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Country Boys
January 11, 2006 7:48 PM   Subscribe

Country Boys is Donald Sutherland's latest film documentary being hosted by PBS. Like his previous film on PBS, this one too is a tough but real story of American life. It focuses on the coming of age of two boys in rural Kentucky. You can watch the full program online (the third part will be released tomorrow).
posted by allkindsoftime (53 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
You mean David Sutherland?
It's a very good film, although six hours is a little much.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:52 PM on January 11, 2006


I just saw the third part today. It was gripping. Glad I wasn't born in small town Kentucky.
posted by pmbuko at 8:06 PM on January 11, 2006


cue the snarks from the urbane and sophisticated city dwellers in 3... 2....
posted by keswick at 8:06 PM on January 11, 2006


thanks for posting this!
posted by dydecker at 8:09 PM on January 11, 2006


cue the snarks from the urbane and sophisticated city dwellers in 3... 2....
posted by keswick at 12:06 AM AST on January 12 [!]


Fuck off.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:09 PM on January 11, 2006


I have something I really want to tell you all but I can't.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:14 PM on January 11, 2006


cue the snarks from the urbane and sophisticated city dwellers in 3... 2....
posted by keswick at 12:06 AM AST on January 12


Wait, what are you? A non-urbane and unsophisticated Mefite accessing this social commentary site from your trailer in the hills of Kentucky? Dick.
posted by pkingdesign at 8:16 PM on January 11, 2006


Oh, hell. My name is somewhere on this page.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:17 PM on January 11, 2006


"Oh, hell. My name is somewhere on this page"

Charlie Peacock?
posted by UseyurBrain at 8:19 PM on January 11, 2006


I was kind of surprised this wasn't posted before. Country Boys was compelling viewing that kept me glued to the set all three nights it was on. By watching the show, you could really see what kind of difference a caring adult presence makes in the life of a child. Cody was lucky to have someone like Liz and his girlfriend's family (not to mention the local preacher) to support him. I really enjoyed watching his interaction with his "in-laws."

I really felt the most for Chris, though... he wasn't as lucky as Cody, and he couldn't seem to look past his family for other means of emotional support, even though there seemed like plenty of adults around him who were willing to help him. What seemed especially poignant to me was that, even at a young age, Chris carried his family on his shoulders, but it almost seemed like he needed them to give him something to focus on. The final moving scene killed me... of all the adults in his family, not one lifted a finger to help.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:23 PM on January 11, 2006


I saw an episode of this the other day. Really involving stuff, if a tad staged.
posted by brundlefly at 8:35 PM on January 11, 2006


WEBSITE ASSOCIATE DEVELOPER
Bill Rockwood


or Shawn Morrisey.
posted by puke & cry at 8:48 PM on January 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Ray needs to get a CD together.
posted by crumbly at 8:49 PM on January 11, 2006


Oh, and Mayor Curley, I had no idea you played harmonica.
posted by crumbly at 8:53 PM on January 11, 2006


brundlefly: I saw an episode of this the other day. Really involving stuff, if a tad staged.

Staged? Actually, I think this is about the most true to life "reality show" on television. This show isn't focusing on sensational drama, but rather showing how calm and thoughtful these boys are despite their surroundings. I think it is an excellent portrayal of the lives of real people, and is as unstaged as something like this could be.
posted by bigtex at 9:01 PM on January 11, 2006


crumbly: You can download some music from Ray Riddle's web site.
posted by MegoSteve at 9:02 PM on January 11, 2006


A very good documentary, I thought. It does have a few moments where you think,"C'mon, David, cut to the next scene already..." There were also parts in which I felt like there was a lot more going on than was expressed through the footage. That is, one incident might have served as an example for many. More background events occurring that we just weren't allowed privy too.
posted by Atreides at 9:19 PM on January 11, 2006


A non-urbane and unsophisticated Mefite accessing this social commentary site from your trailer in the hills of Kentucky

Not that there's anything wrong with that. I hope. Hey, at least I don't live in a trailer mobile home.
posted by reese at 9:50 PM on January 11, 2006


I'm posting from my mobile home.

