Real life pictures that tell unreal stories (clockwise from right): a bus hijacker in Brazil, Friedmans director Andrew Jarecki; devastation in Nagasaki; Friedman family portrait; Robert McNamara in Life; McNamara laughs off US foreign policy with JFK
18 THE LIST 1—15 Apr 2004
virtue of that lack of clarity. presenting an ambiguous. still more complex examination of the events.
‘lt's a film that‘s balanced and gives everyone a chance to talk and it certainly gives them [the l'i‘iedmansl a chance to be perceived in a more humane way than they were at the time.‘ says Jarecki. ‘lt‘s a movie that you have to see more than once. partly because there‘s so much information to absorb the first time round. Second time you have a chance to figure out whom you believe and how you feel about the characters.’
Documentary films. then. as Jarecki says. deliver a more complex and let's say more honest picture of reality. Like that other document of the day today. news reporting. documentaries show us life. but unlike the news. they also tell us something about it. l’adilha. though. says that‘s an unfair comparison. ‘You can‘t really make a comparison because if something happens now. television has to put it on air in two hours. It‘s not about explaining. it‘s more about reporting.‘ he says. ‘I took two years to do the research for Bus 1 74. It‘s like the difference between a book and a magazine — if you want an explanation you don‘t read an article. you read a book.‘
Jarecki says: ‘As television news becomes dumber -— sound- bites have become tighter and shorter — the intelligent public doesn‘t get satisfied by these versions of the news. You hear: some guy killed his wife. he‘s a monster. they locked him up. Aren‘t the stories that engage us the ones that make us put ourselves into the story‘.’ I can‘t put myself into the story of the guy that killed his wife. because there‘s no humanity there.‘
If documentary filrnrnaking is currently enjoying a new- found popularity. it's not only because the genre engages in a complex way with the concerns of our times. It‘s also because they are full of the humanity of which Jarecki speaks. llis film.
‘TELEVISION NEWS HAS BECOME DUMBER. THE PUBLIC
for example. disturbing as it is. has a lot of heart. Whatever you decide about the validity or not of the child abuse charges. you can‘t help but be moved watching old home movies in which the l'i'iedmans attempt to deal with the awful crimes of which two of them have been accused. all the while going about the day-to-day business of living in suburbia. This is drama as poignant as any fictional tear-jerker.
In fact. as Jarecki says. these new popular docs are more like fictional films than traditional examples of the genre. ‘You have a number of very dramatic documentaries that behave as features. With Bus I74 there's some remarkable found footage. It‘s a very dramatic situation that can only be experienced in that film. There's a unique quality to that. With Spell/mum]. it really has a tremendous amount of suspense. (ii/inning the Him/mans is a film that keeps you guessing. And you have these films that are shot in an expansive way. or have a score that's beyond the canned music of a typical documentary film. So you have films that don't conform to the typical bare bones documentary style.’
l’adilha. whose next film is going to be a dranuitisation of what it means to be a cop in Rio de Janeiro. his script based on a series of interviews with actual cops. sees this cinematic trend as a two-way process. ‘l'iction filmmakers are looking to documentary subjects for their films.’ he says. "l‘here are more and more fictional films being made out of real stories. That‘s what City of God did.‘ Also a Brazilian film set in Rio. ('ily o/‘(im/ plays like a super- cool. ultra-stylish gangster thriller. but like Bus I74 it‘s the story of the city‘s shameful mistreatment of the street kids. Shot in the violent. drug-riddled shantytowns where these kids live. ('in altiml also employs a cast of non-professional actors drawn from the slums themselves. Here. the line between