Ethnography for the Masses

An ethnography is an academic documentary done by scholars to illuminate something of cultural interest.  Where an ethnography is meant to provide an objective study, a documentary must provide something to sustain the interest of a non-academic audience.  Sometimes this license can make one cringe and note that a documentary can also have propaganda value when the producers have an agenda as was the case of American and German films of WWII. – carlos
The Faux Reality Spectrum — Home Video: “Restrepo”
By A.O. SCOTT, Published: December 9, 2010

“Is it a documentary?” “Is it like a documentary?” I find myself hearing (and asking) these questions so often that I have started to wonder what they mean. It’s not just that the definition of “documentary” itself is mutable: unlike other journalistic and quasi-journalistic forms, no code of ethics has ever been agreed upon by practitioners of the art, and what rules of thumb there are tend to be temporary, controversial and broken as soon as they are made. To take examples only from this calendar year, a single generic rubric covers a muckraking, talking-head essay on Wall Street like Charles Ferguson’s “Inside Job,” a ruminative memoir on parenthood like “The Kids Grow Up,” by Doug Block, and an exercise in intensive fly-on-the-wall objectivity like Frederick Wiseman’s aptly titled “Boxing Gym.” And those are just the easy cases — the nonfiction films that the academy might agree to consider for its award in the always-crowded and controversial feature-documentary category.


About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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