I watched two hours of this; circumstance was the only thing that prevented further viewing. The pace was measured, but once I fell into it, it was fine.
posted by Savannah at 9:58 PM on January 11, 2006


bigtex writes "Staged? Actually, I think this is about the most true to life 'reality show' on television. This show isn't focusing on sensational drama, but rather showing how calm and thoughtful these boys are despite their surroundings. I think it is an excellent portrayal of the lives of real people, and is as unstaged as something like this could be."

I would agree that this story is more emotionally true to life than any other reality show, but this film crew was not just following the kids around, documenting their day to day existence, catching things as they happen. Individual meetings and conversations are pretty clearly thought out in advance.

For instance, at a meeting Chris Johnson has with his teacher, the camera approaches them as their conversation begins then circles around them as they talk, finally settling on Johnson at the end of the scene. This was clearly thought out in advance, and I wouldn't be surprised if they did several takes of it.

Another good example was the almost-date scene Johnson had later on. There's a long conversation as the kids walk home, with multiple cuts from static cameras all along the route. Now, unless it's really easy to get lots of funding for PBS documentaries these days, I seriously doubt there were tons of cameras lining the entire route home, and the kids had to stop every time Sutherland wanted a different angle.

Now, I'm not saying the story is scripted in the same way, say, Queer Eye or Survivor are, and the boys aren't "acting" per say, but lots of the situations here are clearly arranged.

"Why don't you folks talk about this subject in this setting...."

"You need to get an update on the school newspaper from Chris? Give us a second to figure out how we're going to cover it."


Et cetera.

The frustrating thing with the show for me was that the basic story was genuinely involving, but it should have been told in more of a hands-off, vérité way...
posted by brundlefly at 10:02 PM on January 11, 2006


Staged? Actually, I think this is about the most true to life "reality show" on television.

This may be true as far as "reality shows" are concerned. While it wasn't staged, for a documentary there was too much awareness of the camera and acting to it. Try to see a Frederick Wiseman documentary.
posted by semmi at 10:17 PM on January 11, 2006


Glad I wasn't born in small town Kentucky.
I'm glad I WAS born in a small town in Kentucky. I just moved back. I love it here. I think that the problems these guys face have more to do with apathetic, addicted, selfish parents than with the location. The poverty of Chris's family can be seen in big cities and small towns all over the country. It's not specific to Kentucky.

I watched this tonight on Kentucky Educational Television and they followed it with a locally-produced discussion program. Cody and Chris were both guests. Cody and Jessica got married and Cody is, I think, in college (I was distracted during the program when my cat knocked all the plants off the top of the bookshelf). Chris just got his surface mining certificate, though he said that he hears there's not much of a chance of landing a job. He's considering becoming qualified for underground mining since the job prospects are much better. He's not in college, but says he still plans to attend someday. He's part of a small local professional wrestling league.
posted by cilantro at 10:22 PM on January 11, 2006


I think that the problems these guys face have more to do with apathetic, addicted, selfish parents than with the location.

Amen. I grew up in small town California, not too far from the San Francisco bay area. I was fortunate to have caring parents who were well educated and, despite a near lack of funds, managed to raise me well. Many of my friends were not so lucky, coming from broken homes with apathetic or abusive parents, exposed to additions like drinking and drugs. Bad parenting is bad parenting, regardless of the location.

People, like me, who are raised in places like California, grow up with a sense that the South is scary and the people there are all hicks. I never really believed that and this documentary was a good example of why that notion is false. There are just as many hicks in my Californian hometown as there probably are in that small Kentucky town.

Some people have no idea what life is like outside of the city (or suburbs).
posted by bigtex at 11:06 PM on January 11, 2006


I recently went back home.

