Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Being for Documenatry Films

Having long been a fan of documentary films, I watched two last night as I worked or exercised. (I seem never quite able to solely do one thing, unless of course, it is a documentary with subtitles and often times I can follow without reading them too.) One film was by Alexandra Pelosi's, "Right America: Feeling Wronged -- Some Voices From the Campaign Trail" and the other was "The Lobotomist," on the neurologist and psychiatrist, Walter Freeman and the controversial procedure of lobotomy made popular in the late 30's and 40's by Dr. Freeman. This procedure drilled holes in the skull to reach the frontal lobes, believed to be crucial in mental disabilities.

Later the process of lobotomy included an icepick and hammer. Dr. Freeman would lift the eyelid of the patient and actually pick and hammer to reach the frontal lobes. The procedure was supposed to relieve the mentally disabled which thousands of human beings in asylums became the "guinea pigs" of surgeons and psychiatrists. The film showed an incredible inhumanity that was astonishing, revealing the extraordinary drive and desire for recognition and distinction by Dr. Freeman and his partner, the neurologist, Dr. James Watts, at a high human cost. (My brother had a group home for the mentally disabled when I was in college and I worked at there during the summers. I cannot imagine allowing such procedures on these precious dear ones.) This film was a brutal and fascinating documentary of man's ambition and inhumanity in search of a cure.

Earlier in the evening I watched the Pelosi filmed and I must say that I was rather unmoved by it. (I did so doing calisthenics.) There are many wing nuts on the Right and Left. And??? The film did not go beyond the hysteria. There was one moment that particularly struck me. This was when the Mississippi African American made the relevant point that Pelosi had come all the way to the South to tell them that we in the North did not use the word nigger or coon and that we were so much better. Right?! I thought about the belief that there were no slaves in the North. But there were. I also thought about overt racism as opposed to invert segregation.

Would you rather know what's happening or guess about it? I would much rather know than guess; this way I can manage better and I know what I'm dealing with. The Mississippi man interviewed was quite articulate indeed. Pelosi left this piece in the film, but made no comment. I wondered why. There were many such times of no depth in the film. Over all, I thought the film was rather weak. It was less a documentary and more a litany of affects and no reasons that would point to why such is so. Determining the why is essential to this genre of film. Watching the documentary, I could also not help from thinking that the film's timing was way off. Americans do not need divisive films right now. It is most certainly not the time to rehash election fever when the country has so much to confront. Let's move on, please. Working together is paramount. There is more that binds than divides.


Brosreview said...

"Would you rather know what's happening or guess about it? I would much rather know than guess; this way I can manage better and I know what I'm dealing with."

Exactly, that is why I like documentaries as well. Prevention is better than cure.

But, yea, I firmly believe that s documentary needs to be directed with extra caution. Apart from being clear in expressing one's opinion, there must be no loop holes left within the film. It could mislead the viewers or urge them to think otherwise as most documentary watchers blindly believe the facts displayed.

Nice post Judith!!!

judith ellis said...

Thanks, Brosreview. Regardless of the genre, but perhaps especially with documentaries as you have pointed out, viewers will often readily accept things as fact, even when there are no loop holes. Often it comes down to what we want to believe.