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What is Cinema Verite?

Cinema Verite, Cinema Verité

What is Cinema Verite?

Cinema Verite is a French film movement, which took place back in the 1960s. This film movement forced the movie industry to pay more attention towards incorporating natural actions and authentic dialogue into the movies, which showed people in day to day lives. Basically, the movement was about observing and capturing life as it was or finding truth in the moving images.

Before this movement, filmmakers recorded footage, interviews, and actual conversations separately. The camera was usually handheld. Then they would review the footage and cut them all together. However, this technique did not have the ability to give life to realistic looking movies.

Many different factors influenced the production of documentary movies in the 20th century. Post World War II, neorealist movement, and the British independent documentaries hold a prominent place out of them. In fact, all these reasons contributed significantly towards the rise of Cinema Verite during the 1960s. However, the film industry elites heavily criticized the Cinema Verite movement at that time.

That’s because it focused more in reportage instead of showing the expressions of the artist. However, the primary objective of the Cinema Veritemovement was to direct movie industry into greater realism. The method made it possible to create a tremendous impact on the documentary filmmaking, which can even be seen today.

Cinema Verite was able to give life to some of the outstanding productions in the history of French Cinema. Chris Marker’s Le Joli Mai and Jean Rouch’s Chronique d’un ete, which were released during the early 1960s, are perfect examples to prove the above-mentioned fact.

A movement that is similar to Cinema Verité was originated in the United States as well. It was powered by the introduction of 16mm equipment, which had the ability to record audio and video content in a synchronous manner. This equipment was portable and relatively inexpensive when compared to the other devices that were being used in the movie industry at that time.

The movement that took place in the United States was also known as Cinema Verite, but it became popular as Direct Cinema, because of the obvious language barrier. The primary objective of this movement was to capture the movements and expressions of a person in a realistic manner. This movement was against the rearrangement of the camera.

The pioneers of this movement include the Maysles brothers, Donn Pennbaker, Frederick Wiseman and Ricky Leacock. The immense contributions they did to the Cinema Verite movement in the United States delivers positive results even up to date.

What Ever Happens, Happens!

As mentioned earlier, Cinema Verite was able to create a significant impact on the global film industry. Those influences can even be seen today. Therefore, it is important to compare Cinema Verité with the modern documentary style and get to know about the noticeable differences that exist in between these two.

The popularity of modern documentary has significantly increased throughout the past couple of years. However, the roots of it go back to the 1960s, where Maysles brothers came into the industry. It was changed along with the generations, but the primary influences remained unchanged.

First of all, it is important to have a clear understanding of the meaning behind real documentaries. Even though movies that were based on actual stories were released back in history, the raw essence of people was not incorporated into them. In other words, real places, real events or the interests of real people were not taken into account as a whole when creating the documentaries.

Even though the exact meaning behind true documentary has changed along with time, it is based on some fact or truth. The films that fit into it can be divided into two broad categories as Cinema Verité and modern documentary.

Check out the amazing HBO film Cinema Verité, starring Diane Lane, Tim Robbins and James Gandolfini.

The first documentary was created back in 1922 by Robert J. Flaherty. The film’s name was Nanook of the North. This silent documentary was filmed in the frozen wilds of Canada. No historical evidence about a feature length documentary is found before this film, and it can be considered as the first ever documentary as a result of it. The government of United States knew the importance of this documentary.

This is the main reason why the government selected this documentary into the first 25 films to be preserved. The Library of Congress plays a significant role in these preservation activities.

Now it is important to take a look at Cinema Verité, which took place during the 1960s. Cinema Verité movement was originated along with the French New Wave movement.

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The increasing popularity of portable audio and camera equipment contributed a lot towards the origins of it. In other words, Cinema Verité gave life to a studio type style of production. Cinema Verité promoted the production of movies that captured a raw style with the help of on location, audio, video and lighting.

David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Robert Drew were prominent figures behind Cinema Verité. They took necessary measures to introduce new advancements into this conceptual style along with the help of direct cinema. These new additions emphasized direct relationships between the subjects and the film crew. As a result, they were able to give life to more realistic looking productions at the end of the day.

Before the Cinema Verité, there was a narrator in all the documentaries, who explained things to the audience. Cinema Verité eliminated the role of the narrator, and it gave life to a new revolution. In fact, it delivered more freedom to the editor. That’s because the editor got the freedom to tell the story with freedom and in an obscure manner.

Modern documentary style has some differences when compared to the Cinema Verité style. The main difference that you can find in between these two styles is the presence of a narrator. On the other hand, a lot of time, as well as effort, are being put into the post-production stage of modern documentaries. Also, the cinematography is a lot more sophisticated than the documentaries which came out as a result of Cinema Verité.

The post-production stage is associated with a variety of activities that include sound design, music design, graphic effects and other forms of editing. More directorial control came out as a result of Cinema Verité. They looked more like the documentaries that were created by Michael Moore. Roger and Me is a perfect example to prove the fact mentioned above.

Facts about Cinema Verite

Cinema Verite is also known as observational cinema. If you pay close attention towards this style, you will figure it out as more of pure direct cinema. That’s because it does not incorporate the voice-over of a narrator.

You will also be able to figure out a couple of subtle, but important changes. Cinema Verite was associated with the interaction between the subject and the filmmaker along with style setups. This interaction was there up to the point of provocation as well.

They firmly believed that it is the most convenient method available for them to express the truth behind the cinema. Cinema Verite acknowledged the camera as well. In fact, the camera plays a significant role by filming people, objects and the events related to the scene in a confrontational manner. The primary goal of the filmmaker was to represent the exact reality that he was experiencing at the time of recording.

They believed that giving life to such realistic outputs can free people from all sorts of deceptions. To achieve this, the filmmakers wanted to be the catalysts of all situations. As a result, they had to put a tremendous effort on the entire scene as well.

In the Cinema Verite style, the filmmakers set up the whole scene and then proceed to record them and capture lighting in a bottle. An excellent example of this is the 1963 film Pour La Suite Du Monde. The filmmaker asked a group of senior individuals to fish for a whale. The result of the documentary was not recording how a group of elders was whale fishing.

It was about lineage and memory. In this sense, Cinema Verite style is concerned about anthropological cinema. The political and social implications were also captured in the movies. On the other hand, it changed the way how a filmmaker shoots a film and what are the objects that are filed in it. On the contrary, Cinema Verite focused on what specific objects should be recorded on a movie and the way how it should be presented to the audiences.

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  1. […] inspiration from independent auteurs such as Spike Lee, employing similar techniques such as cinema verite, or imitating a documentary, to signify the show’s relationship to reality. I definitely […]