Sunday, 4 September 2016



6. "Why have you let me film this?"


As much as we are thankful that some people open up their lives to be filmed for a documentary, such as the Beale family for the Maysles' brothers' 1975 film "Grey Gardens," you do have to wonder what they are hoping to get out of it, and what of themselves they are hoping people will see.

This is an extra layer over the usual discussions over whether "the camera never lies," or, as quoted from the director Brian De Palma, "film is lies, twenty-four frames a second." When the reputations of real people are at stake, and the perception that person has of themselves has to make it through many layers of people, each with their own perspective, to make it into a finished film, before it is even shown to an audience, that anyone can make it out unscathed is miraculous.

Taking the most obvious example, the Kardashian / Jenner family could be the nicest family in the world, but they are trapped not only by their opulent surroundings, but also by the main thrust of their various TV series, which is to show the show their glamorous lives - if they can be relatable despite their show, it is because the viewer has had to see past the way they have been represented.

However, if the subject is unlikable, or someone who has made themselves unlikable, and they have agreed to appear in a documentary about themselves, what do you do? If you are so confident that you can trust anyone outside of you to present the truth they see, unvarnished, then you must hope that it works out for the best. 

In watching "Weiner," documenting former New York congressman's 2013 campaign to become mayor of New York City, the first third deals with showing how a man came back from a sexting scandal to become the front runner in the election - only for further details to emerge from the same scandal. 

Anthony Weiner is established as a belligerent man that could get things done, and still had the ability to be inspirational when it came to the new campaign. However, he is defeated by his own character, causing questions to be raised about his judgment, and that of his wife, who chose to stand by him.

It is difficult to watch, more than in the Ricky Gervais-style of black comedy. Knowing they are real people makes it difficult, and knowing that since the documentary's release, further sexting revelations has meant his wife, Huma Abedin, is now separating from him, regardless of them being a senior aide to Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton or not, the whole thing feels like one car crash after another. Being shown as a man that will enter into arguments makes it clear why Weiner's highest profile appearance, outside of the news, was as the head of NASA in "Sharknado 3" - the most power he can hope for right now is only when acting up.

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