How can you compare the representation of suffering in Bombay Beach to any of the other documentaries about people’s suffering we have watched?
Bombay Beach uses historic photos to show us the past, and photography-like camera techniques to give us, with interviews, a snapshot of its characters’ present* situation (*when the movie was filmed). Characters are developed fully through images from childhood, or early childhood in the case of the little boy, and we develop relationships with them that allows us to feel pity–or sympathy–for them. The character development makes the family’s daily struggles significant and cathartic to an audience.
Standard Operating Procedure tackled a much more gruesome subject, but still used photos to show verify for the viewer both the story of Americans’ mistreatment of prisoners, and the steaks this event held in many involved persons’ lives. Morris shot interviews very photo-like as well. The commentary we see looks like its coming from moving photos, and we therefore trust them the same as we trust the archival images. In a way, it puts us in the investigator’s position–looking at photos, interrogating witnesses. It has the ability to make us believe that we discovered the truth on our own, so that we wholeheartedly believe it.
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