Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Superman" scene was a set-up

“It’s two different worlds,” the mother, Maria, tells the filmmaker in an interview interspersed with scenes of the tour, comparing it with her son’s Bronx public school. “I don’t care if we have to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning in order to get there at 7:45,
then that’s what we will do.”
The only problem is, this heart-wrenching scene of hope and anticipation from Davis Guggenheim's film, Waiting for Superman, never really happened. Guggenheim set it up.

NYT City Room critic Sharon Otterman, "In 'Waiting for Superman,' a Scene Isn’t What It Seems", asks other documentary filmmakers what they think the scene.

Gordon Quinn, producer of Hoop Dreams:  
“It’s like you think you are looking at someone responding to the future, and in fact, the emotion has to do with their disappointment, and that’s a very different thing.”

I asked Emmy Award-winning film maker (Navajo Boy) and Columbia College prof Jeff Spitz what he thought about the ethical side of documentary film making. He told me that it's quite common for film makers to insert re-enactments into their films. But, said Spitz, "viewers have every right to question the ethics and intent of how it's done."

If Guggenheim intentionally set out to manipulate the viewer, it raises important ethical questions and could cast doubt on the authenticity of the rest of the film as well.

1 comment:

  1. as a filmmaker and educator, I believe he was being mostly lazy. The whole film was lazy! Lazy storytelling, lazy research, lazy narrative, lazy film making. I was dumbfound by the other lack of depth in any form with this film. I have seen First Year and that film is not perfect, but way more interesting as a film. I took a Documentary theory class at Cal Art during my BFA and it is not new to move scenes around or even to leave key moments out as a storytelling tool, but the ethics is always in question. I have always had a problem with Michael Moore because he is horrible at this. I love storytelling and to a point WFS is a good story, though lazy storytelling. I remember thinking half way in, if this was just about the children, it wouldn't be so bad. However it is not about just the children, you never get to really know them, you only get to know what Guggie wants you to know, which is fine, but don't claim you are making a revolutionary film. Don't claim your movie is documentary. Don't claim this is true pictures of the issues of education. Don't claim you even understand the problems. Also one problem is there are a lot more great films about education not getting mentioned...

    Here are a few,

    Touch of Greatness
    To be and To Have
    Class Act
    Seventeen (The Classic film about High School)
    High School I and II
    Free to Learn
    Race to Nowhere
    First Year
    hopefully my future documentary!

    David Loitz


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