Documentary Idea + “The Tiger and the Monk” Reflection

For my documentary, I hope to film the ins-and-outs of a local enterprise named the Textile Arts Center. I will have one of its founders speak about the history and mission of the organization. Then, I hope to include a demonstration of one type of craft project that is done at this center. B-roll for this film will include shots of the studio, the types of textiles and fabrics used, of other students (with consent), and of people completing various projects with textiles.

“The Tiger and the Monk” is an interesting and mildly-entertaining documentary about a Buddhist temple in Thailand that is not only an active religious site, but also houses over a dozen tigers and is a refuge for various animals from nearby forests. The temple, known as Tiger Temple, or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, received its first tiger cub in 1999 and since then, has continued to care for the animals. This was a rather intriguing film, but was not up-to-par in many regards.

Unfortunately, most of the techniques used in this film were not effective and could be improved upon. Firstly, the entire film was narrated by a very monotonous, uninterested voice. To make matters worse, the filmmaker did not change the voice when reciting a translated quote from one of the monks. So, to me, the film was rather boring in terms of the narration.  Secondly, the overall ideas that the filmmaker included became very jumbled at times. I feel as though this film tried to tackle too many issues in one; those topics included: poaching, Buddhism, the story of the Tiger Temple, the history of the tigers and other animals, the routines of both the monks and the tigers, etc. It became confusing at times as to what truly the director wished to achieve with this film. Lastly, speaking positively about the monks and their way of life, the director and writer decided to include information on how the temple is trying to raise money to make more of an attraction out of the tigers. The monks, as told by the narrator, was to build an island where tourists can visit the tigers and to do so, they need to garner much press attention to make financial gains. While this may be true, it felt off-putting when juxtaposed with the serene, simple, and calm lifestyle of the monks that the film also tried to portray.

There were a few elements of the film that were effective, however. I believe that the camera techniques used were excellent. My favorite shot was when the youngest monk was praying, and in the background, two infantile tigers were fighting. The tigers were out-of-focus, which added a certain depth to the scene and truly captivated me. There, also, were many instances of beautiful, aesthetically-pleasing B-roll footage. The B-roll of the mountains, the forest, the animals in their natural environment, and of the monks completing daily tasks enhanced the film.

Overall, “The Tiger and the Monk” was effective in relaying the story of Tiger Temple, but could have been improved in certain areas.

Food Inc. Response

Food Inc.

Food Inc. is a gut-wrenching film about the American food production and distribution industry. Robert Kenner, the filmmaker, follows the plight of farmers as mean methods of agriculture are implemented. Also, the film relays the story of Barbara Kowalcyk, whose son died from contracting E. coli from tainted hamburger meat. The main characters of the film include authors Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan, farmers Carole Morison and Vince Edwards, mother and advocate Kowalcyk, Troy Roush of the American Corn Growers Association, and various other persons who were able to create the film that Kenner made.

Personally, I felt as though the film was hard-hitting and made a valiant effort to prove a rather unknown point. The film utilized many elements of persuasion to appeal to every member of its audience. It used a personal, emotional story of Kowalcyk’s son to generate a response from the compassionate, relayed legal and factual evidence for the logical, and anecdotes from farmers who have worked for decades for credibility. For me, these elements compose a truly moving film. I also appreciated the way in which the filmmaker included many raw, barely edited shots of gruesome tactics used in the food industry. Even though they were hard to watch, these scenes provided the necessary insight into the atrocities that occur the world of food production.

There were various narrative arcs in this film. Firstly, the fight between the farmers and the larger corporations provided the basis for major plot development. The filmmaker hoped for audiences to be hooked onto this battle. Personally, I wished that the small farmers, whose businesses were being out-shadowed by the domineering Perdue, Tyson, Monsanto, etc., would have been able to gain more from their efforts against these corporations. Secondly, the film followed the narrative arc of Barbara Kowalcyk and her will to avenge her son’s death. Her legal battles and ambition provided another narrative arc. Lastly, the over-arching narrative of the film was that of the process by which food gets to every table in America and discovering each step on that journey.