Cinéma vérité

Cinéma vérité (/ˈsɪnɪmə vɛrɪˈteɪ/; French: [sinema veʁite]; 'truthful cinema') is a style of documentary filmmaking, invented by Jean Rouch, inspired by Dziga Vertov's theory about Kino-Pravda. It combines improvisation with the use of the camera to unveil truth or highlight subjects hidden behind crude reality.[1][2][3]

Cinéma vérité in relationship to direct cinema and observational cinema

It is sometimes called observational cinema,[4][5] if understood as pure direct cinema: mainly without a narrator's voice-over. There are subtle, yet important, differences among terms expressing similar concepts. Direct Cinema is largely concerned with the recording of events in which the subject and audience become unaware of the camera's presence: operating within what Bill Nichols,[6] an American historian and theoretician of documentary film, calls the "observational mode", a fly on the wall. Many therefore see a paradox in drawing attention away from the presence of the camera and simultaneously interfering in the reality it registers when attempting to discover a cinematic truth.

Cinéma vérité can involve stylized set-ups and the interaction between the filmmaker and the subject, even to the point of provocation. Some argue that the obvious presence of the filmmaker and camera was seen by most cinéma vérité filmmakers as the best way to reveal the truth in cinema.[7][8][9] The camera is always acknowledged, for it performs the raw act of filming real objects, people, and events in a confrontational way. The filmmaker's intention was to represent the truth in what he or she was seeing as objectively as possible, freeing people from any deceptions in how those aspects of life were formerly presented to them. From this perspective, the filmmaker should be the catalyst of a situation. Few agree on the meanings of these terms, even the filmmakers whose films are being described.

Pierre Perrault sets situations up and then films them, for example in Pour la suite du monde (1963) where he asked old people to fish for whale. The result is not a documentary about whale fishing; it is about memory and lineage. In this sense cinéma vérité is concerned with anthropological cinema, and with the social and political implications of what is captured on film. How a filmmaker shoots a film, what is being filmed, what to do with what was filmed, and how that film will be presented to an audience, all were very important for filmmakers of the time.

In all cases, the ethical and aesthetic analysis of documentary form (see docufiction) of the 1950s and 1960s has to be linked with a critical look at post-war propaganda analysis. The best way to describe this type of cinema is probably to say that it is concerned with notions of truth and reality in film. Also feminist documentary films of the 1970s often used cinéma-vérité techniques. Soon this sort of 'realism' was criticized for its deceptive pseudo-natural construction of reality.[10][11]

As Edgar Morin wrote: "There are two ways to conceive of the cinema of the Real: the first is to pretend that you can present reality to be seen; the second is to pose the problem of reality. In the same way, there were two ways to conceive cinéma vérité. The first was to pretend that you brought truth. The second was to pose the problem of truth."[12]

Filmmakers associated with the style


Select cinéma-vérité films

The techniques (if not always the spirit) of cinéma vérité can also be seen in fiction films such as The Battle of Algiers, The Blair Witch Project, Children of Men, Jimmy and Judy, Rachel Getting Married, Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead, District 9, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1, Battle: Los Angeles, REC, Saving Private Ryan, The Bourne Ultimatum (film) and Paranormal Activity, among others.

Cinéma-vérité style films and television shows

Many film directors of the 1960s and later adopted use of the handheld camera, techniques and cinéma vérité styles for their fiction films based on screenplays and actors. They often had actors using improvisation to get a more spontaneous quality in their talks and action. Influential examples include director John Cassavetes, who broke ground with his film Faces.[15]

The techniques of cinéma vérité were also readily adapted to use in TV fiction programs, such as Homicide: Life on the Street, The X-Files episode "X-Cops", Sanctuary, Friday Night Lights, NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues, Battlestar Galactica, The Shield, The Thick Of It, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louie, Arrested Development, Reno 911!, Trailer Park Boys, various episodes of the Law & Order franchise, both the UK and American versions of The Office, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Veep. Documentary series are less common, but include:

One might argue that a pioneer of this style in television was Orson Welles in his 1955 program for British television, Around the World with Orson Welles.


