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Truth claims through credit sequence juxtaposition

by Critical Commons Manager

In Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's HBO remake of the 1970s PBS documentary An American Family (1973), a combination of archival images and footage from the original television documentary are juxtaposed with the fictional recreations and actors used in Cinema Verite. This film is one of a handful of similar, fictionalized remakes of classics of the observational documentary genre that dominated Euro-American documentary filmmaking in the 1960s and 70s. Unlike the original, 12 hour documentary broadcast, which is widely regarded as the prototype for American reality television, Cinema Verite is neatly encapsulated into a feature film, that simultaneously delivers the pleasures of the narrative disintegration of a family and the meta-awareness of the means by which that story was maneuvered into existence. The real heroes of this film are the principled camera and sound recording team who are placed in contrast with the ethically challenged producer Craig Gilbert (played by James Gandolfini), who, the film would have us believe, ended his career after realizing his role in catalyzing the destruction of the Loud family. The use of carefully orchestrated documentary images to illustrate the precision and veracity of a remake has become a convention of docufictions of this type, with similar sequences bookending films such as The Iron Lady, 127 Hours and Grey Gardens. What is the significance of relegating these visual truth-claim sequences to the margins of the film? Do they actually serve the purpose of establishing the factual credentials of the narratives under construction?

The opening and closing credit sequences of Cinema Verite

Real archival documentary images are juxtaposed with fictional recreations in this montage of scenes designed to establish the film's truth claim

from Cinema Verite (2011)
Creator: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
Distributor: HBO
Posted by Critical Commons Manager