Really Documentary

Posted by Jet

There’s always a bit of hoo-hah on the Documentary Organisation of Canada discussion list when someone disses reality television or lifestyle television. The purists find it hard to sully themselves with the same label – and the practical know that its part of their livelihood and put bread on the table. I like to think of Reality Television as a scion of documentary and as valid as a penetrating tome on a big issue story. The documentary world is like a bio-sphere where the reality television is a little Shetland pony and the penetrating tome is a large blue whale – they may not seem related but like the pony and the whale they have the same ancestry. (Yes really – ).

Seen as the earliest “documentary” film, Nanook of the North, was an ethnology of an Eskimo and his family in Arctic Canada – we watch Nanook struggle across tundra, hunting to put food on the table using spears and clever fishing techniques to survive and building an igloo out of ice in lickety split time. For all intense purposes, the filmmaker wanted to capture the life of the Eskimo as he knew it (and he did know it in that he spent a handful of years with them) – EXCEPT, it was all faked. Well, faked in the sense that Nanook wasn’t the real name of the Eskimo, he didn’t have a family, they use guns not spear and it was all staged including building the igloo – there was an exterior igloo and a half-built bigger igloo to accommodate the camera.

So here we have what’s considered the original “doco” and it’s has all the elements of contemporary reality television – the director creates the challenges for action and drama, the main characters are “social actors” who tap their inner emotions for external display, and the family is a titillating fake with Nanook having TWO wives with children and dogs that all sleep together. All that’s needed is the chance for fame for the social actors. And in a way Nanook did get all the fame – who outside of the documentary followers remember the name of the filmmaker? Unfortunately, like this type of fame, Allariallak - the real name of the Eskimo playing Nanook - died two years later from starvation. A reminder that like reality shows -documentaries can often leave their subjects behind.


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Chocolate Box Entertainment is the yummy fusion of two award winning producers – Jeannette and Sally.   more...

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Jeannette is an award-winning producer with over 12 years of experience in the television industry. Jeannette was recently nominated for a Gemini for Spam: The Documentary, a critical and ratings hit.


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Really Documentary

Posted by Jet


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