People may not be sophisticated in a "big city" sense, but there is no doubt that many have a profound understanding of
how things work.

I always had a gut feeling that I had to leave. I even remember being somewhat embarassed leaving for college and watching most of my buddies stay behind to pursue other interests..

Big problems seem to be worse and WORSE.

There is just something about places like that that make you want to do hard drugs.

While I might not be on the same page, I have to say hats off to this guy for him keeping an eye on things.
posted by pwedza at 12:26 AM on January 12, 2006


And, while I do have many memories, I seriously doubt I'll go back.
posted by pwedza at 12:34 AM on January 12, 2006


I stumbled upon this by accident a few nights ago on my local PBS station. I was riveted. Loved it. Looking forward to parts two and three. Thanks for the post.
posted by squirrel at 12:55 AM on January 12, 2006


My wife and I have been watching (and taping) this, and I'm glad to see the post. I hope it awakens a lot of people to what many kids have to deal with (and, as cilantro and bigtex say, it's not just Appalachia).

As for the "staged" thing—look, I respect Wiseman as much as anyone, but it's pretty silly to take him as the base standard and complain that everything else is "staged." If this had been done by Wiseman, it might have been deeper and "realer" (and wouldn't have had those endless shots of a fucking coal train rumbling by), but odds are we wouldn't have seen it except at a festival somewhere. This is a very well done documentary, it's amazing that PBS is presenting it at such length, and I don't see the point of sniping at it for not being something it isn't trying to be.

pwedza: Thanks for the links and commentary; they make a good counterpoint to the post.
posted by languagehat at 5:39 AM on January 12, 2006


What pwedza said. My mother's family hails from a very rural county in SE KY. I lived there four years while growing up. I love the mountains and the people (MY people) but the poverty and the numerous other problems make it impossible to live there, if one wants to work at a decent job paying a living wage.

And yeah, ignorance, poverty, etc is found everywhere, not just here in the South.

There's days I want to do what Jesse Stuart tried to do - go to college and then go back home to try and make it a better place.
posted by keptwench at 5:56 AM on January 12, 2006


I thought the documentary was well done. I felt bad for the boys and appreciated all the blessing I have in life. A modern day Hoops dreams.
posted by Macboy at 7:21 AM on January 12, 2006


I watched big chunks of the program, but not the whole thing. So my context might be a little off, but I thought that:

- Some people in that region need to make a trip to the dump. All the junk they have in their lives -- oodles and oodles of dime-store crap -- probably is not good for one's soul. (Clutter in your living room = clutter in other areas of your life: finances, health, job, etc.) But it's an easy thing to correct. Just toss the crap out of your house and out of your yard. Doing simple things to make your environment pleasant can have a positive snowball effect on other areas of your life. You develop pride. You develop a sense of value. You develop optimism.

- Chris had a defeatist yet knee-jerk attitude. He seemed to roll over and succumb to some problems that weren't central problems -- or he attacked them hastily, and as if they were more important than they were, bogging himself down. He got mired in little things like, well, moving junk from trailer to trailer or wrestling pigs. He was chasing his tail (or his family's tail) half the time instead of attacking the central problem: How do I graduate and maybe go on to college? How do I support myself while doing that? .... It seemed that a lot of times, he was just letting life happen to himself. Of course, what teenager hasn't done that? But you'd think that in more desperate circumstances, a teen would be a little more "aware."

- Despite all the sadness of the program, it's sad only in certain contexts. Both boys lived like kings compared with the lives lived by millions of people around the globe. No violence, no starvation, no major medical problems, no oppression. Being born as an American is still a major blessing -- no matter how crappy your life is by American standards. Of course, other cultures might look at one or both of the boys and lament the shaky family ties portrayed in the program. (Those cultures might envy the boys' relative wealth but still pity the boys' rocky family situations.)
posted by Possum at 7:53 AM on January 12, 2006


I saw part of this. Pretty depressing, but very reflective of how things are in a lot of parts of rural America these days.

