“Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary” is a documentary about documentary. The film is almost entirely talking head interviews with documentary filmmakers generally considered to be among the best, at least within the context of contemporary documentary filmmaking.
This documentary is one of those documentaries we’ve all seen where the subject matter, in this case the people being interviewed, far out shines the filmmaking. Documentary filmmakers spend so much time and energy capturing others that it is a real treat to see them getting a chance to dish on what they think documentary is, and what it means to be a documentary filmmaker. Unfortunately, the filmmaking of this documentary, as I said before, doesn’t come close to the intelligence or profundity of its subjects. The structure is unintelligible – it jumps from subject to subject without any explanations, transitions, or consistency. The structure really felt like a poorly written essay where all the body paragraphs are written in isolation to one another, and then they’re all put together into a seemingly arbitrary sequence that ends up only taking away from what by themselves were very interesting chapters. It also feels like there is the lack of intelligent awareness on the part of this film’s filmmakers that every documentary filmmaker interviewed offers up a different definition of what a documentary is. I wanted so badly for the film to draw more attention to how fluid the definition of documentary seems to be, especially among these notable documentary filmmakers, and what that means for documentary, filmmaking, and art in general. Also, the lower-thirds and typography felt very cheap and intrusive. It happened on more than one occasion where some important bit of information was being delivered in a lower third at the same time some a subject was delivering an important bit of information, and ultimately the importance of both bits of information ended up diminished and diluted. Despite all my issues with the filmmaking,
I still think anyone that loves documentary, or filmmaking in general, will be able to glean more than a few moments of interest or profundity from this film.