In my Journalism Media & Ethics class we screened the HBO documentary “Ganja Queen,” which told the story of a young Australian woman who was accused and then convicted of importing marijuana into Bali, Indonesia. The documentary raises a number of questions about the ethics of representation of true-life stories, especially in an age of online social-interactive media and “reality” television.

First, to what extent does a broadcaster or documentary filmmaker owe it to the audience to update knowledge about a subject? In this case, there have been numerous developments since the documentary was filmed, some of which probably would radically change the audience’s perception of events.

Second, most ordinary people are not media-savvy in the sense of having the degree of self-awareness to know when something they are saying or doing looks wrong or suspicious on camera. Does a documentary filmmaker, especially in a criminal case, owe it to the subjects to help them be at their best for the camera, or is the goal to be as unstaged and unprompted as possible?

Last, do we have different expectations of journalistic values for a high-end documentary on an essentially entertainment network like HBO? What are those news values, and do you feel the documentary followed them?

Originally posted March 27, 2009 at PolicyByBlog

Original Comments Here

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    Original Reader Comments (31)

    In response to the first question, I think it is up to the documentary’s director as to how much he/she wants to update the film. I don’t necessarily believe it’s up to them to be the viewers main news source. The director is first and foremost at director and journalist, not necessarily a newscaster (unless he/she chooses to take on that role).

    As for whether or not the subjects in the documentary should receive direction, I would err on the side of ‘no.’ Somehow it seems to me that giving documentary subjects direction would take away from the authenticity of their responses. If the director tells them how to act, then they are acting, and the film would be more like a reality show than the documentation of real events.

    I do have higher expectations as to the journalistic values of a full-length documentary. First off, the makers of a film have had a longer time to prepare it than many news sources, and so hopefully they have spent that time checking and doulble-checking the facts. Also, because a documentary often deals with sources directly, I expect that the information is being told first hand, and so it is most likely more accurate than second-hand news reports.
    March 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSongbomb21

    In response to the first question I do not believe that a documentary is a news source that should become a primary news source with high profile cases and stories such as this. A documentary is made to capture a piece of life and the pieces that are shown are a part of life. I do not believe that the subjects of a documentary should be guided in what to say to coached on appropriate responses. In this case, the Australian women said some things that were not in her favor but another documentary could have done the same thing and turned things to make her look completely innocent.
    Many documentary producers probably do have an opinion about the subject they are documenting, otherwise they would not be interested in filming it. I think it is important to have the “true life” story in a documentary situation but to understand that is is just one point of view to the “true story.” The receivers of news (us) need to be able to filter different opinions and make opinions and thoughts for ourselves. We know that a documentary is not a primary news source and that there are multiple sides to every story. Even primary news sources don’t always tell every side of the story so that is our responsibility as an active citizen and students of the industry to make that distintion.
    March 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterte6506

    I agree with previous posts that it is up to the director to update the facts of a documentary. As viewers it is our responsibility to air on the side of caution and look deeper to check the facts and look for updates on the situation. Although deemed “unbiased” and “reliable,” it is common to double-check today’s most popular news sources for accuracy and opinion. Watching “Ganja Queen” is the same-the director made it at a certain point in time, when certain public opinion was strongest, and shows in the documentary.

    The thought of having a documentary in which the characters are coached seems pretty pointless. I don’t think you could call it a documentary when the feelings and actions are that of the director. People watch documentaries to see real people-not actors. While watching this documentary, I felt Shappelle Corby was genuine, and her emotions were what kept me interested while watching it.

    Finally, I do think that there are higher expectations for documentaries such as “Ganja Queen.” The directors had a long period of time to check facts and edit for biased material. However, as with most things in journalism, public opinion always seems to seep through the film. While I think the directors tried their best, the film still seemed to imply that Corby was an innocent victim, which we will never really know.

