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Well, according to Einstein, reality is merely an illusion, albeit a fairly persistent one. 🙂
Observing the state of an object changes that state. This is something that physicists have said for years about atomic particles. Just the act of observing them causes them to react differently than if nobody was looking. On a much bigger scale, the same is true for any film or video production. Even if you were to place a security camera up in the ceiling and record straight footage, sooner or later someone would glance up at the camera, and suddenly you’re not capturing “what would have really happened” anymore. So because we can’t observe the state of our subjects without changing that state, we might as well embrace it and tell a story.
And that’s the point of all film and video, documentaries included: they’re stories. Even if they’re true stories, they’re still stories. And the one endearing factor about stories is that they’re edited. Every last one. Imagine reading “The three little pigs” to your child, and needing to plod through 27 pages of the pigs going to town, getting a building permit, explaining their plans to the city inspector including why they believe a house of straw is structurally sound, buying material, digging the foundation, calling a contractor to install the electrical, explaining to the contractor why straw is structurally sound, etc… Even in the simplest of stories editing takes place to make the story flow. So there’s no fault to us when in telling our stories through the lens, we take the liberty of editing. The viewer doesn’t need to see every last minute that takes place, nor do they want to. What the viewer wants is a good story, and it’s up to us to deliver that.
So no, in the purest sense, no documentary will ever be the full story. But then, neither was the three little pigs.