Doc Filmmakers Reckon With the Industry’s Murky Ethics

The Documentary World’s Identity Crisis

The boom — or glut — in streaming documentaries has sparked a reckoning among filmmakers and their subjects.

via Vulture:

Documentary-making has never been ethically pure or entirely subjective. (“I’m working on a project that is the kind of documentary where you do six takes of the person putting a boat in the water to get the right one,” one editor told me.) Every shot and every cut is a choice, and even its practitioners have never agreed on whether the medium is closer to journalism or to cinema. One of the earliest popular documentaries, Robert Flaherty’s 1922 film, Nanook of the North, was about a man supposedly living in the Canadian tundra, untouched by the wider world — and it was full of lies. Nanook’s real name was Allakariallak. His wife in the film wasn’t his wife. (She was, according to another local, one of Flaherty’s multiple wives.) Allakariallak hunted with a gun, but that didn’t fit the story Flaherty wanted to tell, so the director asked him to use a harpoon. In defense of his methods, Flaherty said, “One often has to distort a thing in order to catch its true spirit.”