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Old February 20th, 2006, 10:58 AM   #31
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Appropos of intervention, observation and intrusions... the following thread

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=61083

Just posted, illustrates the paradox of being "Objective" in a documentary setting. Whether human or animal.

It goes back to my first posted response. I think at some point, the filmmaker must ask themselves "Am I advancing the subjects well being?" as opposed to simply my own? That in turn, raises the question of "The greater good". In other words, by allowing this incident to happen unimpeded or unaided, am I helping the species as a whole, even though this subject is suffering?

Very very difficult questions.
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Old February 21st, 2006, 08:09 AM   #32
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<<<[QUOTE=Sean McHenry]I think it was Miliken who said something about how simply observing a thing shapes how it will act and react. I have used that all my life. If you want to understand wildlife, in my view, it should be done with a long lens from far away.

<<<EDIT>>>

What is the goal of shooting wildlife? Are we simply making pretty moving images of an eagle soaring over the peaks at Yellowstone or are we trying to make a saleable movie that will attract an audience? If the later, what is the motivation there? To do it well and technically accurate? To make money? To get publicity for ones self or perhaps political interest, as in conservation movements or hunting advocacy?

Everything to me ultimatly comes down to the underlying philosophy of "why"? Why is someone making a documentary on Bears? Why in hell is he living with them if he is trying to make a documentary on bears? He has tainted any natural reaction of the animals by attempting to live with them, etc. Why then is he doing this? Hey, he may have been a great guy, and I am sorry anyone has to go out the way he did but, I don't think anyone can deny, he was not fully loaded but he probably knew all the risk he was taking.>>>>


In my personal view, Mr. McHenry has it nailed. That guy filming a
'bear doc' was making an ego centric movie about himself.
It is possible, like Jane Goodall, he wanted to learn about the
bears close up, but by putting himself in close proximity to the
bears he wasn't doing them (or himself) any favors.

I am completely ignorant of what actually happened, but it would
seem to me that his death probably resulted in at least one bear being killed.
I can only find fault with the human here. Grizzleys eat meat and this
guy darn well knew it. People who try to acclimatize large predators
to humans put their subjects at TERRIBLE PERIL.

The way I see it, wildlife filmmakers should be trying to show the beauty
of nature and thereby get people to love and care about it.
At the same time we should educate the public and finally get them interested in preserving and restoring wild places and the creatures
and plants that live there.
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Old February 21st, 2006, 11:48 AM   #33
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an ongoing process, hopefully

<<<The way I see it, wildlife filmmakers should be trying to show the beauty
of nature and thereby get people to love and care about it.
At the same time we should educate the public and finally get them interested in preserving and restoring wild places and the creatures
and plants that live there>>> sez Jacques Mesereau ...

... and I agree with every word of that. I'd go further and say that in the process of learning about nature we might learn to respect it in all its diversity and then feel just a little bit encouraged/obliged to respect each other in all our diversity ... helping others to do so as well is just part of the deal ... it's an ongoing thing ... nothing to do with macho displays or bravado
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Old February 21st, 2006, 01:32 PM   #34
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Ethics of Wildlife filming

Hi Folks,

I think that Jacques raises an interesting point when he writes about the ego-centric qualities that he feels impelled Grizzly Man to explore the world of the grizzly bear from the inside. I am sure there are quite a few who might echo these sentiments. I am not sure one can be so black and white about the issue, though it is very tempting to be so. My doubts surfaced long before this latest stunt, when I saw the film about Jane Goodall. She almost become a saint in the eyes of the general community, yet to me the Holywood style film painted her character in such black and white terms that I could only guess at what type of woman she really was. This iconographic portrayal certainly set a trend for the study of wild communities of animals, which perhaps culminated in what we see with the demise of Grizzly Man. The difference with Jane Goodall perhaps, is that she was motivated by need rather than desire.

