Monday, April 09, 2007

The War

This is an interesting question. Do public watchdog groups have the right to change a work of art?
This story poses an interesting and frustrating question. In essence it says that Ken Burns, the famous documentarian, has neglected to include Hispanics in his 14 hour long documentary The War and several Latino advocacy groups are calling foul and demanding changes to the film.

On one hand we have a group of concerned citizens with a noble cause demanding inclusion in a film that purports examining an historical event in an ostensibly even-handed manner. The group is right on many levels; Hispanics are an underrepresented culture in American history and it is important to acknowledge the advances our country has made because of them.

On the other hand you have a film maker that set forth with specific goals when documenting WWII. Burns only interviewed people from four small towns in America and took six years interviewing those people and finding documentary footage and researching their stories. to change the film now would involve hunting down Latino war veterans from any of those four towns, researching their stories, finding supporting documentary footage and lengthening the film significantly. None of this is a reason not to include Hispanic war veterans though, if a little extra work was all it took there would probably be no debate.

The real problem lies in giving outside influences the power to edit films, even historical documentaries. Should lobby groups be able to influence the media to such an extent? Should squeaky wheels really get the grease? even if those squeaky wheels have a good point? What will happen if a group with less noble goals begins lobbying for changes in documentaries?

As you might have guessed I have no answers to those questions. I believe that documentaries should accurately represent the lives of it's subjects but if the subject is as broad as WWII then it's inevitable that some people will be left out.

feel free to leave comments if you have any thoughts on the subject. Anything hateful of idiotic will, of course be deleted.


Ray Succre said...

Wow, trouble. Documentarians have a tough niche in the world. They still represent and foster their work as an art, but at the same time, it's more of a relevant and factual format. While I think they should be free to make the project they want, I can see why anyone left out of a topic as huge as a war would be pissed.

Shit, do documentarians have an ethical obligation to cover every facet of their topic, or should a touch of lenience be alloted them, because a documentary is essentially an interpretation based on fact? Documentaries are growing in popularity among the general populace of the U.S. right now, as well. I see many more of them in video stores and for sale in major outlets now, so there's going to be much more scrutiny in the future over the accuracies of documentaries... I suppose the omission or inclusion of any fact or detail changes the outcome irretrievably, so in the end, this is rough terrain to work in. It will probably get rougher, too.

I wonder what the outcome will be in this particular case, with the hispanic representation (or lack of) with the project in question.

N/A said...

Hmm, I am in the camp that you can't please everyone. While it'd be great if every little detail could be covered, something is going to be left out.

We do need to have a well rounded inclusion of the different aspects of the human experience, but at the same time I think it all depends on the intent of the documentary. If certain outside groups demand changes to an otherwise great documentary, my response would be along the lines of "That's a great idea. Let's save that for another documentary - this one is done". It's good the lack of representation was brought up. You can only do so much.