Harlan Country: In Class Group Work

Here are sections from your group responses from last night. Please feel free to add to what your group said in the comments and /or respond to what other groups have said. This would count for your blogging for next week!

Group 1 dealing with the portrayal of the miners wrote this: “The movie was more about social issues than personal issues between the men. Koppel is showing the miners’ determination to change the future.”

Group 2 dealing with the portrayal of women wrote this: “Some of the women were strong willed and brave. They pushed the men to keep striking when it seemed like they had given up. They pumped energy back into the men.”

Group 3 dealing with the film’s Rhetoric (logos, ethos, pathos) wrote this: Pathos: The folk music, the shooting scene, the funeral scene and the explosion. Logos: The doctor about black lung. Ethos: the mine workers themselves. The film used pathos more than the others.

Group 5 dealing with the film’s ethics wrote this: The director is letting the people speak for themselves; she isn’t speaking for them. She had informed consent and filmed them in their natural state. The funeral scene seemed questionable because of the emotional states.

Group 6 dealing with the role of the filmmaker wrote this: “She’s more of a participant than Frederick Wiseman but overall she’s more of an observer-participant”


DOC NYC Films – Please Vote!

Here are the two options we informally narrowed down to for the screening we’ll see on Saturday November 11th. Take a look at the links / previews and indicate in the comments to this post which one you prefer. Both look really good to me. The first is local about Queens (which I think would make it a bit easier to review given that we’re coming from Queens), and the second is an adaptation of the Truman Capote book, In Cold Blood. Note – these may sell out quickly – especially Cold Blooded since the filmmaker is pretty well known and will be at the screening. If I see soon that BOTH sell out, and it looks like a lot are selling out, I’ll simply purchase tickets to one not sold out and within our 4-7pm ish time frame.

  1. Iron Triangle – IFC Center 4:30pm
  2. Cold Blooded – Cinepolis Chelsea 6:45pm

“High School” Thoughts

After watching Frederick Wiseman’s documentary shot in observatory mode I’d have to say although films shot in this mode are supposed to seem to be “fly on the wall” perspective, we get a lot of Wiseman’s perspective since he’s the filmmaker and he’s the one who choses where and what to film and what makes it to the final cut. I like this mode of documentary because although it isn’t completely objective it seems to have less of the filmmakers direct voice or feelings on screen. I still don’t quite understand why this film was banned from view in that area of Pennsylvania where it was shot. I thought Wiseman did a good job of showing the everyday life of high school students, parents and faculty. While there were some moments in the film where I was kind of creeped out, such as the scene where the girls were in gym working out in little shorts and Wiseman seemed to be zooming in on their lower half unnecessarily . I wonder what that was supposed to tell the audience. The “gynecologist” talking to the high school boys about sex and women also seemed quite misogynistic and way too playful, even though I’m sure that was his way of maybe bringing himself down to the high school boys level to make them pay attention to what he was saying. Overall I thought the film did a good job of showing what a typical few days in any high school might entail. If only a few of the classes taught back then could have found their way into the current curriculum of schools now. I really think classes such as home economics and sewing and mechanics and such would be extremely helpful to all students, male and female alike. That may be part of what’s missing from younger people now a days, we have to learn skills like balancing a checkbook, maintaining credit, and changing a flat tire on our own if some of us even learn at all.

Planet Earth

planet earth is one of, not only mine but my family’s, favorite documentary series. In my family we all have an appreciation for the various sciences, but we love natural sciences the most. my dad had bought the complete dvd set and we all got around to watch it one day when we got snowed in by a blizzard. The documentary is the standard i hold to all nature documentaries. There’s never any signs of humans, or their tampering, and the narration is in post, so that you don’t have to hear a man talking through the elements. While the primary focus is the animals in the environs they go to, they also go over plant life, or the general conditions of said place; leaving no spare detail untold. it encapsulates everything about life in general, and the cinematography of it all is enough to make you weep. You can find on Netflix, or that this link here. I usually put in at night to fall asleep cuz I’ve seen it so many times.


I appreciated the documentary because it embarked on a journey to show high schoolers doing their daily whereabouts in school. You can imagine the political, social and economical problems going on during the Vietnam war. How the war can effect a child or early adult going to high school. The best part is you can observe the differences on high school then and how your own days in high school were. A situation where a boy facing detention is speaking up and going against the teacher . The staff was a lot more engaged i feel with the students. A teacher and student relationship can play a vital role on the educational future of the student. In the auditorium one of the staff members read a letter of a student who passed away from the war. Filling up with tears, the women was deeply effected by the letter that was sent. To conclude i would say the documentary teaches and illustrates the behavior and activities of young adult attending high school. Its educational a fulfills its role.

The Last Dragon

I was a kid when i saw this film, (X) so i couldn’t really discern fact from fiction. the movie presented itself as a documentary, but upon reflection i now realize it was all staged, nevertheless it’s a sort of mockcumentary. The people in it are on a search for dragon fossils and they conveniently find a dragon’s body preserved in ice. Then while dissecting and examining the body, they go over the science of how dragons would’ve existed. From the way they fly, to their behavior in mating seasons. As a kid I thought it was pretty cool, and I still do, but it really is just a documentary about dragons with staged up prop for it. Still, it it’s a good hour and a half long documentary, that peaked a love a science in me to this day. I highly recommend it if you know any little kids that like science, dragons, or both!

Wiseman is a Wise Man

I just watched the interview with Wiseman, and I have to say he is not at all as I pictured him. I thought him to be a pseudo-artist all caught up in his own ego, from the kind of movies he makes, and how he doesn’t believe anything aside from raw film can be considered a documentary. Instead he seemed to be a genuine artist doing something he loved.

