Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The way in which indigenous people are represented in documentaries has radically changed within the last century. But "If there (still) is one overriding ethical/political / ideological! question to documentary filmmaking it may be, What to do with the people" (Nichols qtd. in Barbash and Taylor, 1997: p. 12). How can people and issues be represented appropriately? How can one make a documentary about somebody or something with a totally different cultural background to one's own without being unethical? The so-called expository documentary was the first prevailing documentary mode and tries to answer these questions with an authoritative voice-over commentary combined with a series of images that aim to be descriptive and informative. The voice-over approaches the spectator directly and offers facts or arguments that are illustrated by the images. It provides abstract information that the image cannot carry or comments on those actions and events that are unfamiliar to the target audience. This is exactly what some filmmakers reacted against - "to explain what the images mean, as if they don't explain themselves, or as if viewers can't be trusted to work the meaning out on their own. Indeed, the voice-over often seems to attribute a reduced meaning to the visuals; that is it denies them a density they might have by themselves" (Barbash and Taylor, 1997: p. 19). It is typical for the expository documentary style that the narrator speaks about or for other people. Some filmmakers see these voice-overs as "colonial, an enemy of the film, the voice of God" or even as "the (non-existent) view from somewhere" (Barbash and Taylor, 1997: p. 47).

Includes bibliographical references.