There was a discussion awhle back about how places like this are gonna completely disappear, due to lack of jobs and rising fuel costs, and be replaced by massive suburban hubs near the larger cities. I've seen so many small towns where the downtown area, once thriving with shops and country stores, is derelict except for a few places converted to antique shops or whatever. I dunno how swift the changes are going to be, but there's a lot of it happening already. It saddens me for the younger folks though, like these cats in "Country Boys."
posted by First Post at 8:15 AM on January 12, 2006


I watched and thought it was excellent. Perhaps a bit over the top at times but very, very compelling.

While it was depressing at times, it also offered what so many similar documentaries don't - hope.
posted by birdsong at 8:28 AM on January 12, 2006


pwedza... holy cow. Didn't know there were other Bristolians on the Blue. I live in NYC now, but make semi-annual pilgrimages back to my folks. Thanks for turning me onto the Sullivan County website. I generally stay up to date here.

I also watched the first part of Country Boys. I think the representation of life in Appalachia felt accurate and not overly manufactured. And generally I have a chip on my shoulder about portrayals of the rural South. I thought Rory Kennedy's American Hollow was exploitative in the extreme, in it's attempt to "humanize hillbillies". Hell, Dancing Outlaw felt less contrived.

I'll look forward to seeing the second and third parts.
posted by kimdog at 8:33 AM on January 12, 2006


It seems that in several shots the camera keeps a distance from the subjects but their conversations are audible. Did they radio mike the participants during these shots?
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:45 AM on January 12, 2006


Did they radio mike the participants during these shots?

They did. Most of the crew wasn't within the line of sight for the interior shots. Just the camera man.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:49 AM on January 12, 2006


No violence, no starvation, no major medical problems, no oppression.

Cody's dad shot his step-mom in cold blood and then killed himself. If you are referring to the lack of a war as a lack of violence in his life, then I'd suggest the emotional impact of the murder/suicide is probably just as detrimental on an individual level. Chris' father is an alchoholic dying of cirrhosis - without insurance. While this is not Chris' major medical problem, it certainly impacts his life in monmumental ways. And given Chris' likely path in life, he will probably face most whatever medical problems he encounters down the line without insurance. As for oppression, there is no overt government oppression, but certainly the compounding issues of the particulars of how these two families live is oppression to a degree. Certainly I wouldn't compare their circumstances to having to grow up in present day Baghdad, but while their problems may not be as immediately cruel as a war zone, the chronic problems in the long run could prove just as bad.

On the other hand, as Americans, they have certain luxuries (computers, tvs, stoves, cars to a degree). From a material stand point, you may be correct. From an emotional/developmental standpoint, I'm not so sure. Certainly opportunities in a sense exist for these kids that don't exist in other parts of the world, but if your environment precludes you from being able to exploit these opportunities, is it that less painful or tragic? My feeling is that oppression, whether overt or environmental in nature, is still oppression. Althought your argument carries some weight in the sense that most likely these kids will never starve to death. But they may very well see the gradual destruction of their entire social network.
posted by spicynuts at 10:09 AM on January 12, 2006


Well, I grew up in a rural town (pop. 1200) outside of the largest city in Kentucky (Louisville). So I had a weird blend of plenty of friends who lived exactly like Chris or friends who would take me wandering around a large downtown of head shops and coffee houses and theaters and the like... I went to college in Lexington and afterwards worked for a subsidiary of Gearheart Communications, which is between Prestonsburg (where the documentary was set) and Pikeville. Through that company I spent time working in Hazard and Whitesburg, as well. My wife, who grew up in Michigan and England, was shocked by some scenes (especially the pig moving). I felt the filmmakers represented the life there with balance and sensitivity. For instane, even though the evangelical Christian elements could have gone overboard, they also captured Cody being thoughtful about issues pertaining to God and belief. Even his preacher, who looked ultra-cheesy, ended up being somewhat level-headed. I knew so many friends growing up who were like Chris that it was a bit painful - smart, but constantly self-sabotaging because they can't even imagine their options. Someone who had a stable, dead-end job and can afford a payment on a nice truck was living the good life to people I went to high school with.

