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Parallax Podcast #19: truth and ethics in documentary, with special guest John Safran

John Safran joins film critics Luke Buckmaster and Rich Haridy for a wide-reaching discussion about truth and ethics in documentaries, exploring key issues and revealing some tricks of the trade.

John Safran in The Parallax Podcast

 

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When filmmakers take on the task of capturing real-life events, they inevitably grapple with a number of practical and ethical considerations.

For example, to what extent is it fair to manipulate sound and images? Should ‘voice of god’ narration be personal or impartial? Is using subterfuge to lure interviewees morally justifiable? Where does one draw the line between film as argumentative essays and film as historical obfuscation? And how do stalwarts such as Michael Moore and Sacha Baron Cohen get away with their often antagonistic antics?

This fortnight’s episode of Crikey’s film discussion show The Parallax Podcast explores these issues and many others with one of Australia’s best-known documentarians and broadcasters.

John Safran, creator of John Safran Vs God and John Safran’s Race Relations, joins hosts Luke Buckmaster and Rich Haridy for a wide-reaching, candid and revealing conversation about truth, ethics and pulling off tricks of the trade. Safran reflects on some of his most colourful moments — including conning unsuspecting Americans with the mother of all black faces, interviewing the Klu Klux Klan and pissing off Ray Martin and Steve Price.

When you’re a troublemaker you have to be nimble and adapt to new situations,” he says. “There’s no point Sacha Baron Cohen, or me, or Michael Moore moping about saying ‘oh, ten years ago you used to be able to get away with this and now you can’t’. You’ve got to be kind of wily and work out new ways to do the magic tricks.”

Click the player above to listen to the podcast (or download it or subscribe to The Parallax Podcast iTunes feed), which includes discussions of films such as Roger and Me, Bowling for Columbine, Paradise Lost, Catfish, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, Africa Addio and many others.

For older episodes, visit The Parallax Podcast archive.

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