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Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary

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Filmmakers have been turning their cameras on the real world since the time of the Lumière Brothers — and the documentary genre has sparked impassioned creative debate ever since.

What comes into play when filmmakers set out to represent reality? What ethical concerns arise when portraying real people on screen? How does music condition our emotional response to film?

From cinema-vérité pioneers Albert Maysles, Joan Churchill and Michel Brault to maverick moviemakers like Errol Morris and Nick Broomfield — some of the doc world’s brightest lights reflect upon the unique power of the genre in Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary.

Articulate and entertaining, provocative and thoughtful — the remarkable cast includes such luminaries as Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán, the innovative British director Kim Longinotto and Alanis Obomsawin — the First Lady of First Nations cinema.

Studded throughout are intimate interviews with 33 directors and clips from over 50 films — classics such as Grey Gardens and The Thin Blue Line, as well as such arresting recent work as Darwin’s Nightmare and The Day I Will Never Forget, offering insight into various aspects of the complex creative process.

Provocative pranksters, courageous activists and consummate storytellers — directors as diverse as Pakistani feminist Sabiha Sumar, new media guru Peter Wintonick and Brazilian master Eduardo Couthinho discuss the multiple creative choices involved in making documentary cinema.

Director Pepita Ferrari fashions the kaleidoscopic mix into her own engaging narrative, deftly charting the documentarian’s journey, while probing the perennially contested status of the “truth.” Can film capture reality? Some contemporary directors challenge the original tenets of cinema-vérité, while the iconoclasticWerner Herzog abandons facts altogether in his quest for the “ecstasy of truth.”

Combining an unalloyed joy in moviemaking with a deep knowledge of film culture, Capturing Reality explores the contemporary documentary scene with intellectual rigour, stylish originality and a fresh sense of discovery.


2008, 97 min 25 s

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