Online learning English Task 3


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Task 3 Biographical narratives and documentaries

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Online learning English Task 3

  1. 1. Online Learning Module: English Revision for Yr 11 2B - Task 3
  2. 2. Task 3 Investigate different texts to show whether they can ever be neutral - biography <ul><li>Read a biographical narrative and or extracts of historical texts. </li></ul><ul><li>Identify what you perceive the writers’ intentions to be. </li></ul><ul><li>Explore how selection of detail and language shapes the readers’ responses to the authors’ thesis, propositions and arguments. </li></ul><ul><li>Take extensive notes. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Process <ul><li>Read through both biographies carefully </li></ul><ul><li>Selection of detail – what has been included? What has been left out? How does this “ shape the readers’ responses to the authors’ thesis, propositions and arguments” </li></ul><ul><li>Language – how is the subject described? Are superlative (adjectives) used: greatest…most …slightest…? </li></ul><ul><li>In other words, how has the writer’s choices about what they include – since they can’t write about everything in the subject’s life – influenced they way the reader perceives that subject? </li></ul>
  4. 4. The Monster <ul><li>What does Deems Taylor think of Wagner? </li></ul><ul><li>How have his choices influenced you to either share his opinion or disagree with him? </li></ul><ul><li>Think about the language used – how is Wagner described – both physically and emotionally? Consider the title of his essay. </li></ul><ul><li>Is his description accurate – does he give ‘both sides of the story’? Does this ultimately make any difference? </li></ul><ul><li>How does Taylor manage to present a picture of such an un-likeable person, but still admire him and still encourage his audience to do the same? </li></ul><ul><li>Can texts ever be truly neutral – even if they do present both the admirable (positive) and adverse or ruthless (negative) aspects of a subject’s character? </li></ul>
  5. 5. Wagner – Monster or genius? <ul><li>This text can be divided into three parts. </li></ul><ul><li>Part I - describes a man who seems to have no redeeming features, a real monster. Tone is critical and judgmental </li></ul><ul><li>Part II - clarifies who this monster really is, i.e. a famous musician Richard Wagner. </li></ul><ul><li>Part III - justifies all Wagner’s appalling behaviour by explaining that he, as “one of the world’s greatest dramatists … a great thinker … one of the most stupendous musical geniuses”, had every reason to be a monster . Tone is admiring and respectful </li></ul>
  6. 6. Structure / selection of detail <ul><li>Look at the structure of “The Monster” – the writer starts off by detailing all of Wagner’s weaknesses </li></ul><ul><li>Physically unattractive </li></ul><ul><li>Conceited and arrogant </li></ul><ul><li>An obsession with being right </li></ul><ul><li>Self-obsessed and full of pride </li></ul><ul><li>Demanding of others admiration </li></ul><ul><li>Emotionally unstable </li></ul><ul><li>Irresponsible and wasted money (often borrowed) </li></ul><ul><li>Unfaithful to both wives and mistresses </li></ul><ul><li>However he claims “it doesn’t matter in the least” – because his gifts and genius are more important, and goes on to list them </li></ul>
  7. 7. Language <ul><li>Even though Taylor seems to present a balanced picture of Wagner, the biography is ultimately not neutral because of the language he uses. </li></ul><ul><li>Rhetorical questions – which require no answer </li></ul><ul><li>What if he did talk about himself all the time? </li></ul><ul><li>What if he was faithless to his friends and to his wives? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it any wonder that he had no time to be a man? </li></ul>
  8. 8. Language <ul><li>His previous statements are reversed </li></ul><ul><li>“ He had a mania for being right…” …becomes.. “Because this undersized, sickly, disagreeable, fascinating little man was right all the time.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ He believed himself to be one of the greatest dramatists in the world, one of the greatest thinkers and one of the greatest composers. To hear him talk, he was Shakespeare, and Beethoven, and Plato rolled into one.” …becomes… </li></ul><ul><li>“ He was one of the world’s great dramatists; he was a great thinker; he was one of the most stupendous musical geniuses that, up to now , the world has ever seen.” </li></ul>
