Muhlenberg College Fall 2019

Working with Banished

Marco Williams, filmmaker

“BANISHED is deeply personal. It is deeply personal on a couple of levels. I was chased out of Charlestown in Boston, MA by a mob of angry whites simply because I am black. While I was only an individual, the intention of this mob was to keep the neighborhood white, not unlike the racial cleansings that I investigate in BANISHED that happened in the early 1900s. But I made BANISHED because I wanted to make a film that explored prospective solutions to the racial divide. In the horrible history I saw an opportunity for Americans to consider forms of reparation as a means of reconciliation.”

What does this statement by the filmmaker reveal to you about his location and how it shapes his film?

Where in the film is the impact of his location visible? What are the moments that you see his perspective and his voice prominently in the film?

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One Last Reflection

After a semester spent studying the work of documentarians like Robert Coles, Elizabeth Barret, and Marco Williams, my understanding of documentaries and what it takes to produce them has improved drastically. Looking back at my first post, which was a reflection on chapter 1 of Robert Coles’ book, Doing Documentary Work, I found that one of my earliest points of interest was something that remained a common theme in almost all of my work this semester, as it was something I returned to frequently in my written assignments, and something that I feel I have a much more thorough understanding of now. That concept was the idea of the inevitable separation any documentarian has from the people they are documenting, and how that separation affects their ability to truthfully and accurately depict those people. My stance regarding this concept still hasn’t changed–I still think that documentarians should do whatever they can to minimize the distance between them and the people who, in the words of Bob Moses, make up the picture the documentarian is painting. This idea even influenced my decision to focus my final documentary (shown above) on the theatre department here at Muhlenberg. Since it is a community that I am already a part of, I felt much more confident in my ability to minimize the distance between myself, my subject, and the people I was interviewing, which I preferred over tackling a subject I had little knowledge of, which would have made me feel like a complete stranger painting an incomplete portrait of a part of campus I had nothing to do with.

If I had to choose one big takeaway from my time in this class, it would be this same idea. The vast effect separation can have on the accuracy and believability can have on a documentary, and how crucial it is that documentarians minimize that distance and portray the people or subjects they are documenting ethically. Although I still have much to learn about the process of doing documentary work, Documentary Research has provided me with a solid foundation that I feel confident building from in future classes, and that I hope to continue developing throughout my time at Muhlenberg.

The Final Post

I enjoyed and learned a lot taking Documentary Research this fall semester. Looking into the work of Robert Coles, Bill Nichols, and Dorothea Lange has allowed to me understand the components and ethics that go along with Documentary work. I enjoyed reading Robert Coles book the most because I found it the most useful and easy to connect to my essay topics. I liked how this class gave us the opportunity to create our personal blogs. I have become apart of media other then just having social media. I also enjoyed how our two main essays that we worked on throughout the semester helped us write our final essay for the class. In addition, having the other projects such as the 30-second documentary and our final 2-3 minute documentary was beneficial because we implemented the work we have been reading out through the the semester. Overall, Documentary Research has opened me up to new opportunities and has advanced the background information about the history of documentaries and the overall components of what goes into documentaries, especially the ethics behind it. One thing I will take away from this course is the importance of one’s location in their own work experiences. The idea of location that we focused on can be applied to not only the work of media-makers but also people in their day to day actives as they want to complete their own goals.