July 27, 2018

Essential Doc Reads: Week of July 23

The Loud family, stars of the 1973 series "An American Family." Courtesy of PBS

Essential Doc Reads is a weekly feature in which the IDA staff recommends recent pieces about the documentary form and its processes. Here we feature think pieces and important news items from around the Internet, and articles from the Documentary magazine archive. We hope you enjoy!

From The New York Times, William Yardley reflects on the passing of Bill Loud, the patriarch of the Loud family, the stars of the prototypical nonfiction series, An American Family.

But the Louds became a cultural touchstone anyway. Decades before characters on reality programs like The Osbournes and Dance Moms one-upped each other’s outrageousness, the Louds were harshly criticized both for participating in An American Family and for their displays of self-absorption on camera.

IndieWire's Michael Schneider reports from ComicCon, which featured a panel about the latest edition of the celebrated Cosmos series, airing in March 2019.

"The objective truths are true, whether or not you believe in them," host Neil DeGrasseTyson said. "The sooner we learn that, the sooner we can get to protecting civilization from itself. Cosmos, I see it as a kind of antidote to the urges people have to act unwisely. If we're going to have any future at all, it has to be brought forward with wisdom that comes to us from the method and tools of science."

From Hyperallergic, Michael Press assesses the recent PBS series Civilizations.

But as viewers we keep coming back to this thing called "civilization." What exactly is it? At times the series seems to equate it with "culture" or "society," but at other times with "art"— and often with "high art." With three different presenters writing their own episodes, it is predictable we would end up with different definitions. But the series makes no attempt to resolve the conflict among them, or even to acknowledge the differences.

In an introductory essay to his latest New York Times Op-Doc, The Disability Trap, filmmaker Jason DaSilva, who has been living with multiple sclerosis for nearly a decade, discusses the disparities in health care from state to state.

Life has presented me with these challenges because I'm strong enough to endure them, grow from them, and help others dealing with them, too. Regardless of my disability, each day I strive to spread awareness of the damaging discrimination against the disabled population of the United States.

From VR Scout, Bobby Carlton writes about the New York Times' use of AR to tell the story of the Thailand cave rescue.

For the New York Times, AR is not only about providing readers with a more immersive and empathetic storytelling experience – it's about delivering the news in a way that feels more intuitive to their readers.

From the Archive: December 2002-January 2003 Issue: "The First Family of Reality TV: Between the Covers with The Louds"

"By bringing cameras into the home," writes Ruoff, "An American Family announced the breakdown of fixed distinctions between public and private, reality and spectacle, serial narrative and nonfiction, documentary and fiction, film and television." Ruoff credits the series with opening doors to "a variety of new nonfiction forms" that include not just reality TV but the confessional talk shows that are wildly popular today.

 

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