Film Analysis Of The Documentary Louis Theroux: Behind Bars

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This essay will be looking into the ways that the documentary form and narrative cinema have impacted and influenced each other. The documentary text chosen, Louis Theroux: Behind Bars (2008) depicts the life of prison inmates within America’s infamous San Quentin State Prison. Theroux speaks to serial murderers, gang members, at-risk inmates and guards whilst questioning their sentence alongside their feelings about life within prison. Similarly, the narrative text chosen Carandiru (2003) looks into the life of fictional inmates within the Brazilian Carandiru Penitentiary, a factual prison with its climax based on the 1992 police attack. The film has a strong emphasis on poverty and the realities of underdevelopment, taking influence from…show more content…
Documentary Louis Theroux: Behind Bars and narrative film Carandiru both feature elements of realism, focusing highly on social issues, poverty and exploitation, comparable to films of the 19th century. Complementary to the films of the Lumiere brothers, both texts are set within real life locations, the San Quentin State Prison and Carandiru Penitentiary, emphasizing the everyday life of inmates as a form of entertainment and education. Louis Theroux: Behind Bars positions the audience with Theroux as an outsider looking in. His performativity displays him as being naïve and oblivious, not showing an understanding of what life is like within the walls of imprisonment, yet keen for answers. Referring back to the idea of actualities being prearranged and structured, it is easily argued that documentaries of today, especially those with the documenter shown on screen or heard through overhead narration, are biased, manipulative and/or prearranged and structured to enhance a particular ideology. Theroux’s awkward persona helps provide answers through a ‘friend of truth’ parody; whilst he interviews guards and inmates he ‘becomes intimate in a slightly fake way’ to gain the appropriate answers. Theroux himself has stated that 'professional manipulation ' plays a role within his documentaries, comparing journalists with prostitutes claiming that they both involve 'a little bit of beguiling and seduction. (Chanan, 2007:
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