    We value news that is factual and unbiased. But many times we forget these values for the sake of speed. We want our news, and want it fast, and have often fell victim to inaccurate reporting because someone wanted to be the first to break the story. The makers of this film had enough time to create a documentary that was such, but were still wanting to get the film out while it was still relevant. Maybe if they had taken more time “Ganja Queen” would have been a little less biased.
    March 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDover

    I think the responsibility of a maker of content depends on which medium is chosen to deliver the content. Any information is valued higher when it is most current. Of course, the most efficient medium of updating information is the Internet. However, a film–a documentary–is limited to the timeframe of production. Therefore, I would suggest to filmmakers of documentaries not to tackle any issue that is subject to rapid, significant change. Don’t make a documentary if it only encompasses point A to point L, instead of A-Z. However, if a filmmaker does make a timely documentary, I would further suggest to accompany the film with a easily updateable Web site.

    However, I believe, that as consumers of content, we are more responsible for the content we consume–more so than the creators. This responsibility includes the avoidance of being tunnel-visioned in where we first we receive content of an issue to where we continue to receive content of that same issue. What I mean by this is we should avoid the tendency to let the issue of the Ganja Queen rest with documentary instead of further investigating the case on another medium, i.e. the Internet.

    Since I don’t consider the original nature of documentaries as unbiased, I don’t see any objective answer to the second question. Most documentaries I have seen contain some sort of persuasion. I’m thinking of Fahrenheit 9/11 or Religulous. They aren’t objective because they have an original bias–purpose–for being made.

    In the few preceding sentences, I think I have answered question three. I do have different expectations for documentaries, and those expectations do not follow “standard” news guidelines. They’re not supposed to be objective. Who would devote the time and resources to produce a documentary without a purpose?
    March 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdude.hey

    I think the responsibility of a maker of content depends on which medium is chosen to deliver the content. Any information is valued higher when it is most current. Of course, the most efficient medium of updating information is the Internet. However, a film–a documentary–is limited to the timeframe of production. Therefore, I would suggest to filmmakers of documentaries not to tackle any issue that is subject to rapid, significant change. Don’t make a documentary if it only encompasses point A to point L, instead of A-Z. However, if a filmmaker does make a timely documentary, I would further suggest to accompany the film with a easily updateable Web site.

    However, I believe, that as consumers of content, we are more responsible for the content we consume–more so than the creators. This responsibility includes the avoidance of being tunnel-visioned in where we first we receive content of an issue to where we continue to receive content of that same issue. What I mean by this is we should avoid the tendency to let the issue of the Ganja Queen rest with documentary instead of further investigating the case on another medium, i.e. the Internet.

    Since I don’t consider the original nature of documentaries as unbiased, I don’t see any objective answer to the second question. Most documentaries I have seen contain some sort of persuasion. I’m thinking of Fahrenheit 9/11 or Religulous. They aren’t objective because they have an original bias–purpose–for being made.

    In the few preceding sentences, I think I have answered question three. I do have different expectations for documentaries, and those expectations do not follow “standard” news guidelines. They’re not supposed to be objective. Who would devote the time and resources to produce a documentary without a purpose?
    March 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdude.hey

    I think that the documentary filmmaker can update the audience about the subject as frequently or infrequently as he or she sees fit. Most likely if the filmmaker is making a documentary about this subject, he has a strong interest on what has happened and will happen with the particular issue. With the resources available today, people can follow up on facts or recent events in a documentary on their own if they choose.

    The filmmaker doesn’t owe it to anyone in the documentary to make them be at their best. The perception of documentaries is that they are real and unscripted. The filmmaker isn’t making a movie, it is supposed to be a piece of work that is as true to life as possible. However, the audience should always take what they see and hear with a grain of salt in order to be responsible media consumers.

    I do have higher expectations for a documentary such as “Ganja Queen.” It took place over an extended period of time and the filmmaker had plenty of time to check facts and create a picture of both sides of the story. I do feel like the filmmakers did try to let the audience see both sides of the story. However, it did seem that Schapelle Corby came across as innocent, but at this point we may never know.
    March 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersenior.09

    As previous people have mentioned, I also believe that it is up to the director to decide whether he/she wants to update the audience. There are many other mediums out there for people to use in order to find updates on the same story. I don’t think people should rely solely on the documentary and should seek other sources in order to form an appropriate opinion on the subject piece.

    In any documentary I believe the subjects should be portrayed as real as possible, with no coaching. The point of documentaries is to portray the facts as real as possible and coaching the people in them defeats this purpose. I expect documentaries to be unbiased, but I do understand that there will be some of this considering every director has their own opinion on things. In this documentary it was obvious that the director was on Corby’s side and felt like she was innocent.

