A man talks about his recent divorce: “See, the reason we divorced was because she..and I tried, but then she…” and he keeps going on how it was his wife’s fault. The listeners agree with him, or at least think he has good reasons. The wife does the same thing with another group of people by telling them how it was her husband’s fault, the reaction of her audience is the same as the man’s.
Who has the most fault, the husband or the wife?
From the perspective of the wife it was all his husband’s fault, in order to prove that, she would tell stories and anecdotes, find physical proofs and why not, have some witnesses of how terrible her husband was. The same thing happens if the husband tells his story and for the people who doesn’t know both sides of the story it would be easy to believe in the version they are listening.
Expository filmmaking is a powerful weapon because “It assembles fragments of the historical world into a…rhetorical frame” (Nichols 167) in order to work, this assemblage should be credible, convincing and compelling. Although the purpose of the expository mode is to uncover the truth, the argument can be like listening to a recent divorcé talk about his ex-spouse.
The reason for this comparison is because expository documentaries can be telling the truth but most of the times the vision tends to be very one-sided and the use of rhetoric makes it convincing enough for people to believe it. The convincing nature of these kinds of documentaries be positive when talking about an idea that will move people to act and do good, but it can also be a terrible thing when dealing with topics that will cause the audience to form prejudices.
A great example can be found in The Mormons (2015) where the filmmaker portrays the Mormon religion from the perspective of people who left the church, the film intends to be a way to inform outsiders what the Mormon church is like, but fails to give a fair amount of information by only giving one side of the story.
Michael Moore is well known for producing films that are meant to expose the truth about divisive topics, when talking about his film Bowling for Columbine (2003) he explains why his films can be subjective,they represent the filmmaker’s point of view. The problem comes when films pretend to be the absolute truth, take the example of The Corporation (2003) the voice of God narration, the editing, the music and all the experts talking as voices of authority makes the audience believe that what they are seeing is a complete truth.
Expository films can be a great tool to educate people and encourage change, they can be a motivation to become more informed and eventually help someone form an opinion about an important issue, however, their nature is to be convincing. The same things that are positive about documentaries can be the opposite if the audience is not aware of the fact that even if the information is right, the construction is left in the hands of the filmmaker and for the uneducated audience that construction will become the truth.