Documentary Essay

1339 words - 6 pages

The genre, documentary film, is comprised of numerous modes or classifications of films that address a wide-variety of subjects. Stylistically, documentary filmmakers may choose to capture traces of the truth in a variety of ways using filming and editing techniques to convey a message about a selected subject (Plantinga, 2005). As Bill Nichols emphasizes in his 1991 essay entitled “The Domain of the Documentary”, the documentary genre encompasses many modes of films that are able to capture truth and reality in an engaging and expressive manner (Nichols, The Domain of Documentary, 1991). When examining the 1994 documentary film, Hoop Dreams, directed by Steve James, the purist definition of this genre is not fully brought to life on screen as Plato himself would have defined, instead more modern modes of documentary storytelling are used to share this subject (James, 1994). By understanding his artistic choices as a director and storyteller, it is evident that Hoop Dreams, a powerful and revered film, is able to use the reality of two young inner-city boys to reveal a universal truth about a journey that we all take throughout our lives.
Steve James’ film uses nonfiction storytelling techniques to recount the journey of William Gates and Arthur Agee, two high school boys with aspirations of playing in the NBA. Their skills and abilities afford them opportunities to attend private schools with stronger educational programs than the local high schools that they would normally attend. While the film feels like a fictional movie at times, the subjects are real and the lives that are affected by the events in the film really happened while cameras were rolling. Because of the nature of the story and the time that elapses in between sections of the film, the filmmaker had to make specific editing and stylistic choices while filming. Some documentary theorists may argue that James’ choices create individual biases and inaccuracies because of the time length of time it took to film the documentary and the interaction between the filmmaker and the subjects may influence the actions of the subjects.
Throughout the film, Steve James chooses to use a variety of editing techniques and makes stylistic choices to tell the story of his two main subjects, the lives of William Gates and Arthur Agee. The film, which was nominated for an Academy Award for film editing, travels from small private homes to outdoor playgrounds where drug deals are occurring. Constantly in motion, the camera travels with these young men to highlight their journey and every exciting and exhausting moment that the experience along the way. Filmed over the course of five-years, retelling the story of both Gates’ and Agee’s lives over 170 minutes does require several omissions that James had to carefully make to ensure that the overall message was clear, as accurate as possible, and still engaging to the audience. The use of natural, bright lighting outside juxtaposes...

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