    When watching high-end documentaries on channels such as HBO, I do have high expectations of stories told with great detail and with as little bias as possible. The filmmakers have a long time to make this story and there is no reason for the facts to be off. I expect that they have checked their facts and that the information is told first-hand, which makes it more reliable.

    March 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdaslonka
    In response to the first question, I believe it is up to the filmmaker on how frequently they should update the viewer on information in the film. The filmmaker’s goal is to inform the viewer on a controversial issue, like the one in the film “Ganja Queen”. Many times documentaries lead you to take a stance on an issue, and it is up to the viewer to decide whether or not he or she needs to conduct any other research before developing an opinion.

    Second, I don’t think the filmmaker should try to alter the way a subject acts or displays his or her self on camera. The goal is to capture first hand information so viewers can make their own assumptions, and develop their own opinions. If the director alters the way a subject acts, I believe it would be highly misleading and take on fictional characteristics like a movie, and not a documentary.

    Lastly, I do expect high-end documentaries to give the viewer all and any information surrounding the matter or subject being filmed. A lot of times, documentaries like Ganja Queen are shot over long periods of time, and it’s up to the filmmaker to give all information relevant to the issue. In my opinion, the director of Ganja Queen did a good job at this. The documentary could have ended after the “guilty” verdict, but new developments were made surrounding the family’s neighbor who grew pot. This put a different spin on the story, and may have even changed viewers overall opinion on the defendants innocence.
    March 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjthought87

    I think it is imperative that the director keep the audience up to date on the facts. If there are events that take place and the audience is not aware of them it could be considered a bias situation and be seen as a situation in which the director is trying to present only their side of the story. However, it is possible the events will take place after the documentary is released so it is up to the audience to do their own research.

    While it may not be as well known as it should be, people are becoming aware of the fact that there is such a thing as media bias. Once again, it is up to the audience to do their own research and take a look at a variety of sources. The director should not doctor the situation or try to present it in a better light. The whole thing with documentaries is that there is an assumption that they are presenting only the facts.

    Finally, as HBO is a respected network they should definitely be held at the highest of standards. People trust HBO and whether they are purely entertainment based or not they should present a truthful and unbiased story. I think the “Ganja Queen” presented all sides of the case as we were aware of all the different evidence.
    March 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbuster

    I also agree with a few of the previous posts. I do not think that a documentary should be viewed as a primary news source. I think it is more along the lines of entertainment and that it is up to the producer to update the facts as often as they wish. If the documentary was updated it would be more valuable, but either way it is apparent to the audience if the documentary is up to date and true or not. In this case, I felt like the information was definately true, because it was first hand from the woman being accused.
    On the other hand, I think it is almost impossible for the producers to remain un-biased. If the documentary is being produced in the first place, then someone has a strong interest in the topic. In the case of “Ganja Queen,” I think the extra information is imperative because it gives a completely different perspective to the case. Considering this was aired on HBO, I would expect that the documentray would be updated, even if it was just a written update at the end of the movie.
    I do not think that the film makers of “Ganja Queen” were held to high standards. The taping and the voiceovers wre not high quality, and if they left out important information, they did not think about the ethical factor of the documentary.
    March 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlmp316

    As far as updating audiences about developments that occurred after filming I think that the filmmaker could add something to the end of the documentary either in a text format or a current website that can be accessed for further information. Otherwise, I feel its the audience’s responsibility to find information themselves if they are interested in the topic.

    In response to the second question, I dont think that the filmmaker should give the subjects any type of direction. I feel that would defeat the organic nature of documentaries. Leading a subject in a documentary to act a certain way would cause the audience to constantly question the information that they are receiving.

    The only expectation that I have for documentaries on large entertainment networks like HBO is for them to be well-made and accurate since they have a larger budget and most likely a larger crew than an independent filmmaker. I feel the most important news value in a documentary is that there is no pertinent information left out and that all the information given has been checked for accuracy before the films release.
    March 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDuke44

    I believe that it is the director’s responsibility to update the audience to the date of when the film finalized, and ready to send to print. I say this because usually the director stops shooting months before the film’s actual release date. So while the director is editing if anything else comes up, he/she should put in a blurp about the update. Which he does do at the end of the film when he drops the “pot-growing” neighbor, the laywer dropping the case, and the “donator” untying himself from the case. Things like this add to the audiences perception of the documentry and don’t leave them in the dark about news-worthy updates.

