[Originally published in Movietone News 66-67, March 1981]
The line between cool observation and active participation in a documentary film is a flimsy and untenable one. How can anything remain truly documentary with a camera whirring away as an extra guest keeping its unblinking eye focused on the people it considers? If the project is of the â€œLoud Familyâ€ sort, the people cannot even ask the camera to leave the room for a moment, because everything must be captured â€œas it actually occurred.â€ What is irritating about some documentaries is the pretension that whatever is observed really would have happened just as it appears before the cameraâ€”even if that camera hadnâ€™t been there. I donâ€™t believe that, having probably seen too many nervous smiles and stiff movements (and many an overacted moment) in everything from documentary features to National Geographic specials. But when a filmmaker recognizes and acknowledges the degree of responsibility he takes on when he plunks a camera down in the middle of peopleâ€™s livesâ€”well, some very intriguing things can happen.