Ethics of Interviews

I want to talk a little bit about ethics today and how I feel that a documentary should portray itself. I touched some on this subject in my post about objectivity in documentaries but in this post I would like to talk more about ethics, and specifically the ethics of interviews .

I would like to focus on examples  that occurred with the filming of Borat. I use this movie as an example because when it was being produced it was under the premise of being a documentary. There are two ethical issues with the film, first the serious nature in which Sasha Behar Cohen  conducted interviews, and second his use of an actual countries name for the fictional character.

After the film was released there were complaints that Cohen edited his film, and presented interviews in a way that showed the subjects in a poor light.

The issue I have with this is that Cohen’s way of going about it is that he had an assistant call in requesting interviews and telling the subjects that it would be about there interest, and when the interview was conducted he sprung odd , or of topic questions towards the end of the interview.

Here is an example of one of his interviews.

I will admit I laughed but I feel there are better ways to make comedy.

The second issue is the issue with the country of Kazakhstan. It’s actually some what humorous in that after the movie premiered they went on an all out  PR campaign to disprove the belief that there citizens are any thing like Borat.

I feel that Cohen was unethical in his interviewing and some share my views.

Why does this matter? maybe it doesn’t but maybe his distasteful ways will make potential interviews more on edge, and make people more weary as to if a filmmaker is trying to punk them.


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