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Manipulation of footage and rhetoric happens enough in documentary filmmaking, but what about animated documentaries? Should viewers begin watching an animated documentary knowing the truth has been manipulated even more than a non-animated documentary would have been?
“I was not interested in a fiction film. I wanted to do it animated because it dealt with memory. The term documentary, honestly, I don’t really care. I’ve been hassled so much about the animated documentary idea. It was so much trouble raising the budget because I declared it “an animated documentary.” If I had to do it again, I would never call it a documentary. [Laughs]”
Folman also said, he encountered debate because people believed a documentary can’t be animated.
Folman recorded studio interviews and animated scenes, and sometimes overdubbed audio recordings.
According to the director of “Chicago 10,” Brett Morgen, the trouble came when trying to figure out how animation would be done for courtroom scenes when video footage didn’t exist. “We had to animate 35 minutes of dialogue!” he said in an Independent Lens interview.
I feel the editing and animating process becomes unethical when audio recordings are manipulated in such a way that the actual truth of the speaker does not represent what they actually said.
Unethical manipulation can occur in non-animated documentaries where b-roll is used, but the same ethics apply to non-animated documentaries and news packages.
How are viewers supposed to know if what they are hearing is the complete truth, and if what they are seeing is the complete truth?
Viewers don’t know and can’t tell unless filmmakers and videographers are honest with their audiences.
It is easier to be unethical when animating documentaries, so it is even more important to be cautious when editing audio and footage.
Please feel free to weigh in on any comments, experiences, or any documentary films that use animation.
The new animated documentary “Waltz with Bashir” raises some interesting points about interviewees and effectively portraying the truth in documentary films.
Director and writer Ari Folman plays himself in the film. After speaking with friend Boaz Rein Buskila, who has a recurring nightmare, Folman, an Israeli military veteran, is stirred to explore what happened when the Israeli army invaded South Lebanon in June 1982. 20 years later, Folman himself cannot gather memories of an Israeli Army mission he took part in during the first Lebanon War.
Interviews are conducted with friends who were there and others involved. This is what can make things tricky.
According to production notes, “Waltz with Bashir took four years from the moment research began until the final cut.” Research was conducted and testimonies were gathered.
While trying to maintain a documentary authenticity, the entire film was shot in a studio.
According to production notes:
“If Ari interviews Carmi in the film inside a car traveling to Holland, the interview with Carmi took place as the two, Carmi and Ari, sat on two adjacent studio chairs while Carmi held a toy steering wheel in his hands.”
A good reason for using a studio was to properly capture audio so viewers won’t be distracted by background noises of on location interviews.
Animators were aided by studio photography and Folman, who directed the documentary and screened the animations.
In this documentary, as in others, interviewees struggle to remember horrific pasts or refuse to have their image fully represented in the film.
Buskila, who drives the documentary refused to have his image in the film. A professional actor dubbed his speech and actions, and his animation is fictitious.
Carmi Can’an, whose voice is also dubbed by an actor, “At the last moment, two days before the first day of filming, Carmi refused to reveal his face in the film,” according to the documentary’s Web site.
All other characters and images are those of the people in real life.
Using this method, stories that need to be told are told. However, lines between what is the truth and what isn’t the truth are blurred. Endless questions about fiction and nonfiction story telling arise. Folman said in an interview, animation allowed him to have freedom to tell this story.
In documentary and all forms of nonfiction, the will of the subject to involve themselves in the project and their memory can be a battle.
What’s evident, is that this documentary might not have been produced in any other way if at all.