shot and edited over the summer period. It ended up getting accepted in a festival in Hollywood, set to be shown March time. The thing is with the short film module during second year, I felt like I’d done a lot in this area, but less on a real documentary that is put together well and has a strong meaning.

I will be looking into short documentaries soon and searching for stylistic inspiration that could help bring my piece to life, give it a cinematic feel almost. Michael Rabiger has it that “films long and short take you on magical journeys into hidden or unexpected worlds” (M. Rabiger, 2009, p. 7). This is exactly what I get excited to do. I want to head out to Morocco and document a hidden world which is Sefrou. When you think Morocco, you think Marrakech, Casablanca, the tourist spots. No one has usually heard of Sefrou. It’s an old city, full of history and stories. I want to bring attention and recognition to the people here, the creatives, the artisans.

I want this documentary to remain factual and true and not misrepresent the Moroccan people in any way shape or form. I want the piece to have a cinematic quality in the way it’s shot and edited. True it can be considered that any media piece is artificial and constructed for certain purposes. However, through my construction of this piece, my intentions are to show the subjects in a natural, honest light. The questions will be about ‘their’ work, ‘their’ opinions on Sefrou and prospects for the future. “aesthetics allows one to experience life differently or, as some would say, to give it “another sense,” remaining in tune with its drifts and shifts.” (Renov, 1993, p. 100) Films and documentary’s that look beautiful catch your eye, then you are more likely to watch and listen. I don’t want to steer focus from the meaning of the piece but capture beautiful imagery to help support it. Sefrou is a distinctly unique looking city, not two buildings are alike and the roads, pathways, alley ways are so different yet intertwine at every turn.

I understand that when a camera is involved and we edit together content into one piece it is therefore constructed. There is an age-old debate on whether documentary’s show ‘real’ life and if they are simply a version of reality that we perceive to be valid. If we question this too much then what can be real. If a documentary filmmaker has the right intentions that are made clear with the subjects being interviewed and the aims are clear, why should this not be valid. “Documentary is perhaps best described as a hybrid film genre which attempts to represent the ‘real’ in a creative and critical art form” (Jong, Knudsen, Rothwell, 2014, p.22) It can be considered an attempt at representing real life but I want to show the artisans for the people they are and the work they do. It can be perceived that people are never 100% themselves with the knowledge of a camera and an interview set up; that is just the way it is. Their work processes, the way they live will be captured as normal.

I will try to implore an observational approach to the documentary where I can but generally an expository form will be in place so I can ask the questions intended. At the end of the day I still want to create a documentary that is visually, audibly and technically sound so sometimes you have to put measures in place to do all of this to a high standard. I don’t believe you have to follow any set rules when making film, maybe technically speaking, but not for what you are shooting or relating to the subject matter. “To be an ‘objective’ report -or documentary maker-means being socialised into obeying certain rituals of naming, describing and framing realities, even if objectivity is self-reflexively posited as an ideal never to be entirely realised in practice” (Pearson, Simpson, 2005, p. 439) I disagree slightly here as I understand how you can be impacted by societies conventions and how you are taught to perceive the world, also in terms of how we were introduced to filmmaking and the theory that one has read into. It depends on personal experience and the intentions going forward into a project.

I want to create this piece to help serve the subjects and bring recognition to the artisanal community and to Sefrou. People need to appreciate the history, the tradition and creativity of an old historical city. We cannot let these things fade away.


  • JONG, W, KNUDSEN, E, ROTHWELL, J. (2014) Creative Documentary: Theory and Practise. Routledge.
  • PEARSON, R, SIMPSON, P. (2005) Critical Dictionary of Film and Television Theory. Routledge.
  • RABIGER, M. (2009) Directing the Documentary. 5th edition. Amsterdam; Boston : Focal Press
  • RENOV, M. (1993) Theorizing Documentary. Great Britian: Routledge.

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