I recently got into a discussion about the documentary Lake of Fire and the issue of being biased. For those who have not heard of or seen Lake of Fire, it is a film that gives both points of view about the issue of abortion. It was probably as neutral as the film could have been in regards to this topic in particular and in the general sense of objectivity. I briefly summed up my thoughts on the picture as thus: As for ‘Lake of Fire’, I never hold it against documentaries to be 100% neutral because it’s impossible for both the filmmaker and audience to both be completely objective, especially when we’re viewing someone else’s objectively through a lens. Whichever side you fall upon will ultimately dictate whether you agree with how basis the piece is. I think it overall did a great job at letting each side have say their piece, as well as force the viewer into several uncomfortable truths about the issues that would make us think and revisit our personal feelings on the issue.
What I would like to focus on though is the issue of objectivity. This often comes up when discussing documentary films because they’re often viewed in the same hue as (the perception of) nonfiction books where the aim is assumed to be by the numbers explanation or refutation of a topic or central thesis. I don’t think that is anyway necessary however. Documentaries, just like narrative films, could slant in anyway they choose to and still be compelling. The King of Kong, about two gamers competition over who shall reign supreme with the highest score in the arcade game Donkey Kong, made distinct villain and hero counterparts even though it was arguably unnecessary. That is part of what elevated it from an extremely niche interest group, and as an avid gamer I would be hard-pressed to even say those that have been gaming as long as Donkey Kong has been out would have been initially interested by the trailer/synopsis, to a classic David vs. Goliath tale centered around competing egos over something as frivolous as a video game high score.
I will grant, and often immediately suggest, that slanted documentaries are often only speaking to the choir and being scant on most details that make the contention surrounding the topic interesting. However, I’ve never really been interested in addressing the lowest common denominator because by and large the vast majority of those are forgotten. The most interesting thing about the issue of truth in documentaries to me is that people often clamor a neutral and balanced point of view. I completely understand this position, however not all topics deserve a neutral and balanced point of view. I do not believe in the democracy of ideas. Ideas and positions aren’t validated because many people choose to believe them. Things that are worthy of faith and devotion are worthy because they can withstand scrutiny, they actually are able to views that require some sort nuance to understand, and most importantly even if I fundamentally disagree with the the position it should be well formed enough that it is still respectable.
Another documentary that I would like to shed light on is Armadillo, which I will seeing and talking about once I see it on Monday. Armadillo is a revolutionary documentary that actually follows Danish soldiers into battle in Afghanistan. This is actual battle, not just the training facilities or hiding out on patrols, but what actual journalists used to do in America when the first invasions began nearly a decade ago.