Can journalism be art? Where is the line between journalism and art? At what point does the creator lose control of the story, letting it become a creation of its own?
This week I have been considering the distinction (or lack thereof) between news and art, authentic and designed and unplanned and calculated. Journalism sometimes can and should capture a story as it actually happened. Other times, stories require different untraditional techniques to tell the story accurately.
In my multimedia lecture this week, my professor showed us a short film by Tyler Stableford called “Shattered.” The film combines beautiful video of a mountain climber in Telluride, Colo. with a rhythmic, poem like narration of the inner thoughts of the climber. As aesthetically pleasing as the video was, I was confused by why we were shown the video: The short film wasn’t journalism after all. It was scripted, created and devised. As I considered the video more, however, I realized the short film captured the feelings of a climber better than any traditional journalistic video could. Sometimes “based on a true story” is better than the complete true story, even in journalism.
Every year Columbia, Mo. hosts two wonderful film festivals. This weekend I was lucky enough to see the closing film of the CItizen Jane Film Festival with the group of freshmen I teach every week as part of my Peer Advisor position with MU Residential Life. The festival showcases a variety of films made by women. I saw “The New Black” Sunday night, which is a documentary about LGBT issues in the black community. The film’s storyline focused on Maryland’s 2012 referendum that allowed voters to accept or reject a bill to legalize gay marriage. The film was really beautiful. It captured two very complex sides of the issue, and investigated the perspective of a community mainstream media doesn’t always cover. While the film contained more traditional journalism elements than “Shattered,” it still had a number of artistic elements to it. It wasn’t a 5-minute video on a news website, instead it was a full length film.
Last year as a warm-up to Columbia’s annual True/False Film Festival, MU held an event called “Based on a True Story: The Intersection of Documentary Film and Journalism.” I didn’t get a chance to go last year, but the event discussed issues of journalism and film in-depth. The event’s website mentions popular documentaries such as Michael Moore’s “Sicko” and discusses CNN’s addition of a documentary film unit.
This kind of work certainly dives into an unfamiliar realm of journalism. In my class this week, I am working to produce two videos. I hope I can capture the news of what I’m covering foremost, but I also hope I can add the kind of artistic flair that makes films like “Shattered” and “The New Black” so compelling.