Related genres

See also


  1. ^ Glossary of rouchinan terms at MAITRES FOUS net
  2. ^ Ricky Leacock and “The Sense of Being There” Archived 2013-06-14 at the Wayback Machine – Article by Stephen Altobello at IMN
  3. ^ Camera that Changed the World – Article at BBC
  4. ^ Direct Cinema at Karamumedia12
  5. ^ Observational documentary at Film Reference
  6. ^ Nichols, Bill. Introducing the Documentary. Indiana University Press, 2001, p. 109
  7. ^ Jean Rouch: Cinéma-vérité, Chronicle of a Summer and The Human Pyramid – Article by Barbara Bruni at Senses of Cinema, March 13, 2002
  8. ^ DIRECT CINEMA: Filmmaking Style and its relationship to “Truth” – Thesis by Bernice K. Shneider, B.A., Art History University of Massachusetts, MIT (1972)
  9. ^ Jean Rouch – The Film-maker as Provocateur – Article at Microwave
  10. ^ A feminist critique of documentary film – Paper at Serendip Studio
  11. ^ By, For, and About: The “Real” Problem in the Feminist Film Movement – Paper by Shilyh Warren at Mediascape, UCLA
  12. ^ "Il y a deux façons de concevoir le cinéma du réel : la première est de prétendre donner à voir le réel; la seconde est de se poser le problème du réel. De même, il y avait deux façons de concevoir le cinéma vérité. La première était de prétendre apporter la vérité. La seconde était de se poser le problème de la vérité." (Cinéma et vérité, 1980)
  13. ^ Happy Mother's Day at Pennebaker Hegedus Films
  14. ^ The Plaint of Steve Kreines as recorded by his younger brother Jeff at Sundance Festival
  15. ^ John Cassavetes in Allmovie, accessed online on the New York Times website 23 October 2006.

External links

American Dream (film)

American Dream is a 1990 cinéma vérité documentary film directed by Barbara Kopple and co-directed by Cathy Caplan, Thomas Haneke, and Lawrence Silk.

The film recounts an unsuccessful strike in the heartland of America against the Hormel Foods corporation.

Anything, Anything (I'll Give You)

"Anything, Anything (I'll Give You)" is a 1985 song by the alternative rock band Dramarama released as the first single from their debut album Cinéma Vérité. The single was featured on the A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master soundtrack and is one of the most requested songs in the history of Los Angeles radio station KROQ. A short clip of it was also featured in an episode of Entourage. Since 2009 the song as been the name and title of Rich Russo's free form radio show Anything Anything with Rich Russo where the song opens the show each week. The song also features in the 2014 film Two Night Stand, as well as the 2003 film 11:14.

Charlotte Zwerin

Charlotte Zwerin (born Charlotte Mitchell, August 15, 1931 – January 22, 2004) was an American documentary film director and editor known for her work concerning artists and musicians. However, she is most known for her editing contributions to the direct cinema and cinéma vérité documentaries Salesman (1969), Gimme Shelter (1970) and Running Fence (1978) in which she was given co-director credits along with the two cinéma vérité pioneers Albert and David Maysles.

Cinéma Vérité (album)

Cinéma Vérité is the first album by the alternative rock group Dramarama, released in November 1985. Although Dramarama was an American group, from New Jersey, the album was originally released by New Rose Records of France, and in America on Question Mark Records. It was later picked up for release by Chameleon Records, a small independent record label, in California. Edie Sedgwick appears on the album cover.

Cinéma vérité (disambiguation)

Cinéma vérité is a documentary film-making style combining naturalistic techniques with stylized cinematic devices.

Cinéma vérité may refer to:

Cinema Verite (2011 film), a film by HBO Films about the making of the television series An American Family

Cinéma Vérité: Defining the Moment, a 1999 documentary film

Cinéma Vérité (album), the first album by alternative rock group Dramarama

Columbia Revolt

Columbia Revolt is a 50-minute, black-and-white documentary film about the Columbia University protests of 1968. The film was made that year by a collective of independent filmmakers called Newsreel and mostly shot by Melvin Margolis. It features a number of off-camera interviews with unnamed students who were involved in the takeover of university buildings.