  9. 9. Language <ul><li>Taylor’s writing uses personification and hyperbole (exaggeration) to reach a final justification that Wagner must be admired despite everything he was a did. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Listening to his music, one does not forgive him for what he may or may not have been. It is not a matter of forgiveness. It is a matter of being dumb with wonder that his poor brain and body didn’t burst under the torment of the demon of creative energy that lived inside him, struggling, clawing, scratching to be released; tearing, shrieking at him to write the music that was in him.” </li></ul><ul><li>Taylor also switches to 1 st person and uses the phrase “I think ” </li></ul><ul><li>As a musician and composer himself Taylor also writes from his own context and clearly worships Wagner. Biographers rarely choose to research and spend time writing about someone who they do not care about. They must always write from or be influenced by a personal perspective. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Task 3 Investigate different texts to show whether they can ever be neutral - d ocumentary <ul><li>View a relevant film and take notes on the structure, style and purpose </li></ul><ul><li>Select your own documentary and deliver an oral presentation to the class discussing the devices the director uses to influence your viewpoint. </li></ul><ul><li>Substantiate your findings with a short segment of the documentary. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Documentaries – truth or narrative? <ul><li>Documentaries are shaped and created in much the same way that film narratives are. Documentary film-makers still use some basic narrative elements and film techniques in order to ‘tell their story’. We think its “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”…but rarely is that the case. </li></ul><ul><li>What devices does the director use to influence your viewpoint? </li></ul>
  12. 12. Questions to ask yourself <ul><li>Is this a documentary?  </li></ul><ul><li>What was the producer's purpose in making this documentary?  </li></ul><ul><li>How did the producer's purpose shape the content of this program?  </li></ul><ul><li>How is language used to manipulate the message?  </li></ul><ul><li>How are sound and images used to manipulate the message?  </li></ul><ul><li>What techniques are used to enhance the authenticity of the program? In other words, make is seem more real and believable? </li></ul><ul><li>What techniques are used to enhance the authority of the program? To convince you to trust the filmmakers? </li></ul>
  13. 13. Unfathomable <ul><li>What is the filmmaker's purpose in creating this documentary? </li></ul><ul><li>How do you know that – what evidence is there? </li></ul><ul><li>In other words, what has the choices made by the filmmaker (selection of detail and film techniques) revealed about their intentions? </li></ul><ul><li>If the filmmaker has a purpose, and structures their documentary in order to achieve that purpose, then can the documentary be truly neutral? </li></ul>
  14. 14. Exposition / Conflict / Resolution <ul><li>In the exposition of “Unfathomable”, the filmmaker introduces Tina and outlines what happened to her. What devices are used to introduce her to the viewer? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the conflict that is established in the early stages of the documentary? </li></ul><ul><li>What resolution – if any - is offered to the audience by the end? </li></ul>
  15. 15. Voice-over / Narration <ul><li>The Voice-over in a documentary is a commentary by the filmmaker, spoken while the camera is filming, or added to the soundtrack during the production. Through this the filmmaker can speak directly to the viewer, offering information, explanations and opinions. This narration not only informs, but also effectively guides and therefore positions the audience. </li></ul><ul><li>Unfathomable does not use a narrator, but rather uses the voices of those interviewed to tell the story. The audience does not get the impression a person is speaking to them, explaining things or attempting to guide them. However this is deceptive… </li></ul><ul><li>Whose narrative voice is heard through most of this documentary? How does that position the viewer to feel sympathy for the family involved? </li></ul>
  16. 16. Interviews <ul><li>To achieve this much detail from what may be a one-hour interview, clips of only a few minutes are shown. The interviewer will only ask questions that give answers that support the main theme presented within the documentary, and thus the viewer feels as though that this is the only view and the view they must believe correct. </li></ul><ul><li>The interview is a common documentary technique. It allows people being filmed to speak directly about events, prompted by the questions asked by the filmmaker. An interview may take place on screen, or off screen, on a different set. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Interviews <ul><li>Who is interviewed? How do these interviews help convey the filmmaker’s thesis? </li></ul>Who is not interviewed? How does that affect influence the audience and their understanding of events?
