Ethics in documentary film making

‘The Center for Social Media Director Pat Aufderheide discusses the findings of our report, Honest Truths: Documentary Filmmakers on Ethical Challenges in their Work, and leads the audience in a discussion about how they would handle different but common ethical situations that arise in documentary filmmaking. ‘

This video was very long but insightful. It has made me aware of some of the challenges I may face. Their advice is great and influential and it has helped me shape a better of idea of what I’am going to be up against.

From –

I also spent time researching an article made by the IDA (International documentary association) to find out about ethical approaches. Here’s what I found.

‘An ethical code of documentary practice allows us to address the imbalance of power that often arises between filmmakers and both their subjects and their audience. It affirms, among other things, the principle of informed consent for subjects, inflected to acknowledge that documentary filmmaking is more of an artistic practice than a scientific experiment.

In a nutshell, a guiding statement, akin to the Hippocratic Oath that places “Do no harm” above all, might propose, “Do nothing that would violate the humanity of your subject and nothing that would compromise the trust of your audience.”

Such a statement is patently vague or fuzzy. What compromises trust? What violates another person’s humanity? The vagueness is not accidental. It is similar to any definition of documentary itself. It speaks to the historical context in which ethics are put to the test.’

It seems like there are ethical procedures to follow especially the ‘ethical code’ although there are many grey areas which surround it. It is goes off the basis the everybody fully understands what ‘trust’ and ‘violates’ means within this context.

Here is another link to some of the things I researched on ethics

BILL NICHOLS. (2006). What to Do About Documentary Distortion? Toward a Code of Ethics. Available: Last accessed 10th Jan 2016.


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