What documentary is and isn’t

I’ve discussed in an earlier post the influence that a summer spend working at the National Film Board during the Second World War had on Erving Goffman.

I was delighted to read an April 11, 2014 New York Times article entitled: “Documentaries have always been fake.”

I enjoyed the New Yorker article. Here’s an excerpt:

  • For “Chronicle of a Summer,” from 1960, which Rouch made with the sociologist Edgar Morin (who, happily, is still working – and is on Twitter), the method was turned inside out. The premise of the film is expressly documentary – a Parisian person-in-the-street survey – but the filmmakers reveal their sociological methods in advance, in a preliminary scene where they make their plans with the onscreen interviewers. When the range of participants expands and the haphazard street interviews morph into organized roundtable discussions, those interviewers take part, joining the ranks of the movie’s subjects – as do Morin and Rouch themselves. And those prepared scenes give rise to a spontaneous and improvised yet highly directed sequence in which one of the interviewers, Marceline Loridan, delivers painful reminiscences in a psychodramatic monologue, spoken into a tape recorder, that morphs the documentary suddenly and inextricably into fiction.

[End of excerpt]

Narrative has power, whatever form it may take.


In the course of my teaching career, I came across some great advice regarding how to conduct one’s self in an interview.

That advice was: Lean into it.


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