I appreciate your comments Possum, but just as viewers can't imagine how an American life is better almost by default, the boys, especially Chris, can't conceive of anything really different. Even his "dreams" don't take him out of Prestonsburg, and what adult encouraged him to leave town? You notice in those places that good jobs are almost uniformly subsidized ones? ...being a teacher or preacher so you can be supported by the state or church? If I taught those students at David, I'd feel obligated to tell them the most important thing to do is reach for opportunities... and all those opportunities will start outside of Prestonsburg.

I liked the show quite a bit and even, oddly enough, felt proud of Kentucky after watching it. I also have family from the eastern half of the state and I think the documentary captured the fatalism mixed with humor pretty well (notice how often people made either self-deprecating jokes or told someone just to accept something or deal with disappointment).

keptwench, I think Jesse Stuart is a vastly underappreciated writer... He wrote a short story based on my great-uncle and I borrowed the book from my father. I was amazed at his facility with language and his incredible talent for pacing and the staccato language of eastern Kentucky.
posted by Slothrop at 10:25 AM on January 12, 2006


Excellent post Slothrop.
posted by Macboy at 10:32 AM on January 12, 2006


I found it extremely compelling, and wish Chris had someone to guide him. So much wasted potential.
posted by Sassenach at 10:57 AM on January 12, 2006


jeez, did we mefi pbs already?:

PBS Web sites are currently unavailable. We are experiencing technical difficulties with Internet connectivity. We will restore service as quickly as possible.
posted by 3.2.3 at 11:24 AM on January 12, 2006


As to my "no violence, no starvation, no major medical problems, no oppression" comment. I guess I should have been more specific:

No war; no famine; working, staffed, modern emergency rooms (and no plague); civil rights.

You can have violence, some hunger, some medical problems, and DEpression in just about any neighborhood on this planet. The difference here is that Cody and Chris have choices and opportunities that, in other countries, simply do not exist.

There is no WAR in the U.S. Cody and Chris can move about their country freely without fear of being forced into military service or shot because of their ethnicity.

There is no FAMINE. Cody and Chris are not going to starve. No one in the documentary looked malnourished or desperate for food (or beer or cigarettes).

There is EMERGENCY CARE. If someone gets hurt, there's a place to go -- insurance or not. It's called the emergency room. We have plenty of them here. They're no fun. They take a lot of time, and you'll have to pay for them in the long run. But it beats dying of gangrene in your hut.

And there are CIVIL RIGHTS. Cody and Chris can pick up and move and seek new opportunities if they feel so inclined and if they can pull together the means to move. No one is going to stop them or force a bribe from them to stamp their "traveling papers."

It's like Slothrop said: "opportunities will start OUTSIDE of Prestonsburg." But, as Slothrop also pointed out, Cody and Chris probably "can't conceive of anything really different" from their current at-hand opportunities.

The issue here is CHOICE. Cody and Chris and all of us have it -- whether we realize it or not. Not all citizens of other nations have that choice.

And please don't read too much into what I've said. I'm not judging Cody and Chris. I'm merely pointing out that pity/sympathy is relative. I come from rural North Carolina. I know and am related to plenty of Codys and Chrises. (I was more of a Cody growing up.) So to me, their lives are close to "normal."
posted by Possum at 11:39 AM on January 12, 2006


I watched most all of it, and gotta say it was a pretty boring. I suppose I grew up nearby, so none of it was news to me.

