Posted by: Curtis Abrams | July 6, 2010

Documentary Dairy: (Biography: Barack Obama)



Now I love the documentary form. I mean the easiest, cheapest, most versatile way of giving a people a story to tell a story in an instant really can bring an audience to great interests. Documentary movies and T.V. shows are the central part of where we are in our existence of a culture that is

Early Documentary Films

The earliest form of documentary films were created by Gheorghe Marinescu in the late 19th century, as he documented science in his neurology clinic in Bucharest between 1898 and 1901. These films were the first films to show real life on film and the trend carried on, as John Grierson coined the term documentary in 1926. By this point in time, filming reality encompassed non-fictional films, including instructional films. These films were also called ‘actuality’ films.

Functions of the film (documentary):A documentary film can be seen to function as a prophet – explorer – painter – advocate – bugler – prosecutor – observer – catalyst – guerrilla – performer – therapist – spin doctor.

Modernized Documentary Films (1960’s-2010)

In terms of reporting, the newsreel tradition became highly popular as it consisted of re-enacting events and news shortly after they had occurred, as part of a newscast. These types of traditions are also seen in the late 20th century and early 21st century in terms of newscasts that report accidents and crime scenes, or the documentary series 48 Hours, where re-enactments are often used to show the events.

Following closely, was the propaganda tradition which was mostly used when trying to persuade an audience to support an idea or stand. At times, this is done through creating awareness on any given topic, but mostly done to present an idea and supporting arguments, as to why one should support this idea. This is seen during the 1960’s and 1970’s when documentaries were often used as political weapons, such as fighting capitalism and politics.

Henrik Juel, a professor at about situations that can make a documentary a realism of a genre:

“A film is not a mere representation, but a willed presentation of something made by someone in a specific way and for someone. The phrase “representation of reality” is utterly mistaken as a definition of documentary, because the idea of film as mirroring is a false one and a very misleading ideal. Also the term “reality” is confusing: it may have the straightforward positive connotations of facing reality and seeing things as they really are, but often enough it is interpreted by students in theoretical discussions as just filming “normally” in an “objective” way without being creative or manipulative. Just the facts…. But trying to make “a correspondence with actual facts” and “objective and neutral reproduction” the core characteristics of documentary is naïve in the sense that it has the same weaknesses as philosophical positivism. To believe that reality is made up first by objective facts and secondly by subjective or personal sentiment is to make you yourself blind and deaf to the prevailing power structures and ideologies of this world. “Let us stick to the facts and not be subjective and emotional” – that is the anxious mantra of those not wanting or daring to work for any change or a proper overview and perspective on things.”

Truth and creativity
This however does not mean that it is all right to disregard facts or to tell a lie in a non-fiction film. But it must be noted that the “truth” of a film can be understood in other ways. A lot of facts or statements about facts that can be verified may be present even in a fiction film. The whole story may be pure fantasy, the characters fictitious and the behavior of the actors may consist of incredible stunts – but still the film may be striving for “truth” in another sense of the word: true emotions and perhaps even to illustrate some more general truths about human life.

Lacking a good definition of its essence, it could be an idea to look at the etymology and history of the term. The word documentary has its root in the Latin word “docere” which meant to teach or instruct. We also know the more modern and common phrase that something is “a document” (e.g. an important piece of paper presented in court) and we may ask someone “to document” his identity or statements.


Throughout the following decades, documentary films began taking on traditions within the realm of film. It can be argued that this is because resources became readily available, technology within the field expanded and advanced, and there was a higher demand to document and film everything from movies to news.

 Narrative Terms

These are possible strategies for the narrative form of that documentary set-up:: 

Intentions of the filmmaker: enthusiasm and commitment, the filmmaker wants to explore, to probe and to show us something important or otherwise overlooked; devoted to a cause or to people, trying to make a difference (not just making money, having fun or exposing herself).

Subject matter, themes or content: something of importance and relevance; historical, social or natural phenomena; persons and places of significance. (Note, however, that modern TV-audiences seem to find significance in what critics may call rather trivial “everyday documentaries”

Expectations of the (general) audience: authenticity, insight, disclosure, something about real people and problems, learning something.

Target groups (implied): general public (public service), or segments with a more specialized interest and knowledge on the subject in question.

