“The Thin Blue Line”:
“The Thin Blue Line” is an Errol Morris film about a man that was wrongly convicted of a murder he did not commit. The documentary is conducted by a series of interviews with Randall Dale Adams, the man who was convicted, David Ray Harris, the man that identified Adams as the murderer, and the attorneys that represented Harris. One of the more noticeable documentary qualities the film has is the reenactments of the crime, but they kept replaying the same clips over and over which made some of the film seem monotonous. Another was the interviews conducted with the people of the story. The style however was very hazy and reminded me of late night crime dramas. It worked when the film was released but now that style wouldn’t be used at all. The film really proves what a documentary can accomplish since a year after it was released publicly Adams was released from prison. Morris proved that five of the witnesses committed perjury on the stand, which helped Adam’s death sentence become overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. I was very excited to watch this documentary, but after the first 20 minutes it lost my attention. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a different time and I’m used to more graphics and ‘pull out’ information on the screen. Also, I kept getting really confused with the story when the interviews would play one after another and the titles/names of each person weren’t there anymore.
Andy Blumbaugh’s film “Scaredy Cat”is a half-real/half-animated mini documentary about his experience being robbed on a bridge while riding his bike home. Blumbaugh discusses his obsessive compulsive disorder before his trauma and his unintentional racism after the robbery. Blumbaugh used animated renactments to portray the robbery, and footage to describe how he would avoid black men (footage on the bus and the random cuts to black men standing in front of a wall). By using these techniques, the audience feels a little more connected to the trauma than just simply explaining or using actors to convey the point. Through this experience Blumbaugh was able to stop his compulsive behavior and really understand his reactions. Using film as a way to understand your own personal story is a great use of documentary even if the story is something hard to deal with.
‘Weightless’ is a film about plus size scuba divers and how size does not define a person’s limitations. The film begins with Liz, a plus size accountant, explaining how she began to scuba dive. In the beginning she was fearful about being humiliated and not being able to fit into any of the gear, but once she became a licensed scuba instructor she decided to create “Big Adventures.” The objective of “Big Adventures” is to have fun with women with similar experiences and so they can see their bodies do something positive. Also, they want to send a message to people who doubt their abilities that they shouldn’t take people for their size but what they can do with that size. The rest of the documentary follows four other women learning to scuba dive, and the social, and personal, challenges each must face as heavier women. During the interviews with each of the women, they all explained how they are active but because society has made differently-bodied people the face of laziness and diabetes it is not as socially acceptable for them to participate in sports. The major issue experienced by most of the women was buoyancy. Even though these women are heavier, they still have to use weights to sink them in the water. Another issue was the fitting of equipment, but Liz gave the women great tips on fittings and how a person should go about buying a wet suit. During the discussions, director Faith Pennick explained that she wanted to create a documentary about plus size women doing things they normally might not be seen as doing. There was a lot of talk about how there weren’t any breakdowns or feelings brought up by past experiences that might have made the women uncomfortable. Pennick said that all those stereotypical stories have already been done. She wanted to create a film where plus size women are not the victims of their situation, but are immensely happy with their situation and who they are as people. Liz ended the discussion by revealing why as a bigger woman if feels so nice to be in the water: to be completely weightless in the water – when on land you are absolutely not – is a spiritual experience for anyone who has ever felt to big to accomplish their goals.
The idea centers around how ridiculous religion can be (hence the name) and the people that can almost border insanity to go by each rule in their holy book. In it, comedian and talk show host Bill Maher explores contradictions and proven scientific evidence that these stories could not be true. The documentary is definitely in the public affairs genre. It uses outside footage and is trying to make the audience aware of the possible false information in religion. Maher is a very out spoken person in the public eye about the religion topic, which made me concerned for biased filmmaking. However, he interviews too many people and gets too much information to prove that his is a valid point and not a stubborn crusade to convert people to his beliefs.
‘Atomic Cafe’ is a documentary film, done entirely in archival footage, about the nuclear warfare era where people bought house with built-in fall-out shelters and students were taught how to take cover from a nuclear blast. I was pretty impressed by ‘Atomic Cafe’ and its use of archival footage. The film would seamlessly transition from a newsreel or clip from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. When I understood the concept of the film, I thought it would bore me since it’s just old pieces of film cut together without any real narrative. I wasn’t until about 5 minutes in I realized that nuclear warfare was a major reality for the people of this time, and once I took it out of the film context and thought of it on a personal level I became more interested. The film kind of makes you think of the era personally because of the familiar images we still see today. After our guest speaker Rosemary Rotundi visited the class, I started thinking about how much a film like that must have cost. Even though most places are willing to negotiated, it must have cost a ton of money to make a film entirely out of archival footage.