    A documentry is suppose to be as real as it gets. Skin and bones, the purpose is to show the audience EVERYTHING from all points-of-view or the main character’s pov. So the director giving the subject any direction at all would be the same as writing a script and shooting a fictional movie. Audiences want to see the subject’s true side, even if it’s dark and/ or stupid. So yes, any direction for the subject would definately take away from the authenticity of the documentry.

    There is much higher expectation for Journalistic film-makers in documentries like Ganja Queen. I agree with SongBomb21 in that the more time one has on a project the more sources should be double and triple checked for credibility. Also the editing of the film should not make the audience sway one way or the other. It should be subjective story telling as opposed to objecitve. There is also the expectation that all information is factual, no excuses.

    To me it look like a leprachaun to me.

    Just kidding, but for serious those first three paragraphs are how I feel.
    March 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfabi.f.babi

    First, I definitely think that we, as journalists, have different expectations for a documentary than networks like HBO and its viewers.

    Ganja Queen, in my opinion, does not do a very good job of showing all sides of the story. I feel that the documentary portrays the accused (and eventually convicted) woman as innocent the entire way through. The footage of her family’s emotional outbursts during the trial really put me over the edge in terms of biased film making.

    I do think the ‘documentary’ was informational and entertaining, but borders on actually qualifying as a documentary. Perhaps I would have been more receptive to the film if it had been positioned as “a fight for innocence” or something like that.

    Overall, I think the film accomplishes its goal which is to leave you feeling a sense of injustice and sadness. It worked! The film was very convincing of her innocence and even spiked my curiousity enough to check out some of the Web sites about this topic.
    March 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWMJ220

    The documentary filmmaker should feel somewhat responsible for informing the audience of new information about the subject/ people they are documenting. I don’t understand for what reason they would leave the updated information out of the film. Is it for time purposes? Is it because the updated information doesn’t flow well with the viewpoint of the documentary? If it is the latter, I don’t believe that this is a good enough reason to leave out updated information. I expect documentaries to have a certain level of objectivity, and to omit updated information just because it doesn’t necessarily fit with the view of the filmmaker isn’t fair to the audience. I think it would be a good idea if the documentary could provide some credible sources for the audience to use to find more information. This would take some of the responsibility off of the filmmaker and give the audience the choice of whether or not they want to research these sources to find updated information.

    A documentary filmmaker doesn’t owe it to the subjects to help them be their best for the camera. If a filmmaker tells the subjects how to act it takes away from the authenticity of a documentary. It could take away from the entertainment value that one can get from reality television.

    Objectivity and accuracy are news values that all documentaries should follow. I don’t think that this documentary was objective. I think more time was spent showing the viewpoints of Schapelle Corby and her family. I believe that Corby is innocent. However my opinion did falter a little when the bag of marijuana was the exact same size as the boogie board bag. I would have liked to hear more about that idea and those of the people of Bali.
    March 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteraimsk09

    For a journalist or filmmaker, it is SO important to provide the audience with the facts and up-to-date information. If you are not going to do so, it needs to be addressed before the video as to what is missing, what has changed, or the side the documentary is taking, if it is. In the Ganja Queen, we are all very interested in the story and eager to know the outcome…however, nothing has been put out giving us the most recent information. As we know the story now, she was found guilty and is still in prison. This documentary filmmaker should make an effort to tell the WHOLE story, no matter how long it goes. This to me is the dedication that should have been in it from the beginning.

    As a documentary filmmaker, I believe the best footage is that of uncut and unedited. It’s the truth. It’s not scrippted, it’s not staged, and it’s not perfected. It’s the real story, and that is the goal of the video. If it shows the subject negatively, that’s part of the story. Editing and scripting provides a false representations of subjects.