On a completely philosophical note, it was an interesting point that was raised earlier that the nearby indigenous people gave an adverse reaction to the filming. This criticism was issued for a particular reason and I am not surprised no one picked it up, since it expresses a viewpoint that is completely alien to modern minds. To paraphrase: It is not in the remit of humans to remain as an animal, humans are obliged to differentiate themselves. Looking at this statement carefully I am of the mind that it originated out of a recognition, generated by shamanistic practice, of the real danger of animal possession – which certainly applied to the tribes-folk if not to modern people.

I noticed on James Ewan’s website that he completed a film on a Jungian topic. Jung frequently referred to his time in Africa with the Bushmen - which subsequently stimulated the efforts of Laurens Van de Post in the same area of study. Jung knew from many years of psychiatric practice about the matter of possession and was interested to correlate his findings with the activities of the tribes-people he met. Some of his most interesting findings were to do with Shamanistic practices, and I remember reading in a book by Jung about the matter of a crocodile fatality. In the view of the tribe elders the fatality was not to be regarded as a contingency of living near crocks, but a meant to be event - betokening some important particular activity of the river spirit. Statistically, Jung conjectured, a native should have been eaten once every month, except that they were protected by participation with a natural deity that governed both predator and prey.



There is no doubt that Pandora’s box is well and truly open in Africa, (where they tell us it all started), and it seems to me symptomatic of the whole destructive process going on in nature. Jung foresaw this crisis in humanity and prescribed that man needed to assimilate his instincts, the ignorance of which amounted to one of the most destructive of personal and social problems. This way, we could live in harmony with our own nature and with the nature around us. Jung knew we could not approach this matter through our ego-centric personality, but that we had to rely on the alchemy of our chosen path. In this respect, I have always found Natural Historians quite unique. I believe their intimacy with nature often allows them a peek behind the veil of their own instincts, - it certainly vitalises them in a way I have not seen elsewhere.

Grizzly Man was obviously no Jungle Boy, but the myth persists and is still amplified, even in modern society, about a person who is nurtured by an intimacy with the animal kingdom.

So, Grizzly Man: mythic possession, or misguided sensationalism – you judge.

Rod Compton

P.S My sincere condolences to his family and loved ones
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Old February 21st, 2006, 04:49 PM   #35
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The Ethics of Wildlife Shooting

Wow! What a thread! This has been the most interesting reading I've ever seen on this kind of topic.

I am not currently a wildlife videographer (although I would like to be), but I have shot several video and audio documentaries about human subjects. I'm struck by how many of the ethics questions we are asking in this thread parallel the ethical questions in the making of ANY documentary.

The first is a question of fairness. When I am dealing with human subjects, I always ask myself, "Am I treating this person fairly?" "Am I doing my best to present them in a way in which they would present themselves?" This is a little harder to do with subjects that can't speak for themselves, such as animals, but it seems like the principle is the same. If you are putting animals in an unnatural situation and making them behave in a way that they wouldn't ordinarily, you are being unfair to the animal, (and to science!).

Second is the question of objectivity. Frankly, I don't believe it exists, and I have always thought it is more ethical to wear your heart on your sleeve than to claim (falsely) to be utterly unbiased. If you are making a documentary, you have a point of view, or you wouldn't be making the movie. I think "balance" is a more worthy goal -- you need to present multiple (not just two!) sides, but also make sure your thesis is clear and transparent, so that intelligent people may disagree. A wildlife film that makes it clear that the filmmaker thinks wolves are wanton killers, and cites evidence to back it up (and perhaps opposing views), is likely to promote a spirited debate. On the other hand, a supposedly "authoritative" or "objective" news report on the same subject, with a subtle and unacknowledged bias is less likely to be challenged, or to stimulate any debate at all.