I wish there had been more local flavor (aside from the jillion CSX rail shots). I felt like these kids could have been from upstate New York (with different fashion and accents). You'll find kids and families like that in every state.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:26 PM on January 12, 2006


Did anybody else notice the "science teacher" who dismissed evolution as contrary to Christianity? ("I don't believe Jesus was an ape" was the money quote, if I remember correctly.) That depressed me almost as much as the more obvious problems the kids faced; if that's what you get in the school that's supposed to give you the education that might get you out of your miserable backwoods town, you really are fucked.
posted by languagehat at 1:57 PM on January 12, 2006


Did anybody else notice the "science teacher" who dismissed evolution as contrary to Christianity? ("I don't believe Jesus was an ape" was the money quote, if I remember correctly.) That depressed me almost as much as the more obvious problems the kids faced...

It is definitely messed up. However (and even if languagehat knows this, a lot of people are missing it because the documentary does NOT make it clear enough), the David School is private and christian. Here's an interview with Danny Greene, the founder of the school.

That said, I would rather giver up my troubled teen for medical testing than give him to the Jesusbots who want to destroy science.

(The site should be back available shortly. Some workmen drilled through PBS's fiber line this morning.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:11 PM on January 12, 2006


Equally disturbing was that when the bible teacher asked whether it was okay for a victim of incest to have an abortion, only one girl raised her hand, meekly at that.

But despite all this, there are certainly progressive elements in eastern Kentucky. The Appalshop is a NEA-funded arts and cultural center with a kickass public radio station. (Here's my Mefi post from long ago.) In fact, Cody and I have the same t-shirt from WMMT (see the scene in the second episode where he goes to the dentist's office.)

Here's my question regarding the film:

We see Chris having to miss school and work because his car has broken down. This despite the fact that the crew from the film is on site and obviously he can bum a ride from them. This would presumably violate journalistic ethics issues however, and I'm sure that the filmmakers would have let Chris know that they can't help him out financially or logistically.

But both Cody and Ray are credited on the film for sound editing and music. And both Cody and Chris are making promotional appearances regarding the film. Are any of the principals being paid? I take it that Mayor Curley is in the best position to answer this, and obviously he doesn't have to, but I'd be curious as to how detached the filmmakers were from this situation. If I was Chris, and being asked to wear mikes and repeat "scenes" for various camera angles, I'd be pissed that I wasn't compensated for my "acting."
posted by Saucy Intruder at 2:25 PM on January 12, 2006


Did anybody else notice the "science teacher" who dismissed evolution as contrary to Christianity? ("I don't believe Jesus was an ape" was the money quote, if I remember correctly.)

Huh. I didn't know the school was Christian (but assumed it must be). I did know it was private, since they talked a bit about the tuition.

That said, I would rather giver up my troubled teen for medical testing than give him to the Jesusbots who want to destroy science.

Is there another choice?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:26 PM on January 12, 2006


Saucy Intruder, while I do love WCBN, my local college station, I sometimes like to check out WMMT. They have some truly incredible programs with local people coming into the station and playing live music. I worked in Whitesburg because our Web development group was asked to talk to Appalshop about making a Web site. Unfortunately our company and Appalshop were on two different planets about what a Web site could be, but it was nice to visit the people there and see Whitesburg... Again, it's a terrific radio station.
posted by Slothrop at 2:32 PM on January 12, 2006


as with The Farmer's Wife, i thought this documentary was so well executed. What struck me most about seeing both on television was the reminder, by comparison, of how poorly television represents any kind of real experience. I think the six-hour length is necessary, because to get a fuller picture the viewer has to be more involved in the story than with the typical television show. It's kinda making an investment in understanding the situation more than causally viewing and coming to a rushed opinion. It can't be a complete picture of course, but the pace and elements of focus are more than we are accustomed to on TV, and i think that's the important part.