    When people watch documentaries, what they don’t realize is how many of them are dramatized and scripted. We expect the good film quality and intense music, when reality is, these are not real. Raw footage is real, and we very rarely get that in documentaries. The makers create these in regards to the audience watching. They know what the audience likes, and they will play to that no matter what they are taking out or putting in that could dirastically change the story. This is not okay. Viewers should all be in the know about shows like 20/20 and Dateline. These shows are dramatized to play to our emotions, whether or not they are providing the ENTIRE truth and both sides.
    March 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterinot1987

    With a story as dramatic and tragic as Schappelle Corby’s case in “Ganja Queen,” I think it is important for film makers to keep the audience updated with recent happenings. As a class, we found out a lot more about the case even just browsing Wikipedia. The facts stated on the Web sites we viewed swayed my opinion as a recent viewer. Documentaries are filmed to show the audience the pure facts. The directors/producers definitely owe it to the audience to keep them updated even with simple text before the credits roll.

    I also think it’s important for documentary filmmakers to use as much unstaged footage as possible. From personal experience, I am much more moved with actual footage as compared to a dramatization. The more “real” things appear on the screen, the more likely I am to believe them. It is staged and planned footage that can make everything look like a hoax. It can also sway the audience’s opinion a lot more by creating a bias. Only real footage can show what is actually happening, no matter how accurate the re-enactment.

    Lastly, I do have higher standards for films and documentaries presented on HBO. HBO is a very prestigious network and I expect only the best, most well-researched documentaries to be presented. While “Ganja Queen” may not have been completely unbiased (I believe they made Schappelle appear as the victim while telling a few stories from the other side), I do believe it was a well-made documentary. On the contrary, after doing post-watching research, there are a lot more recent developments that I thinks should be added (as previously mentioned to answer question one). Overall, I enjoyed watching Schappelle’s story; it really made me sit back and think about the ethical and moral issues of a journalist.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkew27

    After watching this movie, I was very disturbed by the judicial system in Bali. The documentary maker made me believe Shappelle Corby was innocent. I think the director did a good job updating the audience on the most recent events in Corby’s situation. I don’t think the filmmaker necessarily has to provide the extra information, but I think if they were trying to cater to their audience, they would include as much background/extra information as possible.

    I don’t think the filmmaker needs to coach the subject in any way, but I do think they should reveal all information about the angle they are going for and what their end goal is for the film. In addition, I believe the filmmaker is ethically responsible when editing the film. Editing can cause anyone to look anyway the filmmaker wants. If the purpose of the project is to show a realistic portrayal of Corby, then I think the filmmaker owes it to Corby and the audience to show the truth as much as possible.

    I do think there are a different set of values for documentarians than there are for reporters/news workers. Documentaries are designed to teach, entertain, persuade, etc. News stories are merely there to inform. Especially when something is aired on HBO, it should be taken with a grain of salt and further research on the subject should be performed.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJayhawk411

    When viewing a documentary I expect the filmmaker to have done his or her homework. Facts should be presented no matter what the maker is leading the viewer to believe. Important events and happenings being left out not only sway the viewer but leave the filmmaker with less credit. I think it is unfair to the viewer to be presented with a “documentary” that is only telling one side of the story. Everyone knows the film could be bias although I still would expect it to give the facts, no matter how it is being portrayed.

    With that being said, I don’t believe it is the filmmakers job to prep the subject on how to be more camera savvy. Viewers watch documentaries to see how the subjects act and to make decisions based on the information being presented to them. If I wanted to watch a film where the filmmaker was giving the subject instructions on how to look more camera savvy I would turn to Hollywood.

    I think viewers expect films on HBO to be somewhat more controversial. People don’t tune into HBO to educate their kids. Adults use HBO for entertainment. Therefore, the filmmakers were possibly aware to make the film more controversial to leave viewers on the edge of their seats.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCiaoBella

    When I watch documentaries, I know that they are meant to be objective and unbiased, although that can sometimes be difficult, because some things will simply be impossible to include, because people are not willing to participate in the film, some events are out of the camera’s reach, either in space, or time, and inevitably the film-maker will want to make the movie interesting and exciting.

    That being said, I think it would not be an unfair expectation for the film-maker to say something at the begining of the documentary, explaining that this film is showing the story mostly from the perspective of the family of the woman in jail.

