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Documentary Storytelling, 2nd Edition by Sheila Curran Bernard

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6

Manipulating Time

Film is a linear medium. People watch it from beginning to end, with one shot following another, one sequence following another, until the film is over. “I’ve never seen an even vaguely successful documentary film that does not move forward through time,” says filmmaker Jon Else, citing a number of disparate examples. “Night and Fog has an absolutely traditional, very simple forward chronological motion through the late 1930s to the end of World War II. Tongues Untied, Marlon Riggs’s film, appears to be a nonlinear rumination about what it means to be young and gay and black in America in the 1980s, but in fact it moves through his life. Even Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil, which is often described as being nonlinear, moves ...

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