Documentary upholds mission of chronicling today’s life

Sunday, 2021-09-26 13:02:43
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A scene from the documentary "Ranh gioi" (The Boundary) on VTV1 channel. (Photo: Vietnam Television)
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NDO – The COVID-19 pandemic has been raging on a global scale so long that many scholars have called it the catastrophe of humanity in the 21st century, and documentary is one of the first art forms that come to mind in chronicling life today.

The moments during this period need to be recorded not only with statistics and reports but also vivid images. Documentaries can give scientific arguments on treatment from practice, lessons and contemplation of human life; people’s behaviour with nature and environment; and the extraordinary factors and feats of this one-of-a-kind war.

Recently, documentaries have made practical contributions to the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in Vietnam. Touching films about all aspects of life, the white and blue-shirt soldiers, and the difficult circumstances of people who are living in epidemic-hit areas bear not only documentary and historical values but also humane values. They have moved people’s hearts and awakened the most humane. Many filmmakers are also courageous soldiers on the anti-epidemic front as they really love their jobs and dared to take the worst risks to create authentic footage. That is the glorious tradition handed down from previous generations of documentary filmmakers.

Before 1975 and about ten years after that, audiences to cinemas watched one or two documentaries for free before feature films. Mobile film-screening teams to residential areas and remote areas screened documentaries before the main films. Documentaries became a familiar “spiritual food” to many generations as they provided rich knowledge of science, culture, history and geography as well as telling current stories, feats of arms, and typical examples in production and fighting of the army and people around the country. It could be said that documentaries go hand in hand with life through the visual languages, in which filmmakers are the secrets of the era. During the period of Doi Moi (Renewal), the subjects and topics of documentaries were increasingly diverse, frankly dissecting new life issues. Many documentaries appeared that were more attractive than feature films such as “Hanoi trong mat ai” (Hanoi Through Whose Eyes?) and “Chuyen tu te” (Kindness).

However, later on, when times and tastes of audiences changed, art films have gradually overwhelmed documentaries. There have been some very interesting documentaries, but they could not release in cinemas and were only broadcast on TV channels or internet platforms. In order to keep abreast of vibrant life as well as serve the needs for current affairs, documentaries have become increasingly journalistic. From a journalistic perspective, many documentaries had certain values and won high prizes; however, from a professional perspective, they have been “yielding” to other art forms. Viewers are confused as to whether this is a television work or a documentary film.

In addition to its documentary value, a documentary must contain profound messages through characters and events. Images must be carefully cared by using art technology, not just reflecting the current issues of life. The films with high artistry have a delay in time so that audiences can ponder and distil. That's the fundamental difference between a documentary and a television film or feature film that merely depict or reflect immediate problems of life. Moreover, documentaries are close to television works, so they somewhat lost their artistry and ideological stature that could haunt viewers through their profound messages and contemplations on life.

COVID-19 pandemic is a special moment in the history of mankind in general and Vietnam in particular. The fight against “COVID enemy” in the country, with the joint efforts made by the whole political system and mobilisation of the country's total strength, must be recorded in the most objective, full and truthful manner, for the present and future generations.

In addition to topical footages, it is very essential to make the new beginning for authentic documentaries that are commensurate with the magnitude of the current affairs that are happening every day and every hour around the country. To achieve this goal, enthusiastic filmmakers with high skills and courage will carry out their mission as “history scribes” through images. They must not be afraid of difficulties and dangers and should be willing to rush into hotspots to capture the most realistic and vivid footages. Whether it is a story about important historical moments or everyday life, it must feature the great love for the fatherland and people as well as civic responsibility and resilience to fight against “COVID death”. This is the aspiration and the earnest request of today's life for documentary filmmakers.

LA PHU
Translated by NDO
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