Ethics: we expect truthfulness, not lies or distortion, even when the film is committed to high ideals and values. Propaganda is over the line (difficult to define too, my provocative suggestion is: “propaganda is a documentary made by my enemy”). The documentary may be engaged and enthusiastic, but should be open about its preferences, sympathies and presuppositions. “Neutrality” or “objectivity” should be understood as problematic, but a well-balanced view is welcomed. The film may reflect its own intervening and perhaps ethically problematic role in relation to participants and general context. Carefulness, but also boldness in addressing tabooed subjects.

Communicative function: to inform, discuss, engage, enlighten, intervene, explore, express, disturb and commit – more so than to merely entertain, amuse, distract, conform or confirm (e.g. a religious or political community).

Labeling: sponsors, critics, distributors, professionals, scholars, curators, librarians, editors of TV- and film-programs would characterize this as a documentary.

Popular, lay opinion, everyday language: films received and talked about in accordance with the tradition, similar to other so-called documentaries or non-fiction films.

Context of actual use: education, public service (as image or part of an obligation for the distributor), debate forum, campaigns, discussions and pastime entertainment (e.g. in the cabin on an airplane flight).

Style and form: often realism, perhaps with a reportage-like style, interviews, a rough style, lighting and settings and sound appear natural and not carefully controlled (contrary to smooth and slick lighting, camera movements, montage and continuity of classic Hollywood style). Often an argumentative, exploring or investigative attitude, often thematic more than dramatic.

Relation to major genres and art: it is not fiction, it can be seen as belonging to one of the main genres of rhetoric: judicial, epideictic or political. It may be highly artistic and poetic, but seems more like art with a purpose than art for art’s own sake. Epics, lyrics and drama seem to serve the didactic aspect.

Recordings: on location, authentic settings and props, real-time, real sound, no actors or acting, but actual people (or animals, in nature documentaries) being themselves. Drama and narrative appear not imposed on the scenes, but emerging from the actual (pro-filmic) events.

Editing: the rhetorical structure appears to be more important than ordinary dramatic continuity; the rate of manipulation and rearrangement of picture and sound seems low. A voice-over commentary or text-streaming is more likely than extensive use of non-diegetic music. The mixing of heterogeneous material (e.g. recordings from a different time or location) is accounted for.

Context of viewing or distribution: e.g. the Discovery Channel, educational TV, TV-slots or festivals announced as documentary, educational institutions, films shown within organizations and companies.

Importance and evaluation: In terms of context and communicative qualities, the film makes a considerable contribution towards a better world…

Throughout e very week, I’m gonna pick out selections of documentary films that i totally agree that you sit down and watch. I mean really watch these films as they are told by great storytellers as well as crafted by the finest film directors of yesterday and today and maybe tomorrow’s vision. The context, the quality, the content and the vision plot makes a small feature film just as exciting as a full length motion picture with colossal differences.

Every week I’m going to post on WordPress a film for you to see and then I would like for you to post a comment after you watch it to tell me is there any difference in what you see on the big screen as opposed to small.

THIS WEEK::::This cable-television biography about the life of Illinois senator Barack Obama was made before he began campaigning to be the Democratic party’s candidate for the 2008 presidential race. Still, the program suggests Obama has one or another kind of profound, American destiny as a mixed-race activist who never comfortably fit into one or another group, and had to look deep into his own roots to understand his identity.

Biography: Barack Obama

Biography: President Barack Obama

The son of a white American mother and black Kenyan father, Obama was abandoned by the latter when he returned to his native country to work for its improvement. Raised by his mother–whom Obama credits with teaching him many of his values – and his grandmother, Obama lived in Hawaii as a child but moved to Indonesia for a few years when his mom remarried. There, Obama saw cyclical poverty and the underlying factors that perpetuate it before returning to Hawaii. Interviews with childhood friends and his sister describe Obama’s restlessness before attending Harvard law school and propelling himself into a life of public service and community activism.

Often accused of lacking enough political experience to qualify him for the White House, Obama comes across in this show as a visionary and experienced consensus-builder who can reach across opposing points of view.

A must see piece of documentary by the producers of A&E!!

ENJOY and leave comments!!

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  1. Very nice research….

  2. “A sparkling house is a fine thing if the children aren”t robbed of their luster in keeping it that way.”

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