Finally,at the risk of stirring the beehive a bit more, I'd like to throw out a question. We seem to agree that Timothy Treadwell in "Grizzly Man" overstepped the bounds of appropriate behavior in the wild -- and paid for that with his life. But I think a more interesting question is how do we feel about Werner Herzog's ethics as the maker of the movie? Is Herzog exploitative? Should Herzog have made the film? Might it not inspire someone else to emulate Treadwell's bad example?

Personally, I think if you apply the tests I've described above to "Grizzly Man," you'll see that Herzog approached it about right. He gave Treadwell lots of time to explain himself in his own words, he talked to people who both agreed and disagreed with Treadwell's methods, and finally, Herzog made very clear how he felt about Treadwell himself.

I'd be very interested in hearing what other people think.
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 08:31 AM   #36
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Okay, I just went to this site


http://bigscreen.com/NowShowing.php?...582&view=media

and viewed the trailer.

My personal view is that there is NO DOUBT (in my mind) that
this is an EGO CENTRIC "documentary." Timothy was making
a movie about himself. The bears he ignorantly put at great peril
are not the stars of this movie, he is.

You can watch him actually wade up to and touch a
bear in a river. WHY? That is totally unacceptable! Who is this guy who
goes up to a wild animal and has the audacity to touch it? IMO,
this guy is trying to prove he has cojones, but in reality he has NO
sense and his purported 'love' for the bears he will "die" for is _completely_
misplaced. To acclimatize these predators to humans will (and I'd
bet did) result in bears being killed . . . so much for Tim's love.
Not only did he die for the bears, but I am fairly sure the bear died too.

Before he was killed by a bear, IMO, Tim should have been arrested and
put in jail for harassing an endangered species.

I will NEVER pay even a single penny to see this movie.
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 09:13 AM   #37
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Thanks Brian, it’s interesting that it all started very quietly with very few posts.

I am interested in your description of ‘objectivity’. When I talk I am often misunderstood if I don’t define what I mean when I use the term ‘objectivity’. In this context we are talking about detachment; in an earlier thread I said, ‘wildlife filming was being taken out of the hands of the intellectuals’, by which I meant, it was now ‘not’ being done with detachment by people who repressed compassion for the subjects they were observing – as in lab rat experiments.

Jung used the notion of an ‘objective psyche’, which to me completes the circle of reality along with the notion of ‘objective material reality’. So in my world, ‘objectivity’ is the correlation of these two entities in a balanced judgement, (or at least that is the goal). When I spoke about ‘the alchemy of the craft’ it was this process I was referring to, which acts as much on the subject as it acts upon oneself.

You mention your dealings with human subjects; I have just this moment completed an interview with an old character of eighty and the spontaneous thoughts I generated on the way back were all about my reasons for doing the work at all. There is no money at stake and it was done at my request, so there were no commissioning factors involved. My thoughts generated to my Father, and as a corollary to the type of relations this man had with his family, to which he scarcely referred. This dual, subject/object reflection and interaction is the alchemy I was referring to.

In the wild we shoot what we are directed to shoot, by whatever forces are involved in the dynamics of our lives. I think it is essential that this process challenges us in every way that we are susceptible, because ultimately it ought to provide the platform, not only for more developed work, but also for a more developed personality.

Rod Compton

As for Mr Herzog, if you look at his work I think you will see he is a myth maker and knows a good story when he finds one. Jung influenced almost every person he came into contact with from the founder of AA to Wells, and by contrast said, that some of his most illuminating conversations were with completely anonymous people.
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 09:26 AM   #38
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Hi Jaques

Thanks for reviewing it for me, I don't have the stomach for it, nor for the rubbish we are getting in the UK from Australia - with swamp men jumping on alligators and snakes. It's clear that the work does not represent our craft and is just sensationalist - I take your word for it. It seems that the pendulum of involvement with the subject has swung too far. It is a lesson for us to learn, I hope we shall all be more circumspect in future.