  18. 18. Use of experts <ul><li>Most documentaries make use of the convention of the expert, the authorities whose explanations, claims and presentation of information serve as the substance of the program.  </li></ul><ul><li>Viewers tend to trust professionals (doctors, lawyers, professors), officials (police) or eye-witnesses, and tend to be persuaded by their testimony. </li></ul><ul><li>A producer might want to make something or someone more believable and might place them in front of an important building, surround them with a impressive technology, or have them dress in a very formal way.  </li></ul>
  19. 19. Sgt Gary Campbell and Det. Snr Const. Kevin Gehringer of Qld police are frequently filmed sitting in dark offices examining evidence and going over details of the case. This gives the impression they worked long hours during their investigation. It also conveys a sense of their professionalism and dedication. Experts – where are they filmed? What are they doing? Is it actual footage or reconstructions?
  20. 20. Use of experts <ul><li>Look at the professionals and experts that the filmmaker used. How do these people support the thesis that the filmmaker puts forward – namely that Gabe Watson killed his wife Tina? </li></ul><ul><li>Think about the interview with Lt Brad Flynn of the Helena Police Dept, Alabama </li></ul><ul><li>Interviews with The Snyders (fellow divers), Wade Singleton ( trip director) and the witness statement by Dr Stanley Stutz, (diver and witness) also present a convincing case against Gabe Watson. </li></ul><ul><li>These people all have authority either because of their profession or they were there and were experienced divers. Viewers trust what they say. </li></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>“ When Gabe Watson appeared in court that </li></ul><ul><li>morning the indictment read murder. But it’s </li></ul><ul><li>obvious from the words used that he knew that the DPP would accept an alternative charge of manslaughter, and he actually said not guilty to murder, guilty to manslaughter and immediately following that the prosecution accepted that plea. Obviously the crown prosecutor was then prevented from putting any evidence to the court that he deliberately killed her. Instead the basis of their case was that he’d failed in his duty to her as her dive buddy and just left her to die…. </li></ul>Assoc. prof. David Field, Academic and Former Prosecutor
  22. 22. <ul><li>“… . There is a belief that he only came back to Australia because a deal had already been done. That in itself isn’t a bad thing if the evidence only pointed to manslaughter. What would be a bad thing of course is if the charge had been reduced to manslaughter when in fact they could have proved murder.” </li></ul>Assoc. prof. David Field, Academic and Former Prosecutor
  23. 23. <ul><li>“ I have to say that I thought it was a </li></ul><ul><li>very thorough and complete investigation and as impartial an investigation as I've seen …” </li></ul>David Glasgow, Coroner (1998-2008)
  24. 24. <ul><li>“… I deliberated quite a lengthy time and I came to conclusion that there was sufficient evidence there that a jury if they looked at it, they could come to a conclusion that there had been an intent, and that the man had deliberately murdered his partner.” </li></ul>David Glasgow, Coroner (1998-2008)
  25. 25. <ul><li>Most documentaries make use of the convention of the expert, the authorities whose explanations, claims and presentation of information serve as the substance of the program.  </li></ul><ul><li>By using these two men – both legal experts who were involved in the case – the filmmaker makes their thesis seem completely convincing. </li></ul><ul><li>It becomes clear that the program becomes the trial that never happened, all the evidence that was never presented before a judge is presented to the viewer. To get Tommy Thomas longs for – justice for Tina. </li></ul>Use of experts
