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WJEC A2 Film Studies FM4 Section B Spectatorship Documentaries Exemplar

Karen Ardouin | Monday June 10, 2013

Categories: A Level, Eduqas (WJEC) A Level, WJEC A2, FM4, Section B: Spectatorship Topics, Analysis, Film Analysis, Films & Case Studies, Non-Hollywood Films, Fahrenheit 9/11, Grizzly Man, Marley, Senna, Super Size Me, Touching The Void, We Are The Lambeth Boys, Genres & Case Studies, Adventure, Biography, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, History, Independent, Music, Sport, Hot Entries, Key Concepts, Audience, Film Language, Representation, Mock Exams, A Level Mock Exams

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With reference to the films you have studied for this topic, how far can it be said that different kinds of documentaries offer different kinds of spectator experiences?

The spectator experience is dependent on a number of factors including environment of reception for example (where it is seen) and specifically purpose, whether to entertain, inform, educate or persuade. Documentaries are diverse in content and can suggest degrees of realism. Mediated content is often apparent in terms of the selection and construction of material or a wholly subjective point of view in texts like Super Size Me (2004), encoding ideological perspectives and verging on propaganda. The relationship between the text and audience is also crucial in understanding the spectator experience.

In terms of realism or by representing the ‘real’, the spectator can relate more to what they are seeing and hearing, common more in television documentaries but also encoded into early documentaries like We Are The Lambeth Boys (1958) reflecting early cinema verite, free cinema (UK equivalent) traditions. Higher production budget, more dramatic and widely distributed expository documentaries like Bowing for Columbine or Farenheit 9/11 for example suggest a higher impact spectator experience familiar more within the narrative construction found in fiction films where a story is told to the spectator in 3 acts.

My first key text is the 2005 documentary Grizzly Man directed by critically acclaimed German director, Werner Herzog – well known for representing heroes with impossible dreams who have a unique talent in an obscure field. Grizzly Man, as a documentary about the life and death of bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell would present an ideal subject for Herzog receiving critical success but limited distribution by Lions Gate and Revolver in the US and UK. As a director entrenched in art house, more independent tradition the...


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