Art or exploitation? Reportage or opinion? Right or wrong?

Please watch the clip in HD and full screen.

Car in Japan The past couple of weeks have really rocked the world. First a shocking earthquake, tsunami and reactor leak in Japan, and the start of a campaign in the middle east.

It reminds me of the fragility of life, of how we all live within the ‘myth of permanence’, that somehow tomorrow will ALWAYS be like yesterday… These shocking events serve to remind me to ‘get on with it’.

I felt compelled to share a video I discovered on DSLR guru Nino Leitners blog, filmed in Japan in the wake of the quake and tsunami. Nino invited me to add my voice to the debate both on his blog and on Vimeo. And so I commented and decided to share my thoughts here, and invite you to share your thoughts too.

Dan_chung_140x140 The film was made by DSLR pioneer Dan Chung on the payroll of The Guardian who wanted stills and video of the events in Japan. The video here is his ‘personal’ edit.

Here’s my view… (posted on Nino’s site)

Anytime you put one image next to another, you create a story. This film is no different. The way the camera has been used in this film is not in a traditional journalistic manner (or genre). It’s more dynamic, fluid, cinematic.

But again, this is just a choice. As is the use of music.

All the footage that has come out of Japan is telling a story of one sort or another. It’s just most use conventions we have become so accustomed to, conventions we find acceptable and never question. Shaky video, grainy images, glitches…

This film uses different conventions.

And I am sure some people will criticise the film maker for bringing cinematic poetry to a ‘document’. I am sure others will hail it great work that challenges convention too. Who is right?

Getting into a debate is not the point.

This is just the work of a film maker who is offering to share it with the world. It either touches you or it does not. Offends you or not. Challenges you or not. You either ‘get it’ or you ‘don’t get it’.

For me it took me to a place that no news footage has taken me thus far. For me that is why it works. I learned something new about the tragedy. I can’t explain what that ‘new’ thing that I learned is, but I know it’s there. Maybe I felt something in this film that the news footage cannot offer?

And I can only imagine the film maker also wrestled with inner demons too whilst filming it. It can’t have been easy to shoot, edit and release.

Please, contribute your thoughts and feelings to the debate.

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones
Filmmaker, Author and Firewalk Instructor
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One Response to Art or exploitation? Reportage or opinion? Right or wrong?

  1. dd_opco March 24, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    Dan is a Photo-journalist / filmmaker. That’s his job. No point in arguing the how, he gets sent to places to document the times.

    Saw the piece as soon as it went up, it’s not what I would have done but honestly, I’m not convinced the furore is really about matters of musical taste/moral duty.
    (Has to be said he painted a very big target on his back when he tweeted asking for suggestions for downbeat library music to use as a soundtrack for his Japan piece)

    The issue is probably more to do with the HDSLR community which has fallen victim to it’s own conventions. When it just Dan Chung making little films like Beijing Hoop Dreams & Philip Bloom’s Lucasfilm piece. The average punter / indie filmmaker wanted to know how to do what they did and Philip and others very generously shared their knowledge.

    Now Vimeo is rife with timelapses and non-narrative pieces shot with a HDSLR and a slider, and as a result the inevitable backlash has occurred. Unfortunately for Dan, people aren’t looking at the story they’re looking at the tools.

    It really feels like a case of “I thought it was cool ’til YOU started doing it”

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