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A Walk Along The Thin Blue Line

Documentary films are quickly becoming a more demanded type of film. At first, they were just seen as film practice, but now they are evolving into a much greater phenomenon. With these films, the audience is able to get a realistic view as they are presented with facts about the world. When viewing a documentary, the audience expects that the people, places and events that are shown are real and do exist. They trust the content of the film.

A notable example of a documentary is The Thin Blue Line. The entirety of this film is marked by interviews, staged performances and the presentation of actual documents relating to the case. As this documentary is about the Randall Dale Adams conviction of a murder he did not commit, the filmmakers interviewed the people most in tune with the case. This includes Randall Dale Adams himself, David Harris, the man who actually committed the murder, a police officer, investigators, a lawyer and some witnesses. All of them told the story of what they knew of the murder and what they did to try to solve the case. As the documentary jumped around from person to person telling their story, their stories were staged. Staging is a very common technique in documentaries. This is when the moments being described are acted out by other actors to give the audience a visual of what they described had happened. Most of the film show the murder scene according to each person describing it. It was acted out in different ways to show the different stories being described. For instance, the film begins by showing what really happened, which is where a policeman pulled a car over for not having its headlights on and as he approached the window, he was shot to death by the driver. Then, once David Harris’ testimonial is described, the scene is shown differently. For his testimonial, he said that Adams was in the car with him and as the policeman walked up, Adams shot him. This helps the audience to better understand the situation being told. Finally, there are a lot of still shots in the film on important documents of the case.  This gives proof that the case did actually exist and again creates visuals for the audience when the documents are being described in the story.

Documentaries also have different types of form. There is the categorical form where the film is organized into distinct subsets of the topic and there is rhetorical form where the parts of the film support an argument. In a sense, The Thin Blue Line is categorical. It begins by identifying its subject and then it creates patterns. Although much of the story tends to be a narrative where everyone’s interviews are put together to create the overall story, each story of those involved is separated. When one person is focused on, their side of the story is shown. It is almost like it is a story within a story. The film is organized by these stories. As for rhetorical form, the film does persuade the audience that David Harris was the murderer. Obviously, we know now that he was the murderer, but at the time the film was released, Adams was still in prison. In fact, he was not released from prison until about a year after the film was released. This film just helps to define the story and may even have influenced the review of Adam’s case.

Finally, there are different types of documentaries. There are the compilation films, which are produced by assembling images from archival sources, direct-cinema films, which records an ongoing event as it happens, the nature documentaries, the portrait documentaries, and the synthetic documentaries, which is a mixture of several forms. From what was previously states, we know that this documentary takes many forms, therefore making it a synthetic documentary. It also is a portrait documentary because it focuses on specific people and is a historical context. It is also a compilation film because much of the images shown in the film are evidence, like the documents for example.

In general, documentaries not only provide historical and realistic views of the world, but they also try to make a point. They give arguments and back them up with evidence. They are becoming more successful because filmmakers are finding better ways to make them entertaining. It is all about the interesting shots they use and how they portray certain information. As people are drawn to what is entertaining, they also like the realistic aspects of these films. People tend to relate more to real situations.