Monday, September 14, 2009

Documentary Ethics. Who Knew?

The New York Times has an article on “Honest Truths: Documentary Filmmakers on Ethical Challenges in Their Work," a report from the Center for Social Media at American University.

At Toronto Film Festival, Cautions on Documentaries

Based on anonymous interviews with 45 long-form documentary filmmakers, the study came to some conclusions that could shock those schooled in conventional journalistic ethics. (A few comments from the likes of Ken Burns, whose credits include “Jazz,” and Gordon Quinn, of “Hoop Dreams,” were included for the record, pointing toward the prominence of the participants.) The report found that documentarians, while they generally aspire to act honorably, often operate under ad hoc ethical codes. The craft tends to see itself as being bound less by the need to be accurate and fair than by a desire for social justice, to level the playing field between those who are perceived to be powerful and those who are not.
I promise: I have never broken my subject's legs in the making of a doc. (Read the article, that will make sense once you do.)

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