Rod Compton
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 10:43 AM   #39
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On "Grizzly Man," that clip is not really representative of the movie as a whole. It's interesting to me that people tend to assume that if a filmmaker makes a movie about someone, it necessarily follows that the filmmaker endorses the subject's point of view. Yet in some of the most interesting documentaries (Errol Morris' "Doctor Death" and "Fog of War" come to mind), the filmmaker deliberately sets him or herself in opposition to their subject.

I would put "Grizzly Man" in that category. Far from sensationalizing Treadwell's escapades with bears in Alaska, Herzog makes it clear that not only does he think Treadwell's escapades are foolhardy and naive, but he also, through voiceover commentary, questions Treadwell's entire world view. There's a scene where Treadwell is cavorting with a male grizzly and you hear Herzog's voice saying something like "When Treadwell looks into a grizzly's eyes, he sees love and compassion. When I look at closeups of grizzly bears, I see no empathy, no emotion only raw, uncaring nature." I see this movie as the very antithesis of "Crocodile Hunter," more of a cautionary tale about over-anthropomorphizing nature, rather than sensationalist hero-worship.

I also agree with Rodney's comment that Herzog is a myth maker. But looking at the word "myth" in the Jungian context brought up earlier in this thread, what's wrong with that? Isn't telling archetypal stories that teach us something about the human (and non-human) condition why we make documentaries to begin with?

Rodney, in answer to your point about "objectivity," I guess I would question whether anyone can really be completely detatched from their subject. Every observer brings a host of biases, beliefs, understandings and objectives to anything they observe. Every time you frame a shot, make a cut, or string two scenes together, you are responding, whether consciously or unconsciously, to your world view. That's why they call it "point of view." Truth, it seems to me, comes not from a single unbiased source, but through constructive dialogue between many people with differing points of view. The first is autocratic, the second is democratic. If people hide their points of view, this thesis-antithesis-synthesis dialogue can't take place.

Last edited by Brian Standing; February 22nd, 2006 at 10:46 AM. Reason: Corrected typos.
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 11:56 AM   #40
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<<<EDIT>>> <<<Far from sensationalizing Treadwell's escapades with bears in Alaska, Herzog makes it clear that not only does he think Treadwell's escapades are foolhardy and naive, but he also, through voiceover commentary, questions Treadwell's entire world view. There's a scene where Treadwell is cavorting with a male grizzly and you hear Herzog's voice saying something like "When Treadwell looks into a grizzly's eyes, he sees love and compassion. When I look at closeups of grizzly bears, I see no empathy, no emotion only raw, uncaring nature." I see this movie as the very antithesis of "Crocodile Hunter," more of a cautionary tale about over-anthropomorphizing nature, rather than sensationalist hero-worship.>>>

Did at any time Herzog make mention of the danger in which
this overzealous and misguided young man was placing these bears?

Maybe the fact that Herzog was rolling camera made this kid go beyond
(way over the top) what he would do without the presence of a famous
filmmaker looking for "good" footage? I would find Mr. Herzog
cupable in the criminal act of harrassing endangered wildlife.

No matter what the filmmaker wants his message to be in Grizzly Man,
the very fact that this movie has been 'picked up' will most likely create a
following of "monkey see monkey do" wannabes and similar 'nature film-makers'.

My heart is sickened at the thought.
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 12:21 PM   #41
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Thanks Brian for clarifying the matter and attempting to differentiate 'Grizzly' from the crock and snake stuff for me; is Herzog one of your favourites.

I agree with you completely about being committed to your subject. The notion of an alchemy in your craft draws together the subject with his film maker in a completely intimate embrace, which in time should result in a higher synthesis. Thereby, we are always in the process of becoming.