Prior to watching High School, I was a little shaky on this form of documentary. Truthfully, it doesn’t seem like great fun to watch on paper, but it really is magic once Wiseman brings it to life. I find it wonderful how he can just string together various clips he’s taken and form a narrative purely based on observation. The fact that he doesn’t clearly state anything, I find alluring. There is a beauty to simplicity, and letting actions speak for themselves, and this film (and I hope other films he makes) captures this so precisely.

I didn’t get the desired effect immediately after viewing, but on my drive home last week I passed by my old high school (which I do every day), and was hit with a wave of nostalgia brought on by the film. That’s when I realized how well that film captured high school life. It really shocked me that generational struggles are a constant in high school, I know it makes sense, but I thought there would be some evolution in school dynamic over the course of 50 years.

I walked away from this film with a great respect for what Wiseman makes, as well as a hunger to watch a few more of his movies.

The observer effect

This seems to come up a lot during class. Does human behavior change while being watched?Over 360 children have participated in a phycology experiment in 1976 on halloween. The phycologist put themselves into eighteen different homes. They would talk to the children for a little then ask them to take one piece of candy only after shutting the door and leaving them alone with the bowl. On some houses they put down a mirror in the corner and most kids seemed behave and not take more the one piece while looking at there own reflection. They felt as if they were being watched. Even being underneath there halloween masks and costumes. I cant find the specific film on it right now but i’m going to try and find it and link it to the page tonight.

High school

This documentary was very interesting. It had many impactful moments. The documentary did give a sense of being observational but you could also tell that the students and teachers knew that there was a camera. The reason why I say this is because In some scenes of the documentary it seem acted. Furthermore they would stare right at the camera. Other parts of the documentary were very effective for instance the part where one of the girls wears a dress that is way to short to prom. The principle is talking to her and one of the teachers as well. The part that was realistic was what the teacher states. She explains that she doesn’t like to wear the long clothing either but she has to so that she can be an example. She also mentions that her husband just bought brand new suits but he isn’t able to wear them because it is not in the uniform code. The students may have also acted  rebellious because the camera was there. For instance the student on the phone he didn’t listen the first two times he was told to get off the phone. The documentary did feel real and I got a feeling of being in high school again. In this high school you can tell the students had many extra curriculum activities and classes. For instance the fashion class, typing class, language classes. This provides the students with a great chance to succeed that is probably why the students were all in all well behave. You didn’t see many fights unless the filmmaker decided to cut those parts out. If he did the reason why he would cut those parts out would be so that the ending would make sense that the school is united. The fights that were in the documentary were only talked about you don’t get to see them I think If he had gotten moments like that on camera it would have made a difference on the documentary but overall it was great to watch. It had many concpts that worked.

Two Links related to High School

One of my favorite shots in HS

So I did a bit of digging online, and I found that there is a site that had High School streaming right now in case any of you want to review a scene or two following last night’s screening in class. I also found a PBS hosted interview with Wiseman where he talks about what he was doing and aiming for in the film. It’s pretty interesting! I see that a few of you have already posted blog entries about this film following class yesterday. I hope more of you will continue to do this – and comment on each other’s existsing HS posts. We got a bit cut short by class ending last night while we were still discussing, so please feel free to use this platform to continue.

Link to High School streaming online

PBS Interview with Wiseman

          High School honestly brought back a lot of memories for me. I think this may be a part of Wisemans’ plan because not only does this documentary really bring a sense of you being there, but it almost feels like you are watching this through a pair of eyes and not a lens. There are a few points in the movie where he seems to zoom in on weird shots, or even questionable ones such as the girl’s gym class. Maybe that is the point though, the focus is on things that a person may be focused on to begin with. A girl with a pretty face in the hall, the boys lip quivering while he’s trying to be argue his innocence, a mother’s hand fidgeting etc. This gives the film a sense of agency because it doesn’t feel like observation it feels like you are there. I don’t think that the people in the film are acting perfectly natural, but they do seem relaxed and going about their day to the best of their ability. The arguments are credible, I mean they feel like something anyone in the audience may have easily gone through, or witnessed as a high school student. It was just relatable, I found myself enthralled watching the film unfold but at the same time going down my own memories. I remembered my own experiences, my detentions, my impossible arguments with teachers, but most importantly the people that affected my life. See at the end when the teacher reads that note allowed she begins by saying that this person wasn’t great academically he was below average really. She isn’t bashing him she’s saying that even though he wasn’t a great student and maybe caused trouble that wasn’t a reason to give up on him, the teachers that stood by him truly impacted him as a person. I feel like maybe this was Wisemans’ message the importance of these moments in our life’s, the effect that high school and our teachers have on us. He spent all that time filming the day and showing all these different interactions with different people, it’s those memories that we eventually carry with us that he wants to emphasize. Just like the ones I was remembering while I watched in awe remembering the good and bad, and witnessing the same unfold so vividly in front of me.

Night & The Fog

This documentary was very intense. The film maker did a great job by capturing the the essence of the historical surroundings. It amazed me how people were going “missing” on these trains and yet they were persistent to get on it, for a new start. They overlooked their reality. This film captures the Holocaust. It was hurtful to watch man kind abuse their power. The concentration camps were stink with gas chambers, the victims starved to death, they would crawl and slowly die in the snow or in the soil for a more peaceful death. The audience can relate to human suffrage by having sympathy. The film maker used the pathos and ethos techniques. The images made me see how inhumane and distraught humans can be, even though we have the will to change the outcome, we tend to go along with the crowd. This film can depict the lesson of what can be beautiful on the outside can be toxic on the inside. The camp looked beautiful, almost as a mini town but in all reality it was the death penalty awaiting. Resnais narrative was significant. The body image deteriorating everyday, the political perspective and even though there were traumatizing scenes I was able to feel like I was present in that time period.