What the Heck is a Documentary Poem?
In the introduction section of the film I refer to Made as Makers as a "Documentary Poem." What is that all about?
Well, for one, the film certainly isn't a "documentary film" in any normal sense because it doesn't have any explicit narrative. Instead, it is a series of creative thoughts and reflections on three main themes, with a thread of conversation about creativity and faith woven throughout the entirety. There are some fairly specific reasons that it was made this way (and you can read more about that here), but for the moment, lets just suffice it to say it isn't a
"documentary film" in any regular use of that phrase since the Oxford English Dictionary gives us "a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record." That is close, but not quite. Made as Makers does try to document an aspect of reality – that is, people's experience(s) of God, faith, and hope articulated in personal and creative ways – but it certainly isn't primarily about maintaining a record. When it is over I doubt that anyone will say "Wow! I learned alot of information that I didn't know before." It just isn't that kind of movie. Instead, it is full of familiar ideas and words put together in new ways that work together to create a whole piece. This reminds me of poetry a bit.
The word poetry comes from the Greek verb poiesis (ποίησις), which means "to make", or "making," and I think the film is all about that: watching the movie is watching people put words to subjects that some feel are very hard to talk about. Hardly anyone in the movie is reciting anything from memory or just repeating something someone else said. I asked them to talk about some challenging topics to discuss with clarity, and what you see is them grappling with that challenge in real time.
I good definition for poem that I like is "a form of literary art which uses the aesthetic qualities of language to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the surface meaning of the words." I think that works well: Made as Makers is supposed to be interesting because of the specific things that people are saying, but my hope is that as a whole, the piece itself is interesting beyond the surface meaning. My hope is that the whole thing – as Michelle Sanchez says in her interview – sweeps you up in beauty and doesn't just leave you with facts.