When I referred to a 'myth maker', I was trying to differentiate an ideal of film making, which went beyond the prescriptive Archetype and truly touched the humanity or natural character of the subject. Obviously, since we are all so wrapped up in mythology, we are always being presented with a fusion of metaphysical and material entities. However, my experience of Archetypal possession in the human field leads me to understand that it is characterised by a sort of 'inflated drama personality'. The reason I mentioned Jung's anonymity factor is because of a tendency for famous humans to personify, or, more to the point, be possessed by archetypal forces. It seems to me that, the more famous a person becomes, the more open to this type of inflation they become. In the UK media and politics, it is so clear to me that this process is taking place. Symptomatic of this transformation, is where the individual politician unconsciously starts to change so as to personify their public image. In effect, they become a caricature of themselves. Politicians seem most prone to it, though TV presenters are also implicated too - it's as if the clothes they are wearing don't quite fit. I see it is a sort of archetypal imprinting and as such it enthrals both subject and audience alike. I believe most people not only like stereotypes and icons, whether of the human or the animal type, they actually crave them. Its as if they are attention seeking children, who having been given some goodies to start with will subsequently put up with all manner of other less appetising stuff because it comes from the same source.

I am basically talking about the craving for recognition that most people want and that includes film makers, whether in the social or natural history field. Many will bend to the prevailing wind in what they try to achieve and in the process cross the line. They know when they are doing it, but by habit they will become less and less sensitive to the impact that it creates with their subjects. The purity and innocence of natural history work mostly immunises against this, but the perseverance of scenes of death, where time after time we are shown antelope being dragged down by animals of prey, is just pandering to the morbidity of an anaesthetized public and achieves nothing more for the subject. I heard recently, through the trade, that around some water holes in Africa you can't point a camera without getting another crew in shot - this is the sort of pressure I am talking about with the phrase 'prevailing wind'.

I have given up a career in which I sometimes met and photographed famous people to go back to my first pure love: Nature; but even here it seems I am pursued by demons from the past.

Rod Compton

P.S

In the UK we satire ruthlessly to slay as many inflated icons as we can put our pens to. In the UK a certain world politician and a primate are often compared. I have to recount a pair of pictures I recently saw in a magazine in which a famous politician was being lampooned by comparing him with his comedic equivalent. No, it was not the current world leader, it was Picture Post, Summer 1939 and of Adolf Hitler and Charlie Chaplin.
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 03:37 PM   #42
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I was going to comment on the Grizzly Man but on the page provided by Jacques we get:

Starring Timothy Treadwell, Amie Huguenard

'nuff said...
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 07:44 PM   #43
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Actually, Jacques, Herzog didn't shoot any footage of Treadwell; I don't believe they ever met. Treadwell routinely carried a VX-2000 camcorder and a tripod with him on all of his sojourns to grizzly country. Treadwell shot hours and hours of DV tape of himself before he died. Herzog edited the movie from Treadwell's tape, supplemented with new interviews with Treadwell's friends, family, opponents, game wardens, coroners, etc. And yes, there is quite a bit of discussion about the risk to the bears Treadwell was creating.

Rodney, I think Werner Herzog, Errol Morris and Les Blank are the holy trinity of modern documentary filmmaking, so yes, Werner's one of my favorites. Though, I should note, I don't care for Herzog's fiction films nearly as much as I like his docs.

I think you're right; people do like stereotypes -- they're easy to understand and very convenient. What I have always found fascinating, and one of the reasons I do documentaries, is that EVERYONE and EVERY situation is far more complicated than the convenient stereotype would have you believe. There's a Zen koan that says "All categories are wrong." I think this applies to animals as well as people. You spoke of ego-centricity: what could be a bigger egocentric fault than trying to make animals appear like humans?

I have a couple of ideas about some wildlife docs I'd like to do; they all involve commonplace animals people see every day in suburban environments. I'd like to explore the complex, hidden life of these critters that everyone thinks they know well.
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 07:45 PM   #44
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Oops -- double post.
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 10:40 PM   #45
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THanks to this thread I made my girlfriend rent "Grizzly Man" tonight.

Fantastic! I look forward to the sequels: "Great White Man", "Crocodile Man" and "Tiger Man".
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