Good Scene / Bad Scene

Chosen by John Appel, the director of 'The Last Victory', which is released on DVD on 18 October
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The Independent Culture

THE GOOD: Grey Gardens, Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, 1975

THE GOOD: Grey Gardens, Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, 1975

This documentary was jointly made by a cameraman and sound-man. It's about an 80-year-old woman and her 50-year-old daughter living together in an old country house, and always fighting. Life seems to be about the rotten house and no more. I especially like the scene when the daughter addresses the film-makers, whispering a secret that she wants to share with them and not with her mother. She's complaining about her mother and telling the film-maker that she's planning to leave the house. But the audience knows she'll never leave. It's a very beautiful scene because the trust between the younger woman and the film-maker is so strong that she forgets that this is part of the film. It would have been a difficult decision whether to use it in the final edit. Sometimes I get more than I am supposed to from a person and, when filming is over, they might ask me to think about not using a scene. I really do think about it. I work very hard on building up relationships with people for my documentaries. Actually, the time spent without the camera is more important than that spent with it, and I never mind about missing a scene because I didn't have a camera. When the trust is there there will always be another chance.

THE BAD: Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore, 2002

In the last scene of this film, Michael Moore does something very bad for a documentary film-maker. He is meeting the pro-gun Hollywood actor Charlton Heston, and pretends to be a member of the National Rifle Association, though he's actually against it. Firstly, I don't try to invent something that wouldn't have happened without me, like this scene. Also, it's very obvious what he's planning to do, and while, of course, you have a goal of what you want a documentary to be about, it should be a feeling, rather than a very clear propagandist or agit-prop attitude. Heston then tells him that he doesn't want to do the interview any more. Finally, Moore puts some photographs, of kids that have been killed in school shootings like Columbine, in Heston's garden. It's so propagandist. Heston is a very easy victim, and it's quite easy for Moore to win the debate. He could have given the answers without Heston being there. He shouldn't do this as a documentary film-maker. I try to be as objective as possible. I judge the success of my films by whether the people I'm working with could say "yes" to the final edit. By always choosing one side of the story, you cannot be objective at all.

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