fiction and fact is a very thin one.
For Jarecki that line is virtually non-existent. By way of explanation. he recalls his favourite reaction to Capturing the Brier/mans. One night. outside a cinema in downtown Manhattan. the director eavesdropped the following conversation between two men who had just seen the film.
Man one: ‘l‘m very disturbed by this film.’
Man two: ‘What are you talking about'.’ It‘s a rnockurnentary ~ those people are actors.’
‘There‘s this moment where reality becomes so real it almost crosses over into fiction.‘ Jarecki marvels. ‘It makes you wonder whether the reality we are used to is largely fictionalised.’
Blurred as the line is between the real and the reel. when you watch a docu-drama or dramatic documentary. you know what you‘re looking at is reality. and knowing that the impact of the films is greater. ‘What you see is what actually took place.‘ says Padhila. ‘lt‘s different when you see someone die in a documentary than someone die in a fictional film. because someone actually died.‘
Aside from now being popular enough to draw big box office business in multiplexes and art- house cinemas. there‘s something else documentary films can do: they can change the world. Back in 1988. Errol Morris made a documentary titled The Thin Blue Line. Promoted as ‘the first movie mystery to actually solve a murder‘. Morris” lilrn is credited with overtuming the conviction of Randall Dale Adams for the murder of Dallas police officer Robert Wood. a crime for which Adams was on death row awaiting execution. Morris made a movie and it saved the
Jarecki and Padilha can‘t make such grand claims for their films. but Capturing the I’rierlmuns and Bus I74 have served a purpose beyond the enlightenment of audiences in darkened rootns. The former has given a family a voice they were denied for a long time: the latter has brought the issue of Rio street kids back into the public
domain. ‘My aim with the film.‘ says Padillia of
Bus 1 74. ‘was to give Sandro some of his life back. to try to understand where he was coming from. After the lilm was released the debate about the event came back to life again.‘
Referring to the subjects of his film. Jarecki says: ‘The family is doing all right. but there’s a mixed response. They‘re simultaneously glad that the film has raised these issues — it gives them a chance to be heard. On the other hand it raised the spectre of this piece of history. which for them is very emotional. But the film has been cathartic for them. they‘ve needed to get past this chapter.‘
Watching these serious-minded. often deeply disturbing films can also be a cathartic experience for cinema audiences. Better. surely. to dig beneath the troubles of the modern age than skim the surface of current affairs and remain ignorant? Go into the dark of a cinema auditorium and watch a documentary in order to see the light.
Capturing the Friedmans is at the Glasgow Film Theatre from Fri 9 Apr; The Fog of War opens at the Filmhouse, Edinburgh on Fri 2 Apr and Bus 174 opens at the Filmhouse, Edinburgh on Fri 30 Apr.
It’s not only politicians who can change the world we live in. Even artists have an effect. Here’s a bunch of works that forced public opinion to change and even catalysed a change of some laws.
Bob Dylan's 1975 song was part of a campaign to prove the innocence of Rubin ‘the Hurricane' Carter. the sharkskin suit- wearing boxer accused of killing three people in 1966. Thanks to Dylan. and with extra support from Muhammad Ali, Carter was eventually released in 1985 and now heads the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted.
The Thin Blue Line Billed as the first film to solve a murder. Errol Morris' seminal a _ 7" documentary of 1988 investigated the shooting
\ .. of a Dallas policeman 12 years earlier. Randall Adams was sent to death row for the crime. but the film provoked the real murderer. who was also awaiting the chair. to admit his guilt. realising he had nothing to lose.
' -' Let ‘em Dangle Elvis Costello's 1989 tribute to Derek Bentley. hanged in 1953 for a murder he didn't commit. Held by a policeman after an abortive break in, Bentley infamously called out to his armed accomplice to ‘Let ‘im have it‘. which he interpreted to mean 'shoot'. Bentley's conviction was eventually quashed in 1998. just 16.619 days after his death.
‘ Free Satpal Ram In 1986 Satpal Ram was attacked by a gang of white men in a Birmingham Bengali restaurant. ln self- defence. he stabbed one . of his attackers. who died later after refusing medical treatment. Free Satpa/ Ram, an Asian Dub Foundation and Primal Scream collaboration. brought the case to the attention of a wider public. with Ram eventually gaining release in 2002. l———— The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck's classic Depression (depressing) novel had such an impact on the general American public that it helped affect an agricultural reform bill which included more humanitarian conditions for migrant workers. Despite detractors calling him a subversive communist. Roosevelt ignored the brickbats and helped entrench Steinbeck's spirit in statute.
Mumia Abu-Jamal march Abu-Jamal is an award- winning journalist who has been on death row since 1982. accused of shooting a police officer. Supported by Rage Against the Machine and Mos-Def. there will be a march in support of his case in Philadelphia on 24 April this year — buy your plane tickets now.
11—15 Apr 2004 THE LIST 17