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The nonfiction motion picture or ‘documentary’ contains a style called Cinéma vérité. This style is defined in simple terms as a film method with equipment such as handheld cameras and synchronised audio. Peter Wintonick, the director of ‘Cinema Vérité: Defining the Moment,’ describes the method as an ‘art. There is no reality. It is all constructed’ . Cinéma vérité is very subjective with the interviewer giving biased opinions and questions about the topic. The film can also be biased due to the mere presence of the camera, this is known as the Hawthorne effect. This can change or evoke reactions from interviewees and or filmmaker. The following exploration will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of Cinéma vérité, in the documentaries ‘Touching the Void’ (2003) and ‘Catfish’ (2010).
Within the style of cinéma vérité the advantages are demonstrated through the use of code and conventions to present the type and characteristics of the documentaries. There are many examples of cinéma vérité documentaries one being ‘Touching the Void’; the film is an overt observation. This meaning the camera is open to the public, the advantages of this being there is no legal and ethical issues. ‘Touching the Void’ documents three climbers in Peru, telling a true story of their experiences. The use of interviews is an advantage as it creates the ability to asks questions meaning the audience is engaged in the subject and opinions. Close-up shots present the interviewee’s emotions and facial expressions enhancing the reliability making it more believable. In ‘Catfish’ towards the end of the film, the group interviews the lady behind the act; this gives her reasoning and information for the viewers. The film’s excitement increases and is more entertaining as it enters the mind of the ‘Catfish’. The style allows for low-budget equipment without the loss of quality. The filming within ‘Catfish’ is all handheld and, in some case, generic videos cams or phones. To make it even cheaper and more accessible, there is archive footage used to present the evidence of what it was like. In ‘Catfish’ the filmmakers use a generic video camera to record their experience and what is happening.
In the film ‘Touching the Void’, the use of re-enactment is used to present the story. This is a disadvantage as the editor, or narrator may alter or exaggerate parts of the story. This increases bias and contradictions, for example in ‘Touching the Void’ Simon cuts Joe’s rope. At the end of the film, it states ‘Simon returned to England to face intense criticism from many in the climbing community for cutting the rope on his partner. Joe has always staunchly defended him’ . This was before the release of the film, but the viewers could feel the same way due to the perception of the film. Another disadvantage being the re-enactment costing the filmmakers a lot more money than it would have been to record it at the time. It also takes more time to film and edit the videos collected. A re-enactment is difficult as you need to repeat the story, the problem with this being the filmmakers and director is depending on what the person had remembered. This occurs in ‘Touching the Void’, even though the story is based on a true story not all of the story would be correct. The reason being that the interviewees are relying on their memories, this makes the film more subjective and biased. Comparing this to ‘Catfish’, the filmmakers are able to take notes and study the interviewees unlike ‘Touching the Void’. The Hawthorne effect is used in many documentaries, the term meaning ‘the process where human subjects of an experiment change their behaviour, simply because they are being studied’ . Although ‘Catfish’ didn’t see a significant difference in behaviour and reaction, her perception could have changed. Another use of this is in ‘Touching the Void’ as the viewer’s perception of mountain climbing may change. The film shifts their mentality of the fun and adventurous experience to the horror of mountain climbing.
In conclusion, Cinéma vérité is a popular and useful style due to the fact there are more positives than negatives. The use of an overt thesis can prevent ethical, financial issues, and the Hawthorne effect which affects the authenticity of the film. Overall it can present new experiences and opinions to entertain and inform the audience but can be ruined and become unreliable, manipulated and biased.

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