Richard Kilborn
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Never-ending stories?
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Several critics have noted that longitudinal documentary kinship with soap opera is usually in the form of a general reference to their status as 'never ending stories' rather than to any deeper structural affinity. The long doc work includes Michael Apted's Seven Up films, Winifred and Barbara Junge's The Children of Golzow and Swedish director Rainer Hartleb's The Children of Jordbrö. Both long docs and soaps rely on viewers being able to form relatively strong empathic bonds with a number of central characters. Just like producers of television soaps, long doc filmmakers become sensitively attuned to the potential that lies in long docs' serial mode of presentation. Both long docs and soaps are classic examples of an open form of narrative that addresses its audience in a markedly different manner from 'closed' narrative forms.

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Taking the long view

A study of longitudinal documentary

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