Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The TV camera always lies

Nothing in television documentaries is quite what it seems. Not even in the best of them, such as 49 Up which I wrote about the other day.

Remember the little boy in the Yorkshire Dales in 7 Up, trudging off to school in his wellingtons like an extra from Whistle Down the Wind? His brother was recently interviewed in the Bradford Telegraph & Argus:

"I was only a year old when the first programme was made," said Andrew.

"But I was told later about some of the TV people's antics such as getting Nick to 'walk to school' (he actually went on a bus), a journey which went past a scenic local landmark for the purposes of the film, though it meant going in completely the wrong direction."


Peter Mc said...

Similar local reaction to the Channel 4 documantary 'The Strangest Village in Britain' - about Botton, the Camphill Trust village in North Yorkshire. They filmed for months, but real life in the Village didn't fit the formula for a documentary: conflict and/or triumph over adversity. Disabled people living happily and fulfilling their potential doesn't suit. The resulting programme focussed on a spat in the woodwork shop (the only thing they didn't do to dramatise it was play the Jaws music) and a rather predatory following of a man who left the village (after 20 years) to live independently in Whitby. The producers promised Botton full editorial control: a lie. The kind of people who run such a place tend to believe the best of human beings. The media usually has its own agenda and doesn't mind trampling on people or distorting the truth to get its story in the way it wants. Beware.

Anonymous said...

I've always viewed documentaries as interpretations. There is always a human being interpreting a "reality" as there is in journalism and other fields of media.