My take on Chris wasn't simply that he's pessimistic...at least after the initial excitement of trying to take on a new challenge. I think it is more that he has learned growing up, with the adult models he has been given, he cannot completely trust what adults say or promise...you can see that even when someone is trying to be generous--when he is offered an apartment to live in, when the head of the school encourages him, when one of the teachers tries to help him through the college process--he is a bit removed, he can't emotionally commit to it--his experience is that there's always a downside or that he shouldn't get his hopes up because it is bound to fail in the end. He doesn't trust process itself. The people who tried to help and encourage him were awesome, though the frustrating part of watching it from the outside was that each individual could only see a small piece of his big picture (though you know there was a lot they could safely assume, correctly)--and, of course, that's life, and i thought it clearly showed the challenges of adults working to try to help teenagers overcome challenges.

I tend not to be patient with religion, and part of me wants to say that for Cody it is something that has improved his life a great deal and that's a great thing, and part of me just doesn't get that kind of experience and never will. It seemed he was very thoughtful and genuine about his beliefs, but it was strange to me that he insists on giving credit to god for things that he overcome under his own power and strength and with the support of people around him. It would seem to give him more strength to realize that it was within him all along.

Ray was awesome! I liked his singing, and even his speaking voice is great to listen to. Thanks for the music link to his stuff!

I know that after The Farmer's Wife the family got donations from viewers who were moved by their story...and I would expect kind of the same thing after this one as well...people I know have already been talking about wanting to buy Ray's CD, and you know some christian music label has to have snatched up Cody by now....my thought by the end was that the chances for Chris getting to college would go up quite a bit with this program, and i hope that's the case...
posted by troybob at 2:47 PM on January 12, 2006


But both Cody and Ray are credited on the film for sound editing and music. And both Cody and Chris are making promotional appearances regarding the film. Are any of the principals being paid?

They're not being paid for the publicity. That I can say with confidence. Whether Ray Riddle and Seven Rise Up are being paid for use of their music, I don't know.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:36 PM on January 12, 2006




posted by matteo at 4:54 PM on January 12, 2006


As for the "staged" thing—look, I respect Wiseman as much as anyone, but it's pretty silly to take him as the base standard and complain that everything else is "staged." If this had been done by Wiseman, it might have been deeper and "realer" (and wouldn't have had those endless shots of a fucking coal train rumbling by), but odds are we wouldn't have seen it except at a festival somewhere. This is a very well done documentary, it's amazing that PBS is presenting it at such length, and I don't see the point of sniping at it for not being something it isn't trying to be.

LH: Look, the nature of a documentary is to unobtrusively record spontaneously occurring events. Here, not only the boys seemed set up, but everyone besides Chris's dad and his mother's new boyfriend, merely played out what their position expected of them, for the kick to get in front of the camera. I don't think the boys would have gotten a tenth of the attention they got from the locals without the camera and the crew's presence. I watched engrossed all three segments "reading what was between the lines." By the way, I think all of Wiseman's documentaries appeared on PBS.

Mayor Curly, it would be very interesting if you'd reveal some of the workings behind in making this film.
posted by semmi at 9:55 PM on January 12, 2006


Overall, I thought it was fairly compelling, although the first episode was the most gripping. At times I could sense that Sutherland was editing scenes and dialog to really push it along...sometimes to a fault. There were a couple times where dialog was obviously repeated (same pitch, tempo) to enhance the drama. That's the inherent curse and blessing with making a documentary....most of the work is in post.
posted by pepcorn at 7:14 AM on January 13, 2006


Epilogue: "...in order to be great a documentary must discover something—the nature of combat (“Battle of San Pietro”), the hidden meanings of found footage (“Grizzly Man”), the inner workings of distressed people (any film by Frederick Wiseman), the connection of personal destiny to history (any film by Marcel Ophuls), the charged existential situation created by the filmmaker himself (cinéma vérité, Michael Moore). This is not meant as an exclusive summary; the list could be extended forever. But a documentary filmmaker, at the least, must be a journalist seeking to unearth, and not a collagist who assembles miscellaneous footage in order to support what he already believes. --David Denby in the New Yorker.
posted by semmi at 12:16 PM on January 30, 2006


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