Archive for January, 2007


Saturday, January 6th, 2007

Note: There’s one more broadcast of Subdivided on PBS station KERA this Tuesday Jan 9 @ 11PM.

There’s a criticism that has now reached the the status of a cliche of calling documentaries someone does not agree with “documentaries.” It is put in quotes supposedly to imply that it is not a “real” documentary. A “real” documentary, if I can hazard a guess at what these people believe, is one that presents “facts” in a way that is agreeable to whatever political persuasion is acceptable to them. I’ve most often heard this leveled at Michael Moore’s films from the right for example, though its also been leveled at conservative films from the left. The problem with this is that its yet another mechanism by which people are able to dismiss something by giving it a label - like calling someone liberal or conservative or whatever. Once labeled, they no longer have to deal with the subject or the person in any serious way. How convenient. They can ignore the arguments, the “facts,” the research, hundreds of years of history, etc. How lazy. More importantly, they misunderstand documentary and non fiction film in a fundamental way.

They are assuming that actual Truth and therefore Objectivity can be embodied in language and media. Well, they can’t, even if there were such things as “Truth” and “Objectivity.” My working assumption is that there are only perspectives, and to pretend otherwise is dishonest or delusional. The worst kind of documentaries are the ones that do just that: they pretend to have presented everything fully and objectively. “Balanced.” Well, balance itself is a matter of perspective. Just because there is an authoritative voice and a major news organization logo attached doesn’t mean it’s any less perspectival that a YouTube video. The “voice” of the film is a disembodied, corporate voice. It’s daddy, or god, or whoever. Don’t fall for it. See it for what it is. The problem with documentary is not that it is has an agenda and a perspective, it’s that people - both viewers and producers - like to pretend that it doesn’t.

In Subdivided, because its personal, each issue is distorted and magnified and colored through a lens. Some issues take on more prominence, others are not even present. This is done on purpose. The journalistic conceit of presenting “both sides” is not credible because not only are there an infinite number of sides on the on hand, there is often only one that matters. Slavery for example. And even if an attempt is made to present the major views on a subject, these are also relative to what is considered acceptable conversation and debate and is highly contextual. In many circles there are things you cannot talk about, assumptions you cannot question. That’s not balanced or objective, and you see it every night on the evening news and every day in the papers.

So with all this in mind, Subdivided is consciously a personal perspective. It is a wash of images and views and ideas that have filtered through my head for three years and come out as a particular kind of statement. It’s not intended to be comprehensive, completely logical, or bulletproof. If I wanted to attempt something like that I would have written a book (and it still wouldn’t have been comprehensive, perfectly logical, or bulletproof!). Subdivided is a film essay. Of all the media pieces that I gathered, these are the ones that resonated with me and made, in my view and from my aesthetic, an interesting and pleasing sequence of images and sound.

Feedback on the KERA screening - what are your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

Had some interesting comments and questions during the radio interview on 90.1 KERA today (which I’ll upload later), and I’ve received quite a few email comments. If you have comments please leve them on the subdivided site here. If you would like to keep up with my future film, internet, and writing projects send me a note at [dean at] and I’ll put you on a mailing list, or just check from time to time. Thanks!