Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How Safe Are Channel 4 Documentaries?

Renegging on promises to watch Andy Garcia's directorial debut The Lost City last night [watch out for a review soon though!] I decided to watch some popcorn TV on channel 4.

First up was a Dispatches episode called 'How Safe Is Heathrow?'. Using the usual tactics of John Carpenter music and deep concerned voice overs, it told the story of how the airport became a laughing stock in security in recent years culminating with a major robbery only months after the September 11 attacks. They interview security personnel and detectives as they explain the loopholes that gangster use to steal anything from golf clubs to microchips right from under the noses of Heathrow security.

As is usual with such programmes, it could easily be condensed to a half-hour show but as always, it is stretched out by covering the same ground by asking the same question to different people and my all time favourite which is interviewing using camera techniques to poorly disguise the interviewee. Last nights programme used the classic soft-focus zoom on sections of the face which is hilarious because if you wanted to piece together the face you could just grab screenshots and put it together like a jigsaw. Also the voice wasn't reworked either so it was probably obvious to anyone who cared who this guy was.

The conclusion to the programme was that Heathrow still has loopholes and if the slow motion recaps of previous video footage with gloomy orchestral music told you anything was that ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN AT ANY TIME! What's that behind you? Agghhh!!!

Next up was 'The Mircale of Stairwell B'. It told the story of how a group of fire-fighters, a police officer and an office worker survived the North Tower collapsing on top of them. Once again this is the type of story that could have been told in 30 minutes or actually benefitted from an hour long episode with greater detail on a non-emotional aspect such as how the buildings collapsed using schematics and dealing with wider issues of the day since the reason they survived could be told in 5 minutes without dramatics and what-ifs blow-by-blow accounts retold by the group of people who shared the same traumatic event and is thus identical.

Considering Channel 4 has had 5 years worth of material to piece together these documentaries, they smack of hack amateurism and fail to reap the benefits of what are essentially extremely interesting stories.

3 Comments:

Blogger Skry said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:43 pm  
Blogger Skry said...

I have to admit that I started watching the Heathrow documentary and was very quickly bored by the Sky One-like gloomy music and repetitive interviews that you speak of.

By the half-way stage I was so bored that I switched over and started to watch a re-run of The Daily Show (the one with Sam Jackson and Snakes On A Plane), preferring a re-run over the drivel Channel 4 was offerring.

At 9pm I was going to watch the WTC documentary but I had watched a similar one only the night before about the 2 French documentary-makers who had followed the NYFD for 9 months before-hand and were lucky to survive, unlike the fire fighters they were following.

Instead I watched Dresden, a documentary following an unconvincing romance during the bombing of the city in World War 2.

The film more accurately portrayed the city and the time of the bombing than any remotely realistic romance of the time, but it is worth watching if you can ignore the main theme and concentrate on the several more interesting and realistic sub-themes of the movie (Nazi doctors trying to escape the city and punishment, a woman married to a Jew and her husband who's job it is to delver the "You're going to a concentration camp" letters to his Jewish friends, etc).

All in all I'd give the film 3 Heils out of 5 for it's use of modern computer effects, modern filmatography and WW2 filmatography.

The three are mixed together well, not because it is seemless but because you can see the seems, for example the original and slightly dated footage of RAF airmen getting into their Lancaster bomers headed for Dresden and, in the very next shot, actors wearing the exact gear in the same plane almost 70 years later getting on with the film.

Check it out for the historical accuracy and not for the romantic plot.

By the way, was there only WW2 and Sept 11th stuff on TV last night? I saw several shows and documentaries about 9/11 and two WW2 films...

5:45 pm  
Blogger Jay Tea said...

I suspect this has to do with both events being in September.
11th 2001 being the WTC attack and the 2nd 1945 generally marking the end of WW2.
Next month I suspect Channel 4 to be running a series of halloween/witches documentaries culminating in a re-showing of the Wickerman.

5:57 pm  

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