Personally, I think it's pretty cheeky for the filmmakers to claim to be part
of the homeless. The one thing we documentarists have to remember is that we
have the option of leaving any situation we're shooting; a choice that may not
be available to the participants. I'm sure many of us feel very close to our
subjects, and may render their stories in insightful, useful, and sensitive
ways, but ultimately we have to face up to the fact that in most cases, we are
NOT the subject of the piece and that on some level, we are exploiting the
subject. (hopefully what we are doing is the lesser of evils and will ultimate
benefit the subject).
This became very clear to me when I was shooting my MFA thesis in Appalachia.
One of my subjects (Still a close friend now) who had put up with me living in
their house--underfoot with my camera--for about three months, grabbed my video
camera away from me, sat me down and started grilling me about personal things.
When one is in control of the means of representation, one is not part of the
subject. A similar thing happenned to me in Russia because the subjects did see
me as a participant (the subject was life during perestroika), but as a
participant, their reasoning said I had to be on camera too. So I am a concrete
character in that piece. But I would never claim that I had become "part of
the Russians". I got to go back to supermarkets, a predictable pay check and
dependable hot water after 6 months.
That's my opinion...
Film Studies, Keene State College