According to Roz Payne, a member of the Newsreel collective who worked on the film:

The students had taken over 5 buildings. We had a film team in each building. We were shooting from the inside while the rest of the press were outside. We participated in the political negotiations and discussions. Our cameras were used as weapons as well as recording the events. Melvin had a World War II cast iron steel Bell and Howell camera that could take the shock of breaking plate glass windows.

The film is sympathetic to the students and is shot in a Cinéma vérité style. It is now in the public domain.

Direct Cinema

Direct Cinema is a documentary genre that originated between 1958 and 1962 in North America, principally in the Canadian province of Quebec and the United States, and developed by Jean Rouch in France. It is defined as a cinematic practice employing lightweight filming equipment, hand-held cameras and live, synchronous sound that was available to create due to the new ground-breaking technologies that were being developed in the early 1960s. This offered early independent filmmakers the possibility to do away with the large crews, studio sets, tripod-mounted equipment and special lights in the making of a film, expensive aspects that severely limited these low-budget early documentarians. Similar in many respects to the cinéma vérité genre, it was characterized initially by filmmakers' desire to directly capture reality and represent it truthfully, and to question the relationship of reality with cinema.

Flag Wars

Flag Wars is a 2003 American documentary film about the conflict between two communities during the gentrification of a Columbus, Ohio neighborhood. Filmed in a cinéma vérité style, the film is an account of the tension between the two historically oppressed communities of African-Americans and gays in Columbus' Olde Towne East neighborhood. The film was nominated for an Emmy Award and won three awards, including a Peabody Award.

GT Racer

GT Racer is a Cinéma vérité television program following classic car racing. In the United Kingdom it is broadcast on the UKTV channel Dave, in the United States it is broadcast by Treasure HD, a high definition channel of VoomHD and can be received on 'Cable Vision' and 'Dish'. The series is produced and directed by Alexander Davidis through John Galt Films, Inc. In 2008 the program has been picked up by Discovery HD that will air Season II as of March 2009. In the US the program can then be seen on HD Theater and world wide on Discovery HD. It is distributed on DVD by Spirit Level Film.

In Vanda's Room

In Vanda's Room (Portuguese: No Quarto da Vanda, 2000) is a docufiction (a subgenre of cinéma vérité) film by Portuguese director Pedro Costa.

Jean Rouch

Jean Rouch (French: [ʁuʃ]; 31 May 1917 – 18 February 2004) was a French filmmaker and anthropologist.

He is considered to be one of the founders of cinéma vérité in France. Rouch's practice as a filmmaker, for over sixty years in Africa, was characterized by the idea of shared anthropology.

Influenced by his discovery of surrealism in his early twenties, many of his films blur the line between fiction and documentary, creating a new style: ethnofiction. He was hailed by the French New Wave filmmakers as one of their own. His seminal film Me a Black (Moi, un noir) pioneered the technique of jump cut popularized by Jean-Luc Godard.

Commenting Rouch's work, someone "in charge of research for the Musée de l'Homme" in Paris, Godard questioned: “Is there a better definition for a filmmaker?".


Kino-Pravda (Russian: Кино-Правда, lit. 'Film Truth') was a series of 23 newsreels by Dziga Vertov, Elizaveta Svilova, and Mikhail Kaufman launched in June 1922..

Vertov referred to the twenty-three issues of Kino-Pravda as the first work by him where his future cinematic methods can be observed.Working mainly during the 1920s, Vertov promoted the concept of "kino-pravda", or "film-truth", through his newsreel series. His driving vision was to capture fragments of actuality which, when organized together, showed a deeper truth which could not be seen with the naked eye. In the Kino-Pravda series, Vertov focused on everyday experiences, eschewing bourgeois concerns and filming marketplaces, bars, and schools instead, sometimes with a hidden camera, without asking permission first.The episodes of Kino-Pravda usually did not include reenactments or stagings (one exception is the segment about the trial of the Social Revolutionaries: the scenes of the selling of the newspapers on the streets and the people reading the papers in the trolley were both staged for the camera). The cinematography is simple, functional, and unelaborated. Twenty-three issues of the series were produced over a period of three years; each issue lasted about twenty minutes and usually covered three topics. The stories were typically descriptive, not narrative, and included vignettes and exposés, showing for instance the renovation of a trolley system, the organization of farmers into communes, and the trial of Social Revolutionaries; one story shows starvation in the nascent Marxist state. Propagandistic tendencies are also present, but with more subtlety, in the episode featuring the construction of an airport: one shot shows the former Czar's tanks helping prepare a foundation, with an intertitle reading "Tanks on the labor front".

