1. Compare and contrast, evaluate and critique, the use and effect of archival footage in the nonfiction films we have studied across weeks 9-14. “I am not your Negro” vs. “Chisholm ‘72”
Beyond the presentation of archival documentaries, it has fallen into two unfortunate groups. There’s the conventional variety of “archival doc” that consists of basic talking head interviews intercut with old footage and photographs, much of it rather randomly selected and presented. Much of these films are stiff and tend to lack cinematic innovation. Then there are films that are entirely or almost entirely made up of archival material, and for many years these were deemed so unconventional as to be thought ineligible for consideration by the Oscars. There are many films within the define section of an “archival doc”. Films that uncover, recover, resurrect, or present for the first time are among the archival doc that allows a lot of film material shot by the same cinematographers for the same purposes. Among the films that presents archival footage are from newly shots and interviews of other people and so other freshly filmed scenes disrupt the flow of the archives just as stationary interview shots can interrupt an otherwise observational “verité” documentary. Comparing and contrasting the use of archival footages in documentaries, there are many key elements of films that is entirely relevant to the term. Although there are other films that show little or more key factors of archival ]footages, such films of archival footage can be seen in, “I am not your Negro” and “Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed”, is arguably more compelling upon motion pictures and cinematography that set of photography of historical material.
A lot of today’s archival docs have noteworthy or at least just more noticeable music scores, which can indeed help to guide the audience through the material with a singular element that is steady and persistent. In I Am Not Your Negro, it shows refreshing images of the black community in other ways, choosing to colorize the majority of civil rights movement footage to ensure audiences see them freed of the monochrome trappings of the past. It is possibly one of the most insightful and prescient visual documents on civil rights and race that has ever been committed to screen. The images and sound of the film shows a great vital documentary of a gripping and deeply upsetting essay on the American racial divide, and essentially the images on screen is the perspective-altering the view of the film. These type of documentary footages and recordings from historical events that happened in historical reality are created or staged, such as fiction footage. The indexical bond between the footage and the event it represents is what gives documentary its truth claim. In I am not your Negro, The recorded image becomes a piece of historical evidence that is demonstrating the physical look of a historical event in a way no fictional likeness can ever duplicate.
Vaughan writes, “a film “documentary” is the way we look at it; and the history of documentary is to see its meaning as pertinent to the events and object which passed before the camera: to see it, in a word, as signifying what it appears to record”.
Through this we see the archive material and footage of the directors aim to confront the past and the present by examining the position of how black man holds in American society. The clash between old and contemporary clips and images in I Am Not Your Negro correlates the racial tensions of the mid-1950s and late 1960s as well as the murders of the three central figures of the Civil Rights Movement.
Moving on comparing to Chisholm’72: Unbought and Unbossed, the archival footage rom her campaign trail, tells an important story about how Chisholm’s amazing presidential run changed America’s political landscape forever. Watching American history through the eyes of Chisholm ’72 means one will never see racism, sexism, and politics quite the same way again. Through the eyes of Shirley Chisholm, it engages a greater aspect of archival documentary and within both films. We see the aspect of Black African Americans fighting for their freedom, that allows viewers to see beyond the screen. Both films entirely show how great historical events can change within the record of random tapes put together. Tapes that compel the audience of such historical events leading to montages of such great people. Much of both the films show a montage sequence that conveys ideas visually by putting them in a specific order in the film. In both films, the narrative montages involving the planning of sequence of shots are used to indicate changes in time and place within a film. The idea in I Am Not Your Negro shows the historical events of the Civil Right Movement and the murder of three heroic individuals. The random tapes of the places and time within the montage positions us to believe a certain theme presented by the documentary and this the documentary presents its view much more persuasively to the viewer. This acts as a pre-view to the rest of the documentary and sets up the true meaning behind the records of the tape and the subtext beyond the screen. As of the presidential run of Shirley Chisholm the ideational montages are linked together by her actions with words and how the film persuasively tells the audience she is the main star in the film which is often used in archival documentaries. This visual representation of the characters thoughts helps position the viewer in the story, and helps the viewer better understand what the character is saying. It visually presents a progression of ideas on a screen. Both of these films are viewed upon within a photo or sequence of montages that convey the audience in the same fashion of compelling storytelling.
I argue that what makes footage read as “archival” is the effect within a given film generated by the juxtaposition of shots perceived as produced at different moments in time. In both these films, some shots are perceived and produced different in time, though it connects various examples of other recordings within the film. In these pictures below, I Am Not A Negro and in Chisholm ‘72 show the compelling speeches of these great individuals.
It shows the production of temporal disparity which often produces archival effects within a film, but also creating a “archival affect”. The archival effect of the images of both films are confronted by the epistemological effect but also an emotional speech among the film. Which is one based in the revelation of temporal disparity. In other words, not only do we invest archival documents with the authority of the “real” past, but also with the feeling of loss and power among the speeches. Certainly, there is always some temporal gap between the moment of any film and its receptions. Indeed, much of the older films make us particularly aware of the difference between the “now” of the film in time and the audiences view of the “now” then.
Contrasting to the both films, viewers and audiences recognize the films as such in an appropriation film. Thus, it generates a sense of multiple contexts and double meaning of the films. Even if these are vague and indeterminate, the fact of the recontextualization of the found documents and tapes set it as an appropriation film that creates the opportunity for multiple readings of the documentaries. The use of archival footage in I Am Not Your Negro is inevitably seen as of the kept tapes of the Civil Right Movement while in Chisholm ’72 shows a period in time of interviews with supporters, opponents, observers, and Chisholm’s own commentary all that illuminates her groundbreaking initiative speeches, as well as political and social currents.
In one of the clips where Shola Lynch used archival footage in Chisholm ’72, Shirley Chisholm says by discussing the ideas of how black woman can be in power and how her speech conveys the audience and the people in the film to appreciate her. A sentence that she says during the scene around the thirty-minute mark of the film, she proudly conveys her audiences and supporters by saying “she is the candidate of the people of America” (Shirley Chisholm), while footages of the Civil Right Movement and other correlation of woman being in power, plays a huge role in the aesthetic view of archival footages within her speech. Though contrasting to I Am Not Your Negro, photos of racism plays a huge role in this archival footage.
Through the eyes of the audience, we see flashbacks of racism within the black African- American community and the white. We also see the captures of various landscapes within the film of a city or place in time. These types of variations that play among the film moves in such a credential way that allows us to see the past and the future beyond the screen.
Although, there are similarities but there is also a lot of differences of the film I Am Not Your Negro and Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed, they both have archival footages that are indeed fascinating. The types of cinematography of montages of photos and sequences play among by visually persuading viewers to see through the eyes of the past. Archival documentaries are just about presenting comprehensive histories and not, in that sense of film cases, but more expressive and limited to the point-of-view that mixes history and art together. As if it is the idea of artistic and experimental archival documentary within both films.
- David. “Jones, David Vaughan (1933–2012), Dai_Vaughan_Aesthetics_of_Ambiguity_1992 (87)
- David. “Jones, David Vaughan (1933–2012), Vaughan_What_1986 (108)
- (I Am Not Your Negro, 53:05)
- (Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed, 30:54)