“Documentaries have evolved into subjective, visual poetry,” Van Ness said, “and somebody’s processing of experience as they’re looking at some external situation.”
If such films are now influenced by filmmakers’ personal reactions to a situation, as much as by how scholars agree to define it, that doesn’t mean they are less committed to telling the truth.
Audiences can tell when they are being lied to, Van Ness said, and filmmakers who don’t exercise the highest standards in making a film will end up being ignored.
“Credibility comes from people intuiting that they are not being manipulated,” he said. “That they are not being told only part of the story, but the whole story — but from an individual perspective.”
If you go What: Salem Film Fest, International Documentary Film Festival When: Today through Thursday, March 14 Where: Screenings and most events at CinemaSalem, 1 East India Square, Salem. Events include Opening VIP Reception and 5-Minute High School Documentary, today; Movie Trailers Party, tomorrow; Mass Reality Check, documentaries by Massachusetts college students, Saturday, March 9, National Park Service Visitor Center, 2 New Liberty St., Salem; Forum: Truth in Documentaries, Saturday, March 9, National Park Service Visitor Center; Forum: What Makes A Documentary Good, Sunday, March 10, at National Park Service Visitor Center; Filmmakers Big Bash Party, with Big Ol' Dirty Bucket, 43 Church, 43 Church St.; Filmmaker Breakfast, Sunday, March 10, Hawthorne Hotel; Forum: The Making of a "Frontline," Sunday, March 10, Peabody Essex Museum, Morse Auditorium, 166 Essex St.; Wrap Party/Awards, Thursday, March 14, CinemaSalem Cafe. More information: Tickets and full schedule of films and events at www.salemfilmfest.com/2013/tickets. Individual tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors/students/children. All-access passes $125 for adults, $110 for seniors/students/children. All-films pass, $110 for adults, $95 for seniors/students/children. Three-day weekend pass, March 8 through 10, $95 adults, $85 for seniors/students/children. Filmmaker Big Bash Party, March 9, $20. See website for pass limitations.