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otterhere

Definition?

6 posts in this topic

I hate to start right out with controversy and nitpicking, but - um - I wouldn't call a series being run on PBS about great TV actors a "documentary," exactly... Nor these "biographies" (what they are, actually) on Brando, etc., that TCM runs... I think of "documentaries" as film-length, er, FILMS... Non-fiction, of course... But would defnitely distinguish them from any TV series... PBS has run such things as "Country Boys" and POV movies, but these to me aren't quite the same as one hour devoted to talking heads praising Jackie Gleason, another Lucille Ball. Others?

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No - to me, at least, anything from a one-reeler, to 50 minutes, to full movie-length that concentrates on a particular subject: That's a documentary. Not a 3-minute "spot," of course, but longer than that, yes. Whether it's part of a series or a one-off on a particular subject. They all qualify.

Bill

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I guess beggars can't be choosers... If it weren't for these "biographies" (not "documentaries"), we wouldn't have anything to talk about here nor anyone to talk about it with... But I object...

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How do you view the Val Lewton "documentary" by Scorcese? It deals quite a lot with his film-making elements, but also deals with biographic details. Does inclusion of those facts derail a documentary from some set-in-stone definition? I haven't seen those tablets, by the way. Can't wait to see them.

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Otter,

 

Are you talking about the Biographies that used to run on A&E and can now be seen on the Biography channel?

 

The series currently running on PBS about the early days of television is broken into segments such as Late Night, Comedy, Variety, etc.

 

Each hour long documentary talks about the influences and the stars of each genre.

 

If this series is successful (I personally wish it was longer and more in-depth but finding underwriters these days is no easy feat) they hope to do another four next year for particular popular television genres such as the Western, Medical/Doctor and Police.

 

As for the Brando documentary that TCM ran last May, I consider it a documentary. It talked about not only Brando's life but his influence on other actors, the influence of the times on him and took us on a journey of his life as seen through the eyes of friends, contemporaries and society.

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I think of a "biography" as being comprised of film clips of the person being spotlighted interspersed with "talking heads" expounding on that person... Sadly, in most of the TCM productions I've seen, there's too much of the latter and not enough of the former... At any rate, I guess I'm mostly making a distinction being this form of "documentary" (meaning only non-fiction) and the genre "cinema verite" meaning a technique of documentary filmmaking in which the camera records actual persons and events without directorial control: introduced in France in the 1950s... Examples are Michael Apted's "Up" series, "Gray Gardens," and "Spellbound"...

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