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True Lies

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One of the integral things that must be addressed when making a film is the ethics involved. Ethics are a constant issue that have to be carefully considered when filmmaking. This difficult decision-making is highly prevalent in that of documentaries, because of the difficulties associated in filming 'real people' or "social actors, (Nichols, 2001)." More importantly, the issues faced by a filmmaker differ between each of the documentary modes. Each particular documentary mode poses different formal choices that must be made in order to operate in an ethical fashion. Two films that have been made both display examples of how ethics must be considered when embarking on a documentary are Etre at Avoir [To Be and to Have], (2001) and Capturing the Friedmans (2003). These films have been made in different documentary modes, highlighting that there is not one mode which is easier or has fewer ethical issues associated with it. Additionally, what must be considered is how these style choices in these different modes affect the power relationships between the filmmaker, the subject and its audience, (Nichols, 2001).

The importance of ethics when making a film is paramount. They exist in the filmmaking world to "govern the conduct [because] no hard and fast rules suffice, (Nichols, 2001). As Bill Nichols has argued, the essential question to consider when making a documentary is "How Should We Treat the People We Film (Nichols, 2001)?" The welfare of the people who participate in the film is vital to recognise because they are "cultural players rather than theatrical performers, (Nichols, 2001)", they are conveying is real life according to them. Each of their movements and words are not scripted, and are real. A filmmaker is documenting their actual lives because they believe that the value lies in presenting something of interest to themselves and to its audience. It is because of this reality that the issue is much more important because it "adds a level of ethical consideration to documentary that is much less prominent in fiction filmmaking, (Nichols, 2001)." People are portraying their real selves and are not masked by a personality that has been asked of them to depict by a director. What must also be considered is how attending to the ethics of filmmaking is the benefits that it holds for the filmmakers and the audience. "Ethical considerations attempt to minimise harmful effects, (Nichols, 2001). It plays a pivotal role in the relationship that is carved between the filmmaker and the subject, the nature of the relationship has been defined between them eliminating the problems that can arise when the boundaries are not defined, (Nichols 2001).

The aim of an observational documentary is to depict "the truth in cinema... or cinema verite, (Nichols, 2001)." They tend to "take a paradigmatic form around the... depiction of the everyday, (Nichols, 1991)." The observational mode determines that the filmmaker will not intervene with what is happening "with the events that are in front of the camera, (Nichols, 1991)" Because of this inability or predetermined manner of not intervening with what is happening in front of the camera, "observational filmmaking gives a particular inflection to ethical considerations, (Nichols, 1991)."

Etre at Avoir [To Be and to Have], (2001) is a documentary that has been filmed in the observational mode. The documentary aims to provide an insight into the learning process of children aged four to ten, in a one-room schoolhouse during a seven month period. There were several issues that were raised after the release of this film. Moreover, the issues were highly sensitive due to the majority of the characters in the film being young children. Would Nicolas Philibert, the filmmaker, "have sought the informed consent of the participants [and] made it possible for informed consent to be understood and given, (Nichols, 1991)?" The filmmaker would have to consider the possibility of future repercussions from the children. For example, Jojo, the cheeky youngster, while portrayed in a positive light would not be old enough to understand the full magnitude of which he is being exposed. When Jojo was old enough to realise what he had participated in, there would be a possibility that he would be angry at the abuse of power on Philibert's part. Additionally, another issue raised in this movie is the damage caused by the documentary itself. "Has the filmmaker intruded upon people's lives in ways that will irrevocably alter them... in order to make a film, (Nichols, 1991)?" Consider Nathalie, she is a shy quiet and extremely introverted girl. In one scene, she is shown sitting with George Lopez crying and confessing her fears about school and the prospect of moving schools. While Philibert has chosen to include this extremely touching scene for the audience, Nathalie will have deal with her emotional childhood for the rest of her life. The filmmaker has made the conscious choice to include this scene for the benefit of the audience, as it portrays the beautiful relationship that George Lopez has with his students, but possibly has not considered the effect that it could have on the subject in the future. Another issue that arose from this documentary was the issue of exploitation. "Filmmakers who set out to represent people whom they do not initially know but who typify or have special knowledge of a problem or issue of interest run the risk of exploiting them, (Nichols, 2001)."While not expected to do so, the film was widely distributed and made a tremendous amount of money. This monetary success resulted in George Lopez suing filmmakers for royalties. During the process, Nicolas Philibert had not clarified the nature of his relationship with the subject and subsequently, the issue resulted in a lawsuit. However, there are a variety of issues that occur within other documentary modes as well, such as the interactive mode.

The interactive mode differs from the observational

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