Sunday, 28 March 2010

Lesser documentaries

I've been watching a fair few documentaries on the big screen recently... and also some on the small screen. For example, Last Chance to See. While the attention demanded in the latter case is no less, namely the preservation of numerous species that are going extinct as the show was made, is the message less due to it being on the small screen?

Does the fact that we aren't paying for the chance to see TV documentaries mean we care about them less? Are we more likely to go out and donate, or whatever, because we made an effort to go to a theatre to see the film? (This is a form of the Sunk Costs fallacy.) I'm sure Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine would hope that we donate to the conversations of species they discuss, even if we did no more than sit on the couch when we saw them.

And yet... there are billions of TV documentaries, indeed whole channels dedicated to telling us how things were made, investigating aspects of history, telling us about interesting people, etc etc. We can't care about all of them, and most of them don't need our attention (I suspect it's a little late now to do something to help out the ships at the Battle of Waterloo, for example).

Big film festivals do help highlight some important documentaries, but there are series to pay attention to as well. But do they get the attention and action they deserve? Would Last Chance to See have had more impact if it was a 90 minute film shown in the theatre?

Or are we too blase about whatever is on TV or at the movies to care about any of it?


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