Archive material can be used in so many creative and innovative ways. Here is a break down of the best archive documentaries out there, some of the techniques they use and where to watch them.
5: ‘HyperNormalisation’ (2016)
Director Adam Curtis is known for his blend of authoritative voice over, hypnotic music and juxtaposing archive footage and ‘Hypernormalisation’ is no exception. In his exploration of the ‘fake world’ we now live in, Curtis uses contrasting archive footage to illustrate his essay and to create new meaning. While the tone of his narration is closer to a news story, it lacks the same objectivity. It places him in a position of authority resulting in audiences being more likely to accept what he says as the truth, despite a lack of hard evidence.
4: ‘Notes on Blindness’ (2016)
Built around Professor John Hull’s audio diary tapes, ‘Notes on Blindness’ depicts the emotional impact the deterioration of sight has on Hull and his family.
The film utilises dramatic reconstructions alongside the original audio from Hull’s tapes, rather than voice over from a talking head interview. This allows for a more immersive cinematic experience and audiences are made to feel more connected to Hull and his wife, Marilyn.
Adapted from the 2013 Pulitzer-Prize winning book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, the documentary explores the secret world and the inner dealings of the Church of Scientology.
Director, Alex Gibney, provides an in-depth history of the church and in doing so presents the reasons in which people feel compelled to join.
Through the use of archive footage, some modern B-roll and talking head interviews with a number of former members of Scientology audiences are shown what happens to members as they try to leave the Church.
It is, in my opinion, the best film about Scientology out there.
Available in full on Youtube
2: ‘Cobain: Montage of Heck’ (2015)
Montage of Heck is an example of expertly utilising access. As he was approached by the subject of the film’s widow, Courtney Love, director Brett morgen had access to never before seen home footage and photographs, unheard songs from Nirvana’s archive and Cobain’s artwork and journals. Along with talking head interviews with friends and family and stylised animation the film shines a new light on the life of the music legend.
1: Amy (2015)
Asif Kapadia’s ‘Amy’ is built up of archive footage of the star with the audio from interviews with those who know her best, including her father Mitch and her muse/ex-husband Blake. The director uses the lyrics Winehouse wrote as a narrative map to tell her story. The words she wrote reveal more about the inner workings of her mind than the other narrative devices.
The film is remarkable and will captivate audiences, whether you’re a fan of her music or otherwise.