    As such, the film was very well made, showing a great deal of footage of the family as they deal with the crisis, while including some interviews with other people involved in the case, like the security guard at the Bali airport who had the woman open her bag and found the marijuana. It clearly expresses one side of the court case, saying that she is innocent, while still showing why this case is a mystery and a difficult situation. And that’s fine, but the film-maker has a responsibility to remind the audience that this is not the entire story, this is just one point of view.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdugarte

    The broadcaster owes it to the audience to update them on the subject. While the documentary is over, the real life occurrences surrounding the events are not. People are watching this documentary to learn more about a real life event in a real life setting and deserve to know what continues to happen up to the date of production. Even though the perception might be radically changed, the idea of a documentary is not to have a set perception, but to show all the details and then leave the audience to decide for themselves how they feel.

    However, I do not think that filmmaker owes it to the subject to tell them how to portray themselves in the best light, but the filmmaker does owe it to them to explain how many people will potentially watch this documentary. Sometimes people might forget the entire world will be watching this, and they need to be reminded of this, so not to offend anyone. A documentary should be as real life as possible and little staged, so the filmmaker should not do anything to change the natural setting.

    We should have values for documentaries that are shown to audiences of any size. First, it is important to display both sides of the argument, which was done well in “Ganja Queen,” in my opinion. Also, all of the facts need to be displayed, which was done well in this film. Both sides were also allowed to speak one on one with the filmmaker in front of the camera which is also something that was good. Also, we need the documentaries to not be biased and try to show all of the facts, including the facts post-filming. “Ganja Queen” did a very good job of this, which is why the film made the audience think so much.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJacquelann

    The filmmaker is should be accountable for full and total disclosure. If any info is knowingly omitted from the documentary then it is no longer a documentary. The fact that the update about the neighbor was given definitely makes me feel a whole lot better, as a viewer, about the credibility of the source. Also, the interview that they had with the neighbor, again, is something that really pleases the audience and their ethos.

    I believe that in a case like this, the filmmaker shouldn’t be necessarily falsifying shots, but the subject(s) know they are being filmed, so some of the camera-ready performances are inherently unavoidable.

    Unfortunately for HBO, and other stations alike (MTV, VH1, etc.), credibility on documentaries is questioned from the beginning just because of who they are and the reputation that precedes them. If I had to guess what source would be more reliable between HBO and CNN, I would choose CNN 100% of the time. That is not saying that HBO did a bad job with this documentary, because I think it was done very well; however, HBO is not my first destination when I’m looking for a credible source on a newsworthy topic.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersunshine

    I think once the film maker has made the documentary and it has been aired, their responsibility to the film is over. As a journalist they have given their facts and up to date information for the time being. If facts about the innocent have changed, then it is the film makers responsibility to edit their film in order to make it ethically correct. Other film makers might use a different viewpoint or such when creating a film or documentary about the same subject, but I don’t think that should effect the first film maker.
    I think that it would be the film makers goal to not intervene with the person they are taping. The point of a documentary or reality taping is that what they are taping is actually reality. That means that the viewer is getting to see exactly what happened. With so many reality shows today, people don’t realize that many of them are actually not true reality. The film maker makes sure that the person is saying and doing things that will be good for the show. I don’t think that is giving the viewer the truth, so the film maker should only tape what is actually happening. There was a part in Ganja Queen when the girl was being told that her trial would be seen on lots of different channels in many different countries. The girl smiled and almost seemed excited. Although I don’t think that part made her look good, that was actually how she reacted, which made it truthful.
    I think the values that change between a documentary and just a ordinary show is that a documentary is more serious, and therefore should be more truthful. People expect the facts from every point of view for a documentary to show the truthfulness of the situation. People will believe a documentary because they will expect it to be completely true. In a reality TV show such as the Real World, the viewer just expects to be entertained. The viewer assumes the show to be true, but they don’t have as many expectations.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersugar086

    I believe that the broadcaster does not owe it to the audience to update knowledge about the subject. However, if the broadcaster is truly passionate (which he/she should be as the documentary’s creator) about the issue at hand, he/she will be inclined to provide updates about the situation. If updates are too burdensome for the documentary’s creator, I liked aimsk09’s idea of providing credible sources for the audience to use to find more information. The members of the audience that were deeply intrigued by the documentary will naturally act upon their curiosity by finding updated information on their own, without the broadcaster’s efforts.

