Ellen Spiro at NAU – Review


Documentary filmmaker Ellen Spiro spoke at NAU’s Cline Library last week on Thursday, succeeding two screenings of her latest film, Body of War, a story about an Iraq veteran who returned home just one week after deployment with a bullet in his back that paralyzed him from the chest down.

Spiro spent the two hour talk letting clips of her other documentaries speak for themselves. The clips and her answers during the Q and A session revealed a lot about her as a person and a documentarian.

Films like Spiro’s tend to serve as ways for people to observe other’s lives without the social implications that come with actually getting involved with someone’s life. The documentary maker plays that role. Spiro mentioned the phenomenon wherein the act of observing changes the observed, and it’s pretty true. Spiro developed friendships with her subjects, and that obviously changes the way people behave. But that doesn’t matter because, in documentaries, bias isn’t a concern.

Spiro answered my question about bias and objectivity by explaining that there is a big difference between documentaries and journalism. Journalism is all about presenting both sides of an issue. “I never believed in objectivity,” she said, and compared the number of sides to any story to the inside view of a kaleidoscope. Documentaries are insyead all about showing a particular point of view. I’ve always been under the impression that docs are all about telling a story objectively, but that’s changed.

I enjoyed Spiro’s position on television: “I don’t watch TV anymore. It’s so manipulative.” That’s just more evidence that the thinkers, doers, and creators in this world avoid television like the plague. Instead, Spiro said she likes to, “hang out on the fringes of society.”

Overall, a great talk with a lot about documentaries and storytelling to consider.

Side note: I’m considering shaving my head during the summer to see what it looks like. I don’t want to die not knowing what I’d look like bald.

About The Author

Kyle Anderson
I'm a media and IT professional and JavaScript developer who worked most recently as an Associate Broadcast IT Engineer (Tier II) for CNN in Atlanta. One of my life-long goals is to help bridge data divides - missing connections between software systems and data stores - promoting inter-system communication and automation. Many of the projects described here reflect this goal in some way or another.