A Reality Shaped through Image


A reality is only real for as long as people agree about it. What was believed to be correct a hundred years ago can be considered wrong today, such as the case of slavery, women as secondary citizen, and colonialism. All of those things are starting to fade away now as people beginning to consider them to be wrong. The change in how people thinking are very related to the subject of ‘image’. An image can dictate how people think, talk, and act. What I mean by ‘image’ does not only refer to ‘visuals’ but anything that comes into mind when we are talking about something.

For instances, the word ‘female circumcision’ brings into mind a medical treatment done for the good of the patient. Due to the use of this seemingly innocent word, millions of women in African country got their genital removed before reaching the age of five. When a report by WHO was made stating that female circumcision is dangerous, it was already too late. The practice has become a ritual and people just don’t seem to have problem with it.

So what did the activists do to stop this female circumcision? They re-phrase the word ‘female circumcision’ into ‘female genital mutilation’. It was effective. The word ‘mutilation’ evokes horror and dreadful feeling of being castrated. The image that comes into mind was no longer ‘medical treatment’ but instead ‘an atrocity’. People began to listen to the campaign more seriously. Such is the power of image and we have only discuss about image as-in text.

When it comes to documentary, this medium has the absolute best way to present and manipulate an image. A documentary, when done correctly, can make the most inconspicuous thing to be very problematic. For example, the film Hashti Tehran (2016), can raise the issue of unaffordable housing in Iran simply by showing a still image of Tehran aerial landscape. In that image, the director found an angle to make the houses appear like a tombstone, in order to tell us that there is a problem with this seemingly normal houses.

But it’s not just visuals that matter in documentary. Narration, sound effect, music, or even the lack of it, all of these elements combined will be able to create a perverse image that can unsettle people’s mind. Moreover, documentary can also be considered as a weapon for the weak to fight injustice. With its ability to capture anything without the boundary of structure (such in the case of Hollywood movie), a documentary can possibly raise any kind of issue, giving voice to anyone, and create whatever image necessary to further resistance. This is possible because documentary can be made with anything. Even an outdated handphone is enough to capture an image that can move thousands of people to revolt in Tahrir Square.

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