Great point too. I wish I could start off by not framing the genre, which is why cinema journalism suits me as the beginning of the moving image with topicals et al., however...
But here’s a number of points. The journey of traversing the unconventional and being pulled back to approximates of convention (there are no fixed boundaries) still retails embers of that initial approach. The converse however is the pre-packaged which does not feed the soul. Though easily assimilated by audiences, and often easily forgettable too.
I would argue your video essays take the former, otherwise they would not be so mentally and artistically taxing to put together. I imagine each one is. The degree to which the forms dissolves/ veers into or towards pure art (for want of a better term) is the difficult journey some filmmakers take e.g. Cousins, Tarkovsky, Nolan, Resnais and a raft of European/Italian Neorealism filmmakers. Here art also qualifies as disintegrating the expectant form for the other e.g. African mythic filmmaking.
The films we make may not attain the pure ( unobtainable) all the while and I acknowledge that when it’s raining, or there’s a robbery i.e. the facts stare at you for immediate audience gratification, anything less will impair such logic which is due.
There’s a robbery, then my film cuts to a Shakespearean sonnet. Ah! such allegory would test the most ardent advocates of this form.
However, other points.
It depends on your aims. Is the film needed to close an argument — another artificiality of news journalism, or to make the audience alert to something (art)?
I recall making the film Tahrir Memento (below). There was nothing I thought I could offer a month after the uprising being in Egypt. Everything that could have been said within the norms of quick turnover journalism was being done. So I opted for a reflexive piece. A journalist from a Tunisian newspaper ( It as screened in a cinema in Tunisia) called it ‘confusing and beautiful’. Fair point!
We cannot deny that video as a language must evolve, as language evolves. We continually learn from others and assimilate slithers of their style.
Also, the delivery of style is a negotiation between the filmmaker, various other styles as detailed by Carroll and the audience, and that in turn depends on the culture of the audience.
There’s a reason why Tarkovsky’s Solaris won a Palme D’or, but required an interpretation by Soderbergh for an other audience. That’s not to suggest any audience is better than another, but that they assimilate stories differently dependent on culture etc. Soderbergh commented that with The Limey, he wanted to further discombobulate the sequences, but didn’t.
Remember too how Man with a Movie Camera was detested by Eisenstein and others who spoke ill of the film as ‘mischief making’. Audiences would later come around. Today it consistently tops polls for exemplary film style.
As I said at the beginning of the article, Cinema (journalism) is a broad palette and the key is acknowledging, even trying to understand different styles around the world e.g. Hindi (Mehboob Khan), Japanese (Ozu), Senegal (Ousmane Sembène) etc. etc.
Ultimately, the new auteurs of the millennial age ( is that you and others, it’s not me?) will push a language to a momentary miscomprehension, and then wait for the audience to catch up, just as they did with Goddard ( e.g. jump cuts), Antonioni, and Gondry.
If nothing, we’ve reignited a conversation, which filmmakers and docs engage in to push the form to its elastic breaking point of understanding — after which it becomes pure art e.g. Warhol, becomes assimilated into grammar and then the cycle starts again.