by Chloe Hashemi, marketing consultant for film and video production company LAMBDA Films
Should film as a medium of media act as a window into the issues and occurrences of the world, or just as a platform for entertainment purposes only? Each of these alternatives have their drawbacks, as utilizing the lens of the camera for any particular reason can simultaneously be an outlet for criticism, prejudice and abuse. Due to the expansion of the World Wide Web, and the increasing number of people who use in several respects on a daily, hourly, even minutely basis, on their computers and on the go, a video can accumulate an astounding reach in less time than it takes to bake a cake.
Naturally, this speed has its benefits as well as its downfalls. The Ice Bucket Challenge, a campaign whose essence lies in the sharing of short videos, the nominee ‘stars’, throwing ice-cold water over their head in aid of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). In less than a month, the campaign racked up 2.2 million mentions on Twitter; 1.2 million videos posted on Facebook, and received $11.4 million dollars of donations between the period of June 1st and August 13th 2014. In cases like this, the medium of video was undoubtedly used with good intentions.
Meaning Can Be Lost.
However, even with the case of the Ice Bucket Challenge, the initial intention was to relay the truth and urgency of the cause (and to raise money for the cause and for research), when really it ended up conveying a convoluted meaning, unintentionally masking the truth overall. People just started uploading videos to gain more likes on their Facebook page, to out-do their friends, some not even mentioning ALS at all. Due to the speed and how massively this campaign spread, meant that just as easily was the initial meaning drowned in all the hype.
Concept of editing: Does it aim to mask, or project a certain idea of reality? In the case of documentaries, does the rarity of just raw, unedited film reels stop us seeing what we should be exposed to? Very few documentaries have the guts to get to the bare bones of a situation. If something exists, surely it has the right to exist on film, and produced in to something that will either raise awareness, prove a point, or etc. Just because an event is captured on film, does not mean the content should be distributed recklessly for pleasure, a target for abuse, etc. It should be treated as a piece of evidence, or as an art form, depending on what the piece of footage is. Significant documentaries are created and produced by video production companies and journalists all over the world, every year. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth brought some chilling facts about Global Warming to light, at a time when people were largely in denial about the prospect of it happening. Even on a more light-hearted note, reality television shows like the X Factor, present a very small portion of what actually occurred. The footage goes through such a grueling editing process that it completely manipulates the viewer into feeling a certain way. If an upset contestant is on-screen, then the editing will cut to a series of sympathetic looking audience members, a judge tearing up in the corner, coupled with a heart-wrenching tune.
Freedom of the Press.
The freedom of the press exercises the citizen’s right of expression. Of course this comes along with privacy regulations, which are sometimes abused. In theory though, the press has the right to express their opinion just as much as any other individual in the country. This should include covering a story and filming the details of it if everyone involved has given their consent. The public has the right to get a glimpse of what is going on, especially if it may directly affect them. Whether good or bad, awareness may need to be reached, so that something can actually be done to resolve the situation. It is how this footage is received that is problematic. Naturally everyone is entitled to their own opinion on a matter, but when this belief leads to abuse or violence, then there is a real problem at hand. In the twenty-first century, more orderly and reputable mindset is expected. However, we all know this is not the case with everyone.
If something shouldn’t be filmed, then surely it shouldn’t be occurring in the first place. Case and point, the graphic video of Islamic State Militants beheading an American journalist, which was released last month. This allocation of what is ‘right and wrong’ is up to the discretion of the viewer, which can be problematic, as many individuals can have a very skewed perception of what is correct. For example in the case of the Egyptian same-sex marriage video, which led to the arrest of the couple in question. This video, which was largely shared all over social media this month, saw no ‘immoral’ or offensive content, yet was still considered illegal in their country. Surely these men were entitled to the right to express their happy union?
Camera lens as the eye, or the shut eye?
Western society has started to become immune to visual presentation of drugs, sex, and violence. Due to the excessiveness to which it is portrayed in films and television we have become increasingly desensitized to it. Certain things we don’t want to see and others we can’t get enough of.
The question of what is video’s role in telling the truth is a very difficult one to assess, especially due to the growing industry of cameras and camera phones.
Chloe Hashemi is a marketing consultant for film and video production company LAMBDA Films, which is based in East Anglia, UK.