Critical Approaches to Culture + Communications

A Weblog by Ron Burnett (Founded in 1994 and now celebrating 23 Years!!)

This site began as one of the first academic sites in Canada when the World Wide Web was in its early phase of development. I have maintained it through many iterations since 1994.

Hollywood: Is the Cinema Dying? (A response)

Jan responds:

I guess that the art of storytelling lies in finding the perfect balance between what to tell and what not to tell, whether orally, in writing or through images. It's perhaps the abundance of images in our environment that forms the greatest threat to what once was a great form of art.

"The documentary cinema has risen in prominence over the last decade both because of reality television and the fact that there are so many stories out there that need telling." The problem is that most such documentary cinema tells the stories that need no telling. It focuses on the most superficial layer or reality rather than the reality beyond what is already blatantly visible. It creates a shield between the audience and the stories that lie behind the story, stories that are different for diverse members of the audience, because each of them has his or her own life history and thus unique perspective. While watching a good documentary - I’m thinking here of works like Ivens’s ‘The Bridge,’ ‘Rain,’ or ‘La Seine a rencontrĂ© Paris’ - one is immediately aware that one is not just looking at a bridge, the downpour of rain, or a city. Instead of assuming a spectator role, a good documentary demands of the viewer to trade his or her status as onlooker for that of participant (a position that is distinct from the manipulator role one so easily takes on when playing a video game).

Joris Iven's The Bridge can be viewed online. The link leads to a page in Dutch, but on the right of the text there are options to choose between Windows Media narrowband and broadband as well as the English version. The movie itself is silent. I watched it again twice and was as impressed as I had been when I saw it last several decades ago.