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POV Magazine Fall/Winter 2020 (Issue 113)

POV is Canada's destination for documentary culture. We cover the art and business of documentary, reporting on the best in non-fiction film, photography, new media, and podcasting.

POV Magazine
2 Issues

in this issue

3 min

WHO WOULDN’T AGREE THAT, due to COVID, this has been the toughest year in the 21st century? But we’ve discovered that people can rise to any occasion. Since George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis policeman, a too-often repeated tragedy has transformed the public not just in the U.S. but around the world. BLM (Black Lives Matter) has become a political movement endorsed by millions. Much has happened in just a few months, ranging from global protests against racism to the inauguration of the “defund the police” movement to names of streets being changed and statues for right-wing politicians being taken down. We have seen Latinx, Black, and Indigenous people—and white people—working together on common causes. It feels that times are genuinely changing. As a documentary magazine, POV must respond to…

3 min
to film or not to film?

WITH THE STAKES SO HIGH for crews and participants in this moment of historic pandemic and protest, should documentary filmmakers be picking up their cameras? Renowned American producer and filmmaker Gordon Quinn recently wrote in Documentary, the International Documentary Association’s online magazine, that “the core problem is to find the balance between what we feel we owe our participants and what we owe our viewers.” Unless they’ve made films in war zones or places of deep unrest, filmmakers are unaccustomed to working with high physical risk. Yet in a blighted news ecosystem, audiences see documentary as vital nourishment. Quinn’s question is really two questions: Should we shoot? If so, how? When the shock of the initial lockdown abated, many doc makers in the midst of production or post, or even about…

11 min
becoming more inconvenient

THE FIRST INDIANS TO APPEAR before a motion picture camera danced in a short vignette called Sioux Ghost Dance (1894). There’s no evidence that what was filmed for this, one of the first of Thomas Edison’s series of “actualities,” was actually a Ghost Dance. Whether or not it authentically shows what it claims to depict, it has been nevertheless immortalized in celluloid and thus in film history. What’s true is that Indian dancing was strictly forbidden at the time. Exceptions were made, however, for entertainment and ethnography—in other words, for white pleasure and study. The dancers filmed were performers in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, who were forbidden to dance or wear traditional dress in the comfort of their own communities but were allowed to do so for the amusement…

13 min
acting naturally

IF HYBRID DOCUMENTARIES were all the rage in the 2010s, now is the time for hybrid dramas. An emerging trend sees filmmakers cast people as themselves in stories dramatizing their experiences. These films follow a decade in which documentaries increasingly gravitated towards fictional elements while Hollywood doubled down on non-fiction properties. New evolutions in hybrid film employ the power of self-representation to move audiences with the drama of our increasingly fragmented world. The popularity of hybrid docs, loosely defined as non-fiction works that incorporate elements of dramatization and performance, is reframing the definition of documentary itself. Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing (2012) features Indonesian right-wing murderers re-enacting their crimes from the mid-1960s civil annihilation of the Communists after the overthrow of Sukarno. These uber-theatrical performances include musical numbers and Spaghetti…

12 min
to be a black body in a white space

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS BEEN CALLED “THE GREAT EQUALIZER,” but that could not be further from the truth. Coming in like a wrecking ball that unexpectedly broke off its chain, the pandemic has smashed through seemingly unbreakable societal walls. Not only did it expose the fragile nature of global economic models but it also shone a piercing light on just how deep the roots of racial injustice are planted in every facet of society. The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have caused many industries and individuals to take an uncomfortable look at systemic racism and, in some cases, their unknowing complicity in it. While much of the broader discourse has focused on police brutality, one cannot cure a symptom without acknowledging the cause. To truly grasp…

11 min
true or false

ANYONE WHO HAS WORKED in the journalism business over the past couple of decades knows we’re in a sad way. Advertising revenues have crashed, staffs have shrunk and the credibility of the mainstream media, according to Pew Research, is at record lows. To add insult to injury, the world has to deal with the toxic shock jock President Donald Trump, who, when not killing people with magical thinking and bad medical advice about COVID-19, reflexively calls the press “fake news,” a phrase that has caught on. While Fox News and Breitbart applaud, the liberal press is pushed into a defensive crouch, or, as former New York Times editor Jill Abramson put it, episodes of “anguished self-examination.” Is documentary film ready for a similar moment of reckoning? Has anyone noticed, that the most…