Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I see cinema in people - cine-videojournalism

Vertov, Wikipedia creative commons
Almost 100 years ago, a young Russian poet and futurist had a vision. A newish image form had been taking the world by storm.

In its short existence, over in France, it went through a radical change before it was exported it to Russia, much to the chagrin of this artist.

The young poet's vision was to return the image form to its origins.

This story seems archival, from a world so far removed from our own. However it is as relevant today, if not more so, than 100 years ago

The poets name was Dziga Vertov, known for his incredible films, notably, Man With a Movie Camera. - voted the best 8th movie by movie mag Sight and Sound in 2012

This is where we part company with this story, but the thing to bear in mind is that Vertov and some key figures that followed before TV was popularised believed in a powerful concept.

You may think to rubbish the idea,  however it's been proven to be so powerful that scores of experts and scholars believe in this too.

Cinema is out there. It exists as a vision, a subject, a scene, it's a thing, an idealistic phenomenon.

Take this shot here.

and this shot here

They look identical and could have come from the same film. Derelict buildings,  rubble and human turmoil on an unimaginable scale. 

However, the first image comes from the BBC report from the BBC's Lyse Doucet in Yamouk. This second one from Limbo City in Inception.

Both have the scale and expressive qualities to be cinema, but one is treated televisually. 

Another shot from Doucet's film

This woman is stricken with grief. She has been under siege. She wants out. The audience feels for her, but it's too fleeting. We would like to empathise with her, but the production, doesn't allow this. The image and sound are treated in the news way, detached, professional, restrained.

There are several more examples I could draw you attention to.

Now, please don't  misunderstand me. Lyse Doucet is an exemplary reporter and so is the BBC camera operator. This is not a criticism of Doucet's film, but an alternative way of treating a scene. 

That treatment is a professional one in understanding the ethos of a subject or character and allowing the viewer to interact with the scene more emotionally.

Note, I stated the treatment of the scene is a professional one. It is not adhoc, but based on seeing and comprehending cinema and reinterpreting it accordingly for the viewer, based on a number of interacting parameters.

And those parameters are as complex as they are diffusive. In my theory and practice of cine-videojournalism, this is what its USP is. Most television news practitioners and videojournalists teach, obviously, television news making. As this diagram illustrates, it has constraints.

In my various talks, I make the strong case where videojournalism was. It's a revisionist history, based on the pioneers. Often it's difficult to understand how to make cinema if you've spent you entire working life working news. 

It's a bit like Johari's window, or as it's been redubed Rumsfeld's: you don't know what you don't know.

The logic for this approach is simple. It predates television, and in a world awash with video, makes your video stand out. 

However, it is one of the most difficult areas to master. At my talk in Peugia I will deconstruct how in my 25 years I have reworked Vertov's theory, distilled for contemporary film.

Below, are examples e.g. trailers of work in China, Cairo and Chicago in which I treat the production cinematically, rather than televisually. 

EAT from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

Video journalism's anti-aesthetic short from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

David Dunkley Gyimah journalist, videojournalist, senior lecturer and artist in residence at the Southbank. His research studies language and image production and how it influences audiences. This year he was the chair of jurors at the RTS Awards for Innovative News.