  26. 26. Archival footage <ul><li>Think about the footage you see in the documentary </li></ul><ul><li>Wedding – we see a smiling and laughing Tina on what should be the happiest day of her life. </li></ul><ul><li>Wedding rehearsal and Bridal shower (Tina unwrapping gifts) </li></ul><ul><li>Honeymoon video – think about how disturbing this is if Gabe really was fully intending to kill her on the planned dive! </li></ul><ul><li>Police interview of Gabe Watson </li></ul><ul><li>Excerpts of TV News about the Inquest including interviews with David Watson and Gabe’s Defence Attorney </li></ul><ul><li>Video of Tina’s coffin being exhumed and Gabe removing flowers from the grave. </li></ul>
  27. 27. <ul><li>Remember, the only time we see Tina is in video and photographs! </li></ul><ul><li>The filmmaker – in order to help the audience feel sympathy for Tina – must show them lots of footage and photographs. The audience therefore develops a ‘connection’ with her. </li></ul>Lt Brad Flynn set up a stake-out at the cemetery and caught Gabe on camera removing the flowers with a bolt cutter <ul><li>How is the footage used to both give background to the story but also present people in a certain light? </li></ul><ul><li>If this is not relevant to the murder case it must be included to build a picture of Gabe as a cruel and vengeful man. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Reconstructions <ul><li>Reconstructions are also often used in documentaries. They are artificial scenes of an event which has been reconstructed and acted out on film based on information of the event. Reconstructions generally provide factual information, and give the viewer a sense of realism, as if the event really happened in front of them live. </li></ul><ul><li>The filmmakers spent some time and effort in reconstructing the events of the dive. Including Gabe calling for help and the efforts of Wade Singleton to resuscitate Tina. </li></ul><ul><li>Using this technique creates a sense of immediacy – the audience feels like they are witnesses to the events. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Reconstructions By including the police reconstruction of events the filmmaker present powerful and convincing evidence that Gabe could, in fact, have held onto Tina and switched off her oxygen. This meant staring into her face while she lost consciousness. What does this suggest to the viewer about Gabe? Why include this in the documentary?
  30. 30. How are other images and graphics used to create sympathy for Tina’s family? Graphics and titles provide information for the viewer and shots of documents or photos are another way of presenting evidence to support a particular point of view, and include print information within a visual medium.
  31. 31. Visuals - Think about how often this image appears in the documentary. It’s a powerful and emotional image – giving us a last picture of Tina but also presenting her as helpless.
  32. 32. <ul><li>The creators of “Unfathomable” paint a picture of Gabe Watson as a controlling, manipulative, cruel, selfish, lying, cold blooded murderer who even sought to punish the Thomas family by exhuming (digging up) Tina’s coffin and moving it 60 meters away and then constantly removing any flowers then left on her grave. They present him, in fact, as a monster. They present a documentary which is effectively a case against Gabe Watson and let Tommy Thomas state in his interview that he just wants “justice for Tina”. It is biased, subjective and not neutral. </li></ul><ul><li>Taylor in his biography “The Monster” describes Wagner as a Monster of conceit, yet tries to prove that we cannot judge Wagner by his character and actions, but only in the light of his achievements. He presents both Wagner’s weaknesses (in great detail) but ultimately excuses them and focuses on his genius. It is still not neutral. </li></ul>Neutral… or not?
  33. 33. Your tasks <ul><li>Prepare for an in-class essay. You should write 2 ½ - 3 pages without notes. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Can texts ever be truly neutral? Discuss this statement in relation to a biographical narrative and a documentary you have studied and explain how selection of detail, language and film conventions/techniques shapes the readers’ responses.” </li></ul><ul><li>Prepare and give a speech to the class 3-4 mins </li></ul><ul><li>“ Select your own documentary and deliver an oral presentation to the class discussing the devices the director uses to influence your viewpoint. You should prove your findings in an examination of a short segment of the documentary .” </li></ul>