Most serious aestheticians of motion pictures fervently believe that the best films are those of highly skilled, visionary directors. Certainly, the cinema exists, but its true art has served so many other forms of film which don’t quite necessarily aim to be aesthetic, merely social. Some of these films address social issues, while others try to entertain. Yet in both instances, the directors’ intentions have at least had some impact on the ultimate effect of their images.
Artful ethnographic films of today almost always contain some element of social commentary. Often, a film will deal with controversial topics or deeply troubling social issues like racism, class conflict, or war. These issues are usually confronted by the characters in the film. This may appear surprising, but if we think in terms of traditional film, we should recognize that films of this kind often strive to tell a story which speaks to the values and sentiments of mainstream American society, but also points beyond to other cultures and societies as well.
Ethnographic films also often contain an explicitly political message. Many of them deal with socio-cultural issues such as prejudice or discrimination. These movies speak directly to audiences from various ethnic and social backgrounds, thus influencing their thinking even more than a typical motion picture would. Some of the most commonly used non-verbal communication include body language (exaggerating or decreasing slackness in response to specific words or facial expressions), spoken speech (though this is also commonly used in narrative films), and the use of music and dance.
Documentary films, on the other hand, deal with events and happenings that are more ephemeral in nature. They may be loosely connected to the real world history, but they almost never try to depict any real depth. Often, documentaries are meant to be a form of entertainment. They are not usually meant to convince anyone to change their political or religious views.
The two words “motion picture” and “filmmaking” can have completely different connotations in the English language. When we say “motion picture” we refer to the type of camera that was used to capture the movie, and “filmmaking” refers to the process of editing. In our everyday life, we rarely think about the difference between these two words. But film makers and filmmakers know the meaning of both of these words. When they use these two words in a piece of writing, it can help viewers visualize the movie that they are watching, while they are reading.
The difference between film stock and motion pictures is important to many people. But it’s not something that needs to be discussed at length. It’s simply one more way that we can differentiate between what we see on the screen and the reality that is behind the scenes. We all need to remember that a movie is a moving image and it can only be viewed in the cinema with the right equipment.