This journal inspects the importance of creative decision making in various aspects of documentary production, examines whether those decisions help to make the film an engaging cinematic piece, and explores the influences it might have on the society, the cinema and the subject, in relation to my own experience in producing a 15min documentary film Hackney Pirates, and my understandings of relevant practice from the contemporary cinema.
Films about education for children in critical situations have been seen in cinema since the 1990s. For example, Zhang Yimou’s 1999 film Not One Less tells a story about a teenage girl Wei Minzhi who volunteers to teach in a one-room primary school and her relationships with the pupils. And most recently, Monsieur Lazhar, a 2011 Canadian French film about Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant hired to replace a teacher who committed suicide in her classroom in a Montréal public school, helps his students deal with their grief. Last but not least, Être et avoir, a documentary made in 2002, portrays a one-room school in rural France where the students (ranging in age from 4 to 11) are taught by a single teacher.
Similarly, the subject of the documentary--Hackney Pirates--is a charitable organization set up by three experienced teachers for children aged 9-12 who come from a disadvantaged social background, aiming to improve their literacy and creativity by one-to-one mentoring with volunteer adults.
The narrative structure and the approach to it
During the development of the narrative structure, the director are strongly inspired by Être et avoir where we follow the children to their homes and get to know how they get on with their homework and the role of the parents during the progress-making process. Hoping to realise such vision, we met the organisers and discussed the necessity and feasibility of it and why it could make the film more interesting and more engaging. However, it turned out to be impossible to carry out the plan since most parents are either busy working or away from home, and the fact that most children are raised by their grandparents or grow up in single-parent which results in their being sent to Hackney Pirates indicates the lack of attention from their family which is negative. Therefore, first of all it’s not feasible to portray children’s life at home; besides, considering the cinematic emphasis of the film, the children’s enjoyable and significant learning experiences at Hackney Pirates on its own would be more interesting and more engaging, hence would have more positive social influences.
To make the film more interesting and engaging, we have to make sure that any activity involved helps with the narrative progression, since any unrelated activity can not only slow the pace down but also introduce narrative confusion, as in the 2011 Sci-fi film Never Let Me Go. After Kathy is accidentally hit by Tommy on the chin, we are introduced to a group of doctors and nurses who carry...