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Animal movies: Should they be real or embellished through artistic license?


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#1 Drew

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 08:22 AM

This little discussion came from FB.  Basically, a venerable cameraman found exception to the German press junket of the movie "Chimpanzee", which was portrayed as true to life.  His argument is that while artistic license can be used, to claim the storyline was true to life is plain false and dishonest.  It's been reported that the scenes in the successful movie, based in the Côte d'Ivoire's Tai National Park, was edited to give the "magical" storyline, and most of the things depicted never really happened.  The "star" chimp turned out to be 5 different chimps altogether.

While I do see the merit of making a story out of clips shot, the press junket does try to sell the movie as real, more like Blair Witch than real documentary style.

 

Just wondering how people like the contrived story lines vs just a bunch of clips showing what happens in reality , without much narrative.

 

 


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#2 John Bantin

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 08:51 AM

Well, they use several actors to play one part in many movies, or did you think Daniel Craig did all his own stunts and that any famous actress did the nude scene close-ups? A movie is a number of recorded events joined together in such a fashion as to form a sequence that never happened.

Nigel Marven told me how, when Richard Attenborough's producer and making a film called "The Land of the Russian Bear", he bought an example of a rare snake they wanted to film from a petshop in Didcot, England, and took it with them to Russia (only it escaped from his bag in his hotel room). Well, there's money at stake and they weren't going to take any risks.

Movies are representational. Even newsreels! (The raising of the flag at Iwo Jima is no less poignant for it.)


Edited by John Bantin, 05 June 2013 - 09:24 AM.

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#3 Drew

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 09:29 AM

John, that's an apple to pumpkin comparison. When you watch something like Skyfall, you know you are buying into the fantasy.  Daniel Craig admits to have stunt doubles and CGI etc etc.  As for Sir David's use of a pet snake, he's not using it to portray anthropomorphic traits in a magic storyline.  They just want to make sure they have a particular species of snake to shoot in its natural habitat.
The Chimpanzee movie, on the other hand, is portrayed to be life as chimps in Tai.  While having a narrative storyline can be useful to portray life as a chimp, to market it as true to life magically captured by the film makers, it does seem a bit dishonest.  I guess  the question is whether movie magic should be reserved for fiction, and natural history documentaries should endeavor to retain a certain sense of truth.

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#4 John Bantin

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 10:38 AM

I don't think that pumpkin really turned into a princess's coach nor was the apple really poisoned. :) I could tell you lots of BBC Wildlife stories but I don't want to spoil your illusions!


Edited by John Bantin, 05 June 2013 - 10:39 AM.

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#5 Paul Kay

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 11:51 PM

 I guess  the question is whether movie magic should be reserved for fiction, and natural history documentaries should endeavor to retain a certain sense of truth.

As I see it, the problem IS defining truth. There is often an emphasis on filming 'rare' or previously unseen/unrecorded events in documentary film making. This in itself skews the viewer's perception of the natural world, as do many stills photographs. We seem to live in an increasingly 'virtual' world (laser pistols were used at the Olympics instead of air pistols as an example - do they really form part of a physical sport I wonder?) and the lines between fact, representation and fiction are IMHO blurring more than ever. I suppose my take is that if it does some good and it raises profiles and safeguards and allows animals to get on with living in the wild, then so be it. Claiming any natural history documentary is 'true to life' is actually quite difficult as any editing will form an impression in the viewer's mind which is potentially distorted by the condensation of time if nothing else. I suppose that claiming 'true to life' is where the dishonesty can appear - films and documentaries are all representational at the end of the day and it is important to appreciate this when viewing them and enjoy them for what they are.


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#6 John Bantin

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Posted 06 June 2013 - 02:28 AM

As I see it, the problem IS defining truth. There is often an emphasis on filming 'rare' or previously unseen/unrecorded events in documentary film making. This in itself skews the viewer's perception of the natural world, as do many stills photographs. We seem to live in an increasingly 'virtual' world (laser pistols were used at the Olympics instead of air pistols as an example - do they really form part of a physical sport I wonder?) and the lines between fact, representation and fiction are IMHO blurring more than ever. I suppose my take is that if it does some good and it raises profiles and safeguards and allows animals to get on with living in the wild, then so be it. Claiming any natural history documentary is 'true to life' is actually quite difficult as any editing will form an impression in the viewer's mind which is potentially distorted by the condensation of time if nothing else. I suppose that claiming 'true to life' is where the dishonesty can appear - films and documentaries are all representational at the end of the day and it is important to appreciate this when viewing them and enjoy them for what they are.

Any of us that have climbed the mountains in tropical rainforests to see orangutans in the wild will attest that you get a lot less tired and sweaty watching the images in the comfort of your home! (...and what about the leeches?)


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#7 tdpriest

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 03:52 AM

I could tell you lots of BBC Wildlife stories but I don't want to spoil your illusions!

 

Including the one where Richard and David Attenborough were mysteriously swapped?



#8 John Bantin

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 09:19 AM

 

Including the one where Richard and David Attenborough were mysteriously swapped?

Oops! That'll teach me to use Google to check the name spelling!!!  :)


Edited by John Bantin, 09 June 2013 - 09:22 AM.

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#9 danielandrewclem

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 01:20 PM

Wait, "Skyfall" wasn't real?


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