Direct Cinema Essay

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Direct Cinema

The term 'direct cinema' was coined by American director Albert Maysles, to describe the style of documentary that he and his contemporaries were making in the 1960s as a result of a lightweight, portable 16mm camera and high quality lightweight audio recorders becoming available. The introduction of these, together with film-stock which was sensitive enough to give a good quality close-up monochrome picture under most lighting conditions

(Including hand-held lights) led to a revolution in Documentary filmmaking, allowing film crews to be much more flexible. Gone were the days of bulky, virtually immobile 35mm cameras; now manufacturers improved their 16mm stock and accepted it
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Ideal subjects for documentaries according to the direct cinema ethos were:

1) A person who is interesting;

2) A person who is in an interesting situation which s/he cares deeply about;

3) A subject where a conclusion can be arrived at in a limited time; and

4) A subject where there is easy access to events.

The group believed that the cameraman, the director and the sound recordist were all equal in status and were all film-makers, playing a role in an integrated process. They felt that the filmmaker's relationship with the subject was personal and one of equality, and that an audience was active in its engagement with the film. Direct cinema practitioners wished the audience to be presented with sufficient evidence to enable them to make up their own minds and not be mere passive observers.

'... the degree to which the camera changes the situation is mostly due to the nature of the person filming it...' Richard Leacock.

Direct cinema was conceived with TV in mind. In the 60s TV had poor picture quality, the black-and-white image being frequently fuzzy with viewers reliant on good quality sound. Image quality such as this fitted in perfectly with direct cinema's stance on camera framing and editing; anything more complex than

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