Documentary makers often come from journalism: they are socially and politically engaged, and incredibly good at investigation – digging the dirt, winkling out false claims, getting behind spin and unearthing the facts. UK television has built a strong body of work based on this tradition. It fits in with our politics by debate and democratic ideals. It results in guidelines not to show our films to our subjects – that is seen as undermining impartiality.
But for those of us who see documentary as a dialogue with our subjects, as a mirror to reflect their lives or dreams or hopes, impartiality is not the right aim.
And we don't really want the defensiveness of debate and point-scoring. I need to show my films to the people in them. I am more concerned with making a film where the main participants recognise something about themselves, and are willing to share with an audience. It's less investigative journalism and more like some sort of mirroring.
Tricycle Film Club is run by a Buddhist community based in the U.S. They have chosen THE EDGE OF DREAMING as their February Film, and there is a great discussion going on as they debate the closing thoughts in the film, that maybe the bravest thing is to live as though we will live forever. Buddhist thought is to live, mindfully, remembering death. But maybe living as though we will live forever is also mindful, knowing that there is no 'other place' no 'other chance', that there is this earth, with us on it, now.
One of the things I love about this buddhist debate is how it emphases discourse, argument, intellectual rigour, and yet stays in this frame of a gentler curiosity, where there are no opposing sides pitted against each other, with winning and losing arguments: just a lot of bright people bringing their life experience and their readings and reasoning power to muse over the big questions: do dreams mean anything? What happens when we die? How can we get the most out of every day, every moment? How do we cope when it all goes wrong and we get hit by random unfairness?