    Coaching the subject would be absolutely against the purpose of a documentary. I believe that the purpose of the documentary is to make people more aware, to provoke opinions, and to have the audience relate themselves to the documentary’s subjects/situations. If Corby was coached, for example, and she seemed “fake,” then the audience would easily see through her and the director’s act. Consequently, people would make judgments based on the subject’s obvious façade instead of making opinions about the documentary’s subjects and the issues that they are facing.

    I do have different expectations of values for documentaries. I expect them to be better researched, be genuine, display both sides. Like news stories, I also expect documentaries to tell the truth and to be completely unbiased. Although I believe “Ganja Queen” could have displayed the “Bali” side more, I thought that the documentary was genuine and truthful.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKUkris1

    I think that as a documentary filmmaker it is their responsibility to update the audience on any changes or developments that might change the outcome of the story. The updates in the story may change the audience’s viewpoints and I think that information should be shared even after filming, releasing, etc. Since this is a criminal case changes may happen more frequently leaving more chances for updates by the filmmakers.

    I don’t think the filmmaker needs to explain to the subject how to act as long as they understand what they indeed are getting themselves into and have proper consent. An example of a documentary controversy would be Borat, certain subjects were unhappy with the way they were portrayed in the movie, but if they consented to be filmed (and coerced by alcohol as in the case of the sexist “frat boys”) then the fault lies on them as subjects not them as filmmakers. It is part of their job to document the real, unscripted situation.

    When a network such as HBO is used, I think that the audience expects is to be more like a movie and less like a documentary. Ganja Queen I think appealed more to HBO’s audience by portraying Corby as an example or a victim. If this documentary were released on another network or by a journalists some implications would be different, but I also think it is important for a documentary to be subjective and it is the audience’s responsibility to know that there are other sides to the story and this is just one. I think that because it follows a news story (and criminal case) an audience might expect a more objective viewpoint.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermegs527

    As for the first question, I personally love when they give the audience updates toward the end of the documentary. I do not think it is right to not include any new information they have received or taped. As a member of the audience, I would want to know the latest facts and pieces of information and I think that makes an excellent documentary. One that takes the time to relay all new information so the audience is fully aware of the current state of the subject or in this case Schapelle Corby.

    I do not believe that the filmakers should direct the person they are filming. It is supposed to be his or her true beliefs, actions, and feelings. I do not think the filmakers should be telling him or her how to look on camera, that takes away the reality of the film.

    I defiantly think documentaries on HBO should be well accredited, I think the editing should be carefully done and the documentaries should have all accurate facts and there should be no holes in the information. When I see a documentary pulled together by a news channel, I still expect the same guidelines to be followed, no matter what it should have all factual information, none of which is inaccurate and all recent information
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbosco

    The broadcaster owes all the knowledge that he/she possesses of the subject. If the possessor holds something back from the audience than he is not telling the whole truth. Telling the whole truth is an obligation a reporter has.

    I don’t think they owe the subjects any sort of heads up on what they appear as. The whole film should be unstaged which in turn shows the whole and proper truth, especially in a legal matter. The film director should never try to show a bias.

    I think we do and we should have different expectations of different journalistic mediums. HBO is a well-known program with an extensive reach and great influence. In the documentary “Ganga Queen,” HBO seems to be a little bias in favor of the victim. While I tend to agree with the view laid out by HBO, more liberal broadcasters probably want a more unbiased show.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike John 1013

    For documentaries made in the “Age of Web 2.0”, there’s no real excuse for the directors to not post at the very least a few updates on their official websites as the years go by. That being said, with the ability to search for updates online on virtually any given subject becoming increasingly easier, the responsibility is left more on the end of the viewers for uncovering developments with “Ganja Queen” since it was filmed. That is of course, whether the viewer in question even cares enough to further research this case or just be satisfied with the viewpoint of the documentary.

    The main,underlying goal of any documentary is supposed to be presenting information on a given topic in an objective matter. However, in order to keep the audience engaged in the documentary’s topic matter, the director also must entertain as much as inform.