Vertov clearly intended an active relationship with his audience in the series — in the final segment he includes contact information — but by the fourteenth episode the series had become so experimental that some critics dismissed Vertov's efforts as "insane".The term "kino pravda", though it translates from Russian as "film truth", is not to be confused with the cinéma vérité movement in documentary film, which also translates as "film truth". Cinéma vérité was similarly marked by the intention of capturing reality "warts and all", but became popular in France in the 1960s.

Lonely Boy (film)

Lonely Boy is a 1962 cinéma vérité documentary about the former teen sensation Paul Anka. The film takes its name from Anka's hit song, "Lonely Boy", which he performs to screaming fans in the film. This short documentary makes use of hand-held cameras to record intimate backstage moments.

Co-directed by Roman Kroitor and Wolf Koenig, this National Film Board of Canada production won a Canadian Film Award as top film of the year and was nominated at the BAFTA Awards for its best short film prize.

Reality pornography

Reality pornography is a genre of pornography where staged scenes, usually shot in cinéma vérité fashion, set up and precede sexual encounters. These scenes may either have the cameraman directly engaging in sex (as in Gonzo pornography) or merely filming others having sex. The genre presents itself as "real couples having real sex". It has been described as professionally made porn which seeks to emulate the style of amateur pornography.The niche's popularity grew significantly in the latter half of the first decade of the 2000s. Examples include the Girls Gone Wild and Girls Who Like Girls Series. The work of Bruce Seven has been called reality porn, due to his lack of using scripts and asking his performers to act naturally in their own character.In order to comply with the industry's requirements for sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing, the vast majority of reality porn involves professional actors and actresses posing as so-called "amateurs." Even though the performers who perform in these films typically appear on many reality websites within a short span of time, most of these websites claim that each of them is an amateur.Another variant of reality pornography consists of normal couples that are filmed by professionals, in which case the only obvious distinction from amateur pornography is the higher quality of production, filming and editing.

Roman Kroitor

Roman Kroitor (December 12, 1926 – September 17, 2012) was a Canadian filmmaker who was known as an early practitioner of cinéma vérité, as co-founder of IMAX, and as creator of the Sandde hand-drawn stereoscopic animation system. He was also the original inspiration for the Force , popularized in the Star Wars series.

He studied philosophy and psychology at the University of Manitoba and then worked for the National Film Board of Canada, first as a production assistant and then as a film editor. He directed his first film, Rescue Party in 1949. He wrote the NFB animated short It's A Crime (1957), produced Propaganda Message (1974), and produced and directed In the Labyrinth, released as a theatrical film in 1979.

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid is a 1972 American Technicolor Drama Western film about the James-Younger Gang distributed by Universal Pictures. It was directed by Philip Kaufman in a cinéma vérité style and starred Cliff Robertson as Cole Younger, Robert Duvall as Jesse James, Luke Askew as Jim Younger, R. G. Armstrong as Clell Miller, John Pearce as Frank James, and Matt Clark as Bob Younger. The film purports to recreate the James-Younger Gang's most infamous escapade, the September 7, 1876, robbery of "the biggest bank west of the Mississippi" in Northfield, Minnesota.

The Love We Make

The Love We Make is a cinéma vérité documentary film by Albert Maysles. The film chronicles Paul McCartney's experiences in New York City after the September 11, 2001 attacks, following him as he prepared The Concert for New York City October 2001 benefit event. McCartney was on an airplane taxiing at JFK International Airport, about to depart for the United Kingdom, when the attacks occurred, and he wanted to do something to uplift and benefit the first responders in New York, so he arranged this concert. The film chronicles McCartney's planning and backstage experiences with the other participants in the concert.The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2011 along with a theatrical release on that day in Japan.The film had its television premiere on Showtime on September 10, 2011 – the eve of the 10th anniversary of the attacks.The home video was released by Eagle Rock Entertainment on December 6, 2011 on DVD and Blu-ray.The film's title comes from a line in The Beatles' song "The End".

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