Writers define themselves by their purposes. A novelist writes to entertain, to embrace the imagination and create a world of escape for the reader. A columnist writes to inform, to relay the facts and describe a world of current events for the reader. What, however, exists in-between? With such a large gray area between truth and untruth, surely some writers thrive upon this ambiguity, writers who can both relay the facts and create the world in which these facts exist. These writers are documentarians, individuals who have found that balance between fiction and nonfiction, who do not lie but are fastidious about the truth they tell. And in their actions and in their desires, they have formulated firsthand the definition of a documentary; for a documentary strives not to answer the questions previously conceived by society, but strives instead to devise its own questions for society to answer itself.
[...] Still, even with its Oscar for Documentary of the Year, Bowling for Columbine is not the ideal example of a documentary, for at times Moore raises too many issues, takes his film in too many directions, and forgets to direct his reasoning toward a final point, a final question. Although it comes short of developing the questions a documentary should ask, Bowling for Columbine does embody the overall essence of one. At the end of the film, the viewer is left with a hatred of guns, with a hatred of the NRA and Charlton Heston and any individual who has ever picked up a gun and shot the brains out of the back of someone's head. [...]
[...] This idea and focus of the documentarian, this thing he experienced and wishes to share, is filtered through his awareness into his very own truth (Coles 177). A truth that he will do anything to make another believe, for in communicating this truth to one person or to a theater full of anxious viewers, the documentary's purpose has been fulfilled. This purpose is a purpose of questions and answers, of truths and manipulation; it is a game where the documentarian is the king and the audience merely pawns. [...]
[...] The audience will never know what Moore failed to include in his documentary, but they will never care either, because the emotions they have experienced by the end of the film consume their conscious mind, and there is no room left for the whole truth. If the documentarian's voice forms the backbone of the documentary, than the documentary's soul is the truth it creates. It is a common misconception to believe that truth is interchangeable with fact. It does not take research or a text book to make a truth: takes two [individuals] to make a truth”, one to speak their truths and one to believe these truths (Coles 179). [...]
[...] The job of documentarians, however, is not so simple; not only must they find subjects that they can provide factual data about, they must find subjects that they also feel passionately enough about to opinionate. In his essay Tradition: Fact and Fiction”, Robert Coles agrees strongly with the idea of personal input, reflecting in the documentarian's topic, being at the core of a documentary, for documentarian's report will be strengthened by what has been witnessed, but will be fueled, surely, by what the observations come to mean in his or her head” (Coles 179). [...]
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