When The Levees Broke: Zoom Accents

“Zoom accents” is another term I have come up with to frame Lee’s acute utilization of camera mechanics. Typically, talking head interviews require a static camera that is trained on the subject from a fixed distance — whether that be a medium shot or up close and personal. Much like his early documentary Four Little Girls, Lee allows the intimate moments with his interviewees to explode from the screen with an application of the zoom technique. I’ll briefly point to one of these moments within WTLB. 

If you skip to 1:37:00 of the first act (embedded above), Garland Robinette begins to approach an emotional break that causes him to collapse into a fit of tears, frustration, and utter despair. Instead of keeping his camera passively trained at the established medium shot distance, Lee actively participates in the sequence, narrowing the frame to capture this intimate moment. This accent, or perhaps we can call it a punctuation, closes the gap between the viewer, the subject, and the filmmaker himself, allowing each layer to combine with a poetic force that can only be described as an instant of heart-wrenching pain.

“It’s been a long few months, I’m sorry”

Much like Robinette’s unnecessary apology, Lee showcases his mastery over allowing brief moments to seem too long to bear.

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Author: marquezdoee

Amherst Class of 2016. Media Studies Major. Katy Perry Enthusiast.

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