Mar 24 2012

Validity of documentaries

This site will now include reviews and critical analysis of documentary films combining my passionate hobbies of developing servers with watching documentaries. Since I was a about 16 years of age, my dad has been encouraging us to be critical thinkers. It benefits in two ways; when I have to write a science report I can analyze the data better and also it help me view the information on modern day media from the traditional hard copy newspapers and radio broadcasts to modern day Internet and television from a critical independent view point. Some documentaries I watched had questionable facts and information. It got me thinking the validity of facts in documentary films.

When people read, hear or see the word “documentary”, often they assumed the information contained in this specific genre to be factual. Out of millions of documentaries produced over the last 50 years in several different countries, I found most of the documentaries are not about facts but rather about specific opinions or propaganda. Even most popular scientific documentaries are based on bias view of the sponsors, production company, director and/or society.

Let me ask you this; how many of you take the time to verify the “facts” presented in a documentary film? I don’t think I need to conduct a poll on it because most of you will agree that we do not check who is behind these documentary or for anything we come across in the media. Our civilization has grown out of the Age of Enlightenment where we question everything and look for facts, to a society that would take anything at face value if the majority of powerful people supports it. The best example of documentaries forcing extreme ideologies on people can be traced to Hitler’s Third Reich. Triumph des Willens (1935), English: Triumph of the Will, is a famous example of propaganda documentary. The film was made of speech excerpts from Nazi leaders presented as facts. Even if the film was subject to critical reviews, almost all reviews have been bias in supporting the documentary because almost all reviewers would be Nazi supporters. You could say that this will not be the case for modern day documentaries. Not just documentaries are bias even the news is bias in so called democratic countries in the West. While Canada, US and EU point fingers against others saying the media freedom is an issue and media is being manipulated in other countries, it is easy to ignore that these democratic finger pointers have banned list of films and documentaries in their own nation. For example, if Canada can criticize on how China deals with the local media, why did Canada ban the film; Spielen wir Liebe (1977)? The reason is due to what they called child pornography. The director of Spielen wir Liebe (1977) could argue that Canada is using Communist type censorship to attack his artistic view point. Aside from banned media, political and special interests groups often influence the “facts” presented in documentaries. Specially the documentaries about military, drug trafficking or law enforcement often controlled by powerful groups. For example, most documentaries on China reflect the view of Western bias against Chinese Communist Party. Very few documentaries has been made that promotes Chinese ideology while even in those pro-Chinese documentaries delivers subtle messages against the Chinese Communism.

Because people do not question who is behind each documentary and have faith/trust on the very word “documentary”, it is hard for a documentary critic like myself to succeed in convincing others to dig deep into the each film. It is important for the documentary produces to disclose who funded their projects, any special interest groups involved and the backgrounds of the director(s) and subject(s). The Director Michael Moore has been a source of great criticism due to his extremely bias documentaries. In Bowling for Columbine film he walked to a rural Canadian neighborhood, Sarnia, Ontario opening doors to prove that most Canadians feel safe enough to keep their doors unlock. However, he choose an urban area of US to compare the results of this Canadian experiment. He either intentionally ignored, which is most likely, or did not know that Canadians living in urban areas always lock their doors just like our American counterparts.

Final note aside from documentaries. The World Health Organization(UN) posted on their official website that male circumcision have reduced transfer of HIV in Africa. This is because of the religious propaganda influence on the majority of UN health scientists. In a world where even the world health organization is influenced by special interest religious groups, it is not surprise to find that so called “documentaries” are full of “con arts” than logical facts. The claims made in these documentaries can be as outrages as how UN claim that HIV can be prevented by male circumcision.

Next time you watch a documentary ask yourself;
-The facts are one sided? (90% of the time yes, one sided)
-Who is the Producer and Director of the documentary?
-Who funded the documentary?
-Which demographic origin the production crew comes from?
-What is the relationship between the production crew, funding partners and the specific topic being discussed?

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