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Example 1 - A Documentary Film How the Structure of...

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A “Documentary Film?” How the Structure of Jonestown: the Life and Death of Peoples Temple ruins things What is a documentary film? Per the Oxford English Dictionary, Documentary means “Factual, realistic; applied esp. to a film or literary work, etc., based on real events or circumstances, and intended primarily for instruction or record purposes.” Documentary film, in short, is a film that is created with the intention of informing the viewers with something that the film is going to handle. This can be taken further by saying that a good documentary film is a film that delivers its message about its topic effectively and objectively. Jonestown: the Life and Death of Peoples Temple is a documentary film that was directed by Stanley Nelson. It was nominated, and later actually won several awards. The plot is straightforward enough: it is about the life of Jim Jones and how he established Peoples Temple, later on moved on to build a town named Jonestown in the middle of a jungle in Guyana, and of course, how Jonestown ended up so tragically. Coming from a distant country and not being old enough, it was the first time that I actually got to know what happened in Jonestown, and the film did a pretty good job in informing me the basics of what happened during the course of Jones’ life and how it all ended. More than that, the documentary film did something else: it aroused my emotion. It frightened me in some places, and by the end of the film I was deeply depressed. Nevertheless, as I thought more and more about the film, my view towards the film changed. I started thinking that the feelings I got during the film somehow manipulated me to believe several things that could have been interpreted in some other 1
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ways. Though it can be said that it is director’s style of making a documentary film that changes the viewers’ experience, I feel that the documentary failed to provide sufficient information to the viewers, and mostly, it failed to stay on the middle ground.
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