Source: Vice News
Vice News garnered international recognition for a short documentary they recently released about the Islamic State, and any study of Vice News would be incomplete without a review. I watched three of the short-form documentaries on Vice News to see if there is any cohesion in the style of filmmaking or quality of work.
“Abortion Rights in Ireland” covered a small protest in Ireland for the pro-choice movement “Repeal the 8th,” referring to the eighth amendment in the Irish Constitution, which restricts abortions. The journalist interviewed a woman who received an abortion in England after she was raped, and a woman of the pro-life movement who believed abortions hurt women overall. The piece was well-reported, with knowledgeable and applicable sources, but the actual style of the documentary distracted from the piece itself. For instance, compared to an Independent Television News documentary, Vice documentaries feel overly sentimental and gimmicky.
In the interview with Farah Shirdon, the Canadian ISIS recruit who has become an international talking head for the Islamic State, Vice toned it down. They let the interview stand in its entirety with little to no background information, excluding a few slides of text. Shirdon is a powerful orator, and Shane Smith (the founder of Vice) asks good questions with very little pretense. The bare-bones style of the interview, in addition to the beautiful shot of Smith standing in the Vice offices in Brooklyn, let the importance of the conversation stand alone.
The final video, “Yemen: A Failed State,” is the most artfully constructed and reported. Powerful b-roll plays through the documentary, highlighting the violence and blood of life in Yemen. Vice profiles three different groups within Yemen: The rebel Shiites, the southern separatists and the anti-Al Quaeda volunteers. Each group is represented fairly, with dutiful pause on what would drive someone to kill in such a state. The cinematography never distracts, the voiceovers provide valuable information, and none of the language is too colloquial or verbose. Overall, it is the strongest short documentary of the three.
Vice documentaries vary in quality. Some feel sophomoric, similar to what would be done in an introductory broadcast class. Others evoke memories of past Christiane Amanpour work, gritty yet professional. As soon as Vice develops a cohesive style, it will set itself apart as a video news outlet.