Initial Release (of my work): April 15th, 2015
Film: Burt’s Buzz [Directed by: Jody Shapiro, 2013]
My Buzz on Documentaries:
In an article written by a film professor, Henrick Juel seeks to uncover a definition for the film genre, Documentaries. To do this, Juel asks his students to share their criteria of what they believe to be a definition.
To start, he pinpoints and he dismisses the everyday, mundane assumption that many associate with documentary films:
“The phrase “representation of reality” is utterly mistaken as a definition of documentary, because the idea of a film as mirroring is a false one and a very misleading ideal…to believe that reality is made up first by objective facts and secondly by subjective or personal sentiments is to make you yourself blind and deaf to the prevailing power structures and ideologies of this world.”
Recently, I stumbled upon a documentary about the Co-founder of a famous personal-care product, Burt’s Bees.
As someone who carries the recognizable yellow tube in their pocket wherever I go, I was unaware that the Farmer who is featured on the Burt’s Bees products is a real man; in fact, his name is Burt.
Coincidence? –Well, in watching the documentary, Burt’s Buzz, I quickly learned.
For a little context and background, here is the clip to watch the trailer:
If you watched the trailer, you kinda get the gist that, the purpose of this film is to discover the world of a simple, yet eccentric man, Burt. Director, Jody Shapiro, illustrates Burt’s life through a series of interviews; featuring Burt, as himself, people who have been apart of his life, and those who are associated with the Burt’s Bees company. Utilizing the editing style of ‘cut-away(s)’, the film segues, back and forth, from these interviews, to following Burt’s everyday “routine”.
H. Juel provides several theories that help to characterize a documentary. In one instance he outlines, “Documentaries seem to have a certain obligation towards “truth”. This may be understood, however, in different ways:”
Illumination theory of Truth-
to become enlightened, to see and hear and understand more,
to become inspired and gain insight (perhaps recollection).
There is no true narrative that accompanies Burt’s Buzz, other than the interviews themselves; however, in allowing the subjects, and the scenery that surrounds Burt’s world, to speak for themselves is to this Documentary’s advantage.
Almost mimicking the docile persona of Burt, as an approach to compose and to learn about his life, does offer audiences an insightful vantage. This friendly and fairly basic format affords the audience the opportunity to decide either, to accept the lifestyle of this man, Burt, and the company in which he represents, or to reject it.
And there, lo and behold, I have uncovered my definition as to what I expect and associate as a Documentary:
The film must provide an opportunity for the viewer to experience the subject in its natural habitat. Moreover, in the editing choices and the composition of the narrative, the film should prompt the audience to participate in a thought provoking and conscious viewing experience; where the audience can decide to either accept, or to challenge the matter or person that is on the silver-screen.
Am I right? I’m not sure…but I do agree that there is no concrete definition for Documentary Films. The criteria for this genre has evolved to be somewhat dense, and it might very well be infinite. I guess the bigger and cyclical question is, what do you think?