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Taking the long view

Taking the long view: a study of longitudinal documentary

Richard Kilborn
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Taking the long view
    Book Description:

    Taking the Long View is a study of documentary series such as Michael Apted’s world-famous Seven Up films that set out to trace the life-journeys of individuals from their earliest schooldays till they are fully grown adults, often with children of their own. In addition to Seven Up, the book provides extended accounts of the two other best known longitudinal series to have been produced in the last three or four decades: Winifred and Barbara Junge’s The Children of Golzow and Swedish director Rainer Hartleb’s The Children of Jordbrö. Long docs have been an especially popular form of documentary with TV and cinema audiences and the book seeks to throw light on the nature of their appeal.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-317-1
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Note on availability of recordings and online material
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The origins of this book go back to the autumn of 2005 when I attended a joint presentation given by Michael Apted and Granada Television producer Jemma Jupp at the Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival. Apted had recently completed the seventh film (49 Up) in his well-knownSeven Upseries and used the occasion to reflect back on more than 40 years’ involvement in a project that is perhaps the best-known example of a ‘longitudinal documentary’ (which for the sake of brevity I shall from now on refer to as ‘long doc(s)’). In the course of this presentation Apted was...

  6. 1 Reflections on longitudinal documentary: form and function
    (pp. 9-31)

    Most documentaries, it might be claimed, have a longitudinal component. In contrast to news and current affairs programmes that will concentrate on providing brief updates or snapshot accounts of the contemporary scene, documentary productions are generally more concerned with longer-term developments and with the wider ramifications of a subject.¹ Sometimes, perhaps most memorably in the case of a documentary such as Ross McElwee’sSherman’s March, the very process of painstaking investigation and quest for evidence will become part of the textual fabric of the documentary (see Cuevas & García, 2007: 153–79). The very fact that, with documentaries, the subject will...

  7. 2 Short histories
    (pp. 32-46)

    This chapter provides short overviews of the long doc works that will be the subject of more extensive analysis and inquiry in subsequent chapters. I offer these potted histories in the knowledge that not all readers will be familiar with the works in question and that they might therefore welcome a brief introduction about how the films came to be made, together with some indication of the significance they have acquired. By staking out the ground in this way I also hope to be able to flag up the shaping influence of different production contexts and of different broadcasting or...

  8. 3 Getting started
    (pp. 47-69)

    The main aim of this chapter is to explore the conditions under which the long docs under review came to be produced and to consider the role played by particular organisations and institutions in the nurturing of these works. Questions that will be addressed will include: What lay behind the original decision to commission the work? What relationship was there between the film or programme maker and the sponsoring institution? What was the principal motivation for the filmmaker(s) concerned to become involved in such a project? What were the criteria for choosing a particular filming location or a particular group...

  9. 4 Gaining and maintaining momentum
    (pp. 70-124)

    This chapter seeks to explore how long docs develop after they have achieved initial lift-off. As I have already noted (Chapter 1, pp. 12–13), two of the best-known long docs in the history of film had quite modest beginnings. It is therefore of more than a little interest to discover more about the processes by which long docs gain and maintain the momentum necessary to sustain their further progress.¹ As well as discussing such key issues as how film and programme makers maintain good working relations with subjects, I will also be examining some of the textual properties of...

  10. 5 Never-ending stories?
    (pp. 125-136)

    There comes a point in the life of most long docs when, just as with long-running soaps, one gains the impression they might have achieved a state of perpetual motion. As sure as night follows day, we are returned to familiar locations and reacquainted with characters whom we might not have seen for quite some time but instantly recognise when they reappear. Any thought that long docs have discovered the secret of eternal life is, however, tempered by the knowledge that all of them are, in reality, destined to be of finite duration. The only uncertainty concerns when the ending...

  11. 6 Towards an ending
    (pp. 137-189)

    Among the questions I will be addressing in this chapter are the following: In what ways, given long docs’ generically inbuilt resistance to closure, do filmmakers begin to contemplate the prospect of terminating these works? What role does the sponsoring agency or broadcasting institution play in deciding how and when a long doc should be terminated? In what ways are viewers actively prepared for being separated, once and for all, from subjects with whom they may have developed especially close relationships over the years?

    As in previous chapters, I will once again be considering some of the special challenges that...

  12. Concluding remarks
    (pp. 190-193)

    On several occasions in the course of this study I have had occasion to mention the generally high esteem in which long doc works are held by their respective audiences. Barbara and Winfried Junge in their comprehensive survey of theChildren of Golzowproject (Junge, 2004), provide one of the more detailed accounts of the reception of a long doc by reproducing a number of letters and emails sent in by viewers and a cross-section of critical reviews extracted from newspapers and magazines. These materials not only provide evidence of the generally enthusiastic response to projects of this type, they...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 194-197)
  14. Index
    (pp. 198-202)