"Given that most filmmakers act as representatives of those they film or the institution sponsoring them rather than as community members, tensions often arise between the filmmaker's desire to make a compelling film and the individual's desire to have their social rights personal dignity respected" (Nichols, 2001, p.11). Nichols believes that ethics becomes the measure of the ways in which negotiations about the nature of the relations and considerations between filmmaker and subject impact on the three-way relationship between filmmaker, subject and viewer (Nichols, 2001). I agree with Nichols comments that all documentaries of any mode must make ethical considerations and that tensions surrounding these are articulated very differently across the various modes of documentary that are outlined in Nichols taxonomy, changing the power play that is present between filmmaker, subject and viewer.
I have chosen the'observational' film Don't Look Back (1967) and the'interactive' film Capturing the Friedmans (2003). By outlining examples from the film in accordance with Bill Nichols' taxonomy of documentary modes, I endeavour to provide evidence that the different formal and stylistic choices in documentary filmmaking manifest different ethical choices in the three-way relationship.
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The chosen films not only present starkly different modes, stylistic choices, content, structure, pace, aesthetics, culture, dynamics, historical eras, results, purpose and so on, they both involve entirely different subjects. Bob Dylan is the subject of Don't look back. D.A Pennebaker directed the film in 1965 during a 2-week music tour. The film has been referred to as a promotional'rockementary', in that it is presented like a travelogue of an infamous, influential musician and world identity on tour throughout England. Capturing the Friedmans however, is an interactive docum…