    In Ganja Queen, the focus is not on finding out whether Schapelle Corby is innocent or guilty, but rather the reactions from Corby’s family and supporters to the media coverage with each phase of the trial. So right away, we are getting a subjective viewpoint from the get go. The idea of an objective documentary is not a dream however. With nature documentaries or scientific documentaries, it’s the closest you are going to get to pure, objective documentaries. However, how many people want to sit and watch this? It’s not very entertaining to a wide audience as is a topic that has controversy with an uncertainty of innocence.

    When people approach a person on trial potentially facing the death penalty and ask the person what happened,it in no way guarantees the person will tell the truth. My concern is with the ability of the documentary format to bring subjects to light that otherwise might go unnoticed or to show them in an entirely different light due to the way the subject is portrayed. This offers up some interesting ethical choices because nowadays everyone is a little more suspect of news journalism.

    The handheld camera sequences of the various cast of characters (from family members to supporters like Ron Bakir) and their reactions throughout the trial do come up as suspect because whenever recording a subject matter, we never get behind the scenes. So we must either put our full trust behind the editors and the director of the film that what they’ve arranged is an honest portrayal or smply view the doc as a piece of entertainment and reality-drama. In the end, the documentary accomplishes one of the fundamental reasonings behind its creation: to get the word out about this case. After the credits run by, its up to the audience to decide whether they are satisfied or not with the information presented.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBananagrams

    For me, after hearing the documentary was screened for HBO, I watched the film knowing that it was produced for its entertainment value at its core. If the documentary was shot for CNN, however, I would have had a different attitude going into viewing the film. With that said, it seemed to me that the film had a slight bias towards showing the victim’s side of the story, and not the prosecuting side. I don’t think this bias was overly obvious though. I would expect some changes to be made with regards to showing the prosecuting side though, if the film was shot for a news station.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwahchshi

    I think the broadcaster or documentary filmmaker most definitely needs to keep the audience updated. In the case of “Ganja Queen” this was well done. Although, I was surprised that I had not heard of this case until our class.
    I also think that it is the duty of the documentary filmmaker to inform the people of the film about how things work. Possibly scope them out on what to expect and how to act for the camera. Like you said, not very many people are media-savvy. Therefore, may not know how to respond to a constant camera in their face.
    I think the values of this film were very high. Considering the fact that it ran on HBO says a lot to me. This network is more prestigious to me than an independent documentary filmmaker channel. Therefore, all of the information is more believable and I did not feel at any time they were leaning to one side or the other in the case of Ms. Corby. The filmmakers brought about very relevant information in the case that the government of Indonesia had seemed to ignore. HBO wanted to find the truth in the documentary and I am still not certain if the truth is completely out.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterK523

    In response to the first question I do not think it is necessary to update the info if at the time of production everything was true. Information is constantly evolving in instances such as this which would make it almost impossible to ever complete. But if a director becomes up to date within a reasonable period of time before production is complete, the work should in some way include updates…that doesn’t mean change footage but at the end having a caption with the updates would suffice.

    On the issue of directing the subjects to act a certain way, I would have to lean towards no. I think a documentary should be as unprompted as possible, letting to audience experience a more rare scene. I would be unhappy to later find out a director told people how to behave on camera if it is labeled as a documentary.

    i do think a documentary on HBO isn’t made to be hard news… It is placed on a channel such as HBO for a reason and that is to entertain. SO, topics should be formatted to be entertaining without compromising the integrity of the subject involved.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEmily87

    I feel that it is impossible to make a documentary that is completely unbiased. There is always going to be a slant towards one direction or another. The director and creator can’t help but have a bias on case going into making the movie.
    It is very important for the filmmakers to come up with follow up movies because I feel that to tell the full story and document the events you must have follow ups. Things change and new develops will be uncovered that can change the whole story or case. Without this follow up the
    documentary would not be complete.

    I do not even feel that documentaries are completely newsworthy because of the emotional bias along with trying to make the movie entertaining causes a blurring of some of the facts. The fact that is is released for entertainment on HBO leads me to believe that the newsworthiness was a secondary function.
    March 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergretzky99

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