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Chua Shu Ern

The Rolling stones on the death of Meredith Carter

In the Gimme Shelter documentary, Mick Jagger reviews the footage of the

death of Meredith Carter, seemingly, for the first time. While he knew that someone

had been killed, he did not know who and how it happened. His expressions of shock

and disappointment were captured using the Cinema Verite technique. The Cinema

Verite technique captured a continuous moment of authenticity, where the members

of the Rolling Stones expressed themselves with their own words and natural

responses while watching the footage.

Mick Jagger’s responses felt genuine, and most importantly, not

commercialised. Perhaps in our contemporary age of media, celebrities often hire

professionals to maintain their public image. Their public statements are often

neutral and non-discriminatory. The statements were crafted to retain good relations

with fans, while not putting off everyone else. Mick Jagger responded that he did not

care about the ideals such as a “great loss of innocence” or a “cathartic end to an

era”. He said that he thought that it was an awful thing that has happened, and that

was that. Personally, I felt that his facial expressions, captured by the Cinema Verite

technique, told the same story. He felt genuine disappointment, but he was not too

dramatic about it. All he wanted everyone to have a good time. He did not think nor

feel that there was a need for something spiritual or morally righteous.

Sonny Barger, one of the members of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club,

mentions that Mick Jagger had tricked them into being their on-stage security, when

they thought they were invited to drink beer on stage on good will. During the phone

call, we see a close up of Mick Jagger shedding a tear. The Cinema Verite technique

preserves a human-encounter quality to our viewing experience, in that we feel that

Chua Shu Ern

we have direct contact with Mick Jagger as we would have if he was sitting next to

us in person. There were no overly dramatized moments, only truthful glimpses into

his life.

Mel Belli and The Rolling Stones on organising a concert at Speedway

Participation and subjectivity in Cinema Verite are driven by its

cinematography. One of the “rules” in Cinema Verite is to not capture footage as if

you were a “fly on a wall”. In order to capture the “action” you must intrude and get

into it. During the discussion where Mel Belli and his team attempts to secure a

location at Speedway, the team runs into multiple obstacles which prove

unfavourable for the concert. Things include problems with the generators, logistics,

and the mass number attendees.

The camera pans to whomever is talking and to any facial expressions that

tells the story of the daunting obstacles they have to overcome that lies ahead. Mel

Belli speaks in a humorous and charming tone, but a close up of his distressed facial

expression gives away moments of apprehension. He rests his temples on his

fingers when he speaks, as if burdened by the weight of his team’s distrust in the

success of the concert. It also captures the worried look of the Rolling Stones

members that they might be rushing themselves into catastrophy.

The speed in which the camera pans in similar to that in how people turn their

heads when someone else talks. We feel as if we are part of the planning process,

and in turn, we share the same concerns and stress into making the concert a


Chua Shu Ern

Hell’s Angels smashing Martin Balin in the face aftermath

Two fundamental components of Cinema Verite is that it relies on chance and

improvisation (Carta, 2015). I recall in class that Dr. Douglas Kass once mentioned

that you need an exceptionally interesting character for Cinema Verite to work. For

one part, I agree that as a Cinema Verite filmmaker, there is a sense of yearning for

something extraordinary to occur. Secondly, you need someone who is capable and

willing to take advantage of the extraordinary circumstances to make interesting and

unique choices.

While it is crazy that one of the members of Hell’s Angels hurt one of the

performers on stage, to go on and hurt the spectator is a completely bizarre. While I

concur that the members of the Rolling Stones made many good improvisations and

natural responses throughout the documentary, the same can be said about the

cinematographer and director. They have to make instant decisions on what action

they want to capture and keep up with the story as it changes as the event occurs.

When is Cinema Verite not used?

Cinema Verite in the documentary is ignored when interviewing people who

are not part of the Rolling Stones cast. These people include concert goers, the

hell’s angels and other enthusiasts. Personally, I felt that the filmmakers needed

constructed responses to support the documentary’s story. The documentary was on

the Rolling Stones’s cast members, and their fans are merely the supporting cast.

The screen time allocated for the fans’ interviewers were fairly short, and it would be

logical to use orthodox methods to keep their content short and concise.

Chua Shu Ern


Carta, Silvio. “Visual and Experiential Knowledge in Observational Cinema.” Revue

LISA/LISA e-Journal. Littératures, Histoire Des Idées, Images, Sociétés Du Monde

Anglophone – Literature, History of Ideas, Images and Societies of the English-

Speaking World, Presses Universitaires De Rennes, 20 July 2015,


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