Collective memory and Documentary Film

Casey in his paper reconstructing the past, highlights the importance of collective memory for its unique features. Halbwachs put emphasis on social factor that frame people’s memory and make memory not authentic. “Society from time to time obligates people not just to reproduce in thought previous events of their lives, but also to touch them up, to shorten them, or to complete them so that, however convinced we are that our memories are exact, we give them a prestige that reality did not possess.Casey, critic on public memory “being public does not guarantee constancy over time: to be public is to be subject to continual reassessment and revision” and the fact that it is open for discussion and debate.

I think that the discourse, who both refer to here, that public or collective memory open over time is what makes memory valuable historic source. Its participatory inviting nature make it valuable memory. The event is always constant in time; Vietnam war’s dates is always the same, and the fact that over time new stories come to surface to correct the course of events or add more details, only add prospective to the memory hence give it its public character and legitimacy. Public memory uses documentary films to remain public and continue the conversation. A historic event should expose all prospective. Presenting a historic event from only one prospective make is what Halbwachs arguing against “not exact”. I it the discourse that memory create that make it real, it will only gain value for the public when more stories added to it. After all if that was not possible we would’ve only knew the military and the two presidents view on Vietnam war if the discourse never occurred.

Memory in all its forms presented by Casey and Halbwachs, weather it is individual, collective, social or public, all are valuable memory to use in creating documentaries that aim to write history of people and tell an untold story.  “documentary film lies in the mind of the beholder as much as it lies in the film’s context or structure.” (Bill Nicholas, Introduction to Documentary) which makes documentary different from other genre of films.

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