Transformative reality

These words from the editor of the BBC’s Storyville really spoke to me in relation to the new doc I'm editing. As I watch through the footage and germs of story and structure are planted in my mind, I have to ask myself many of the questions proposed here.

"The best docs celebrate a sense of the accidental. And they matter. Like unknowable bits of the universe, they come into existence when a collision occurs. The collision needn’t be violent, and it can indeed be contrived. Nonetheless it has to happen, and something has to occur when it has happened. Good docs appear to wrest a degree of coherence from the contingent mess of life, but when we finally leave them we must be aware that the ordering was wholly provisional. That’s the only real way to make a documentary film – by setting out what you believe to be true, or beautiful, and destroying any certainty by implying that, yes, it could have been described in a near-myriad other ways. This comes down, I think, to having a strategy for life while being prepared to abandon it. What other way is there of staying alive?

I know this may sound like warmed-over existentialism, but this is the conclusion I’ve come to after sitting watching doc after doc, in an effort to write a non-academic, fan’s-notes book about the form. The docs I like are irremediably hybrid – a mixture of authorial personality, cod epistemology, appropriated or created history and whatever seems current and interesting. Sometimes they are polemical, sometimes tinged with fictional contrivance. The only rule is that they should have no rules. They should be, rather than tell. They should make the worst things comprehensible. No documentary should be without some aesthetic bliss, even if it is tamped down, minimal, barely noticeable. So yes, documentaries do matter, I think they really do."

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