I Find Bliss In Ignorance- Academic Piece

An Academic piece concentrating on the production of ‘I find Bliss In Ignorance’

The issues of race, ethnicity, cultural and gender identities – amongst others – are the more fought over or contested in the light of the discourses of nation (Posel et al. 2001). By producing the documentary entitled ‘I Find Bliss In Ignorance’ I have tried to come to terms with ethics, democracy, representation and identity in a broader context. This essay will concentrate on how I dealt with these pressing issues of identity, representation, democracy and journalistic ethics within a certain context of development, and how I managed to make my documentary while keeping these ideals in mind.

Nederveen Pieterse (2001) asks what is the relationship between identity and class, between recognition and social justice? This is an issue that is still talked about today. It is evident in the making of television and the way viewers watch these programs. While thinking up different ways to film and establish certain characters inn my documentary I found it increasingly difficult to relate all these issues to the topic, which I was doing.

‘I Find Bliss in Ignorance’ is a music documentary focusing on why musicians are writing meaningless lyrics and who at the end of the day is to blame. My focus was on one particular actor called Kahlego Gabashane. She is the lead singer for a local band in Grahamstown. She is an example of someone who is trying to get a message across. As my interview with Kahlego went on I was able to pick up different angles including ‘who is to blame?’ and ‘is anyone to blame?’

We as journalism students have been taught from a young age to always think about representation, ethics, gender and race when producing any form of production. I have never ever thought like this though and it’s a scary thought when you sit down and try and formulate your documentary around these ideas. The documentary never seems to come out as you had planned it. Social identities are especially fluid in the new South Africa. There are various cultures and societies that make up the ‘Rainbow nation’ and it is this that makes South Africa truly a ‘multi-cultural’ society (Baines 1998). When filming I was always pressed with these issues of ‘am I representing this person right? Do I have the proper gender credentials and do I have a democratic race structure? Why must I think like this? It is simple- because society thinks like this.

South Africa’s transition to democracy and its acceptance as a member of the community of nations have been accompanied by a quest for a new national identity. It is a proposed national identity where everyone is equal. Baines (1998) points out that the omnipresent image of South Africa, as the ‘rainbow nation’ seems to have caught the public’s imagination. It symbolises the ‘new’ South Africa, the imaginary nation being constructed in the post-apartheid era. How can one describe what a national identity is? Is it as Strelitz (1998) describes as bringing everyone together for a sporting event such as the Rugby World Cup or is it the South African media with their construction of national identity by using the coin phrase ‘Simunye’- meaning ‘we are one’. The idea of the rainbow nation as Baines (1998) notes is truly nation building and it suggests that South Africa is multicultural. If it is fair to say that South Africa is multi cultural, why must I as a media producer keep thinking about the above issues of representation, ethics and race? It should surely not matter anymore. The idea of multi-culturalism is good but it seems that the overall meaning has been blurred by society.

With the above in mind, I again found it difficult to relate my documentary about music to the pressing issues of representation and race. My idea of interviewing Kahlego, a black woman, then fell nicely into place as I then had my demographics sorted out. This is a horrible statement to think of because I would hate to call anyone a demographic and I would hate to include one specific group just o fill my quota. It seems that this is however the way the industry works and it is this that inhibits the making of truly great documentaries. It seems like everyone (society) has an issue with everything that we as media producers do. We can never truly represent someone in the light that we saw him or her during the interview, as there is an ethical issue behind that too. Do we tell the story our way or do we tell the story in an ethical way to represent everyone equally?

The idea of representation is a tough notion to follow when aligning oneself with the task of creating a documentary in South Africa. Many South Africans are still caught up in the 1950’s and therefore they view things very differently. The representation of your subject is very important in how they are portrayed to society. My documentary therefore tried to steer well clear of bringing in any ideas of misrepresentation. I told a story that people wanted to hear about, a story that might be interesting to some people. At the end of the day- plain entertainment. It did not matter who the subject was, whether he be black or white, what did matter is that a documentary was made where some debate could arise as to the nature of the argument. This argument being that of whether listeners, record labels and musicians are succumbing to the capitalist commercial uprising of making the most money at all costs.

The development of television journalism though the ages has come a long way. Television through time has brought the issues from around the world into our homes, into our lives. Marilyn Manson once said that ‘the world has not become more violent, its just become more televised’. Without television we would not realise the complexities and sorrow surroundings that encase us all day.

In conclusion I would like to mention how difficult this documentary was to make and how easy it could have been if all the above variables of representation, ethics and race had not been taken into account. This simple idea of meaningless lyrics in the music industry was made difficult by the fact that these elements had to be considered. Unfortunately these various issues have to be covered in order to have a truly universal and democratic documentary where every single basis, track and angle is covered. This at the end of the day and what I have realised is what makes journalism such a demanding and interesting profession.

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