For this category of documentary I chose a BBC film celebrating the history of the Sea King Helicopter. I will tabulate the structure as I saw it and try to analyse what the film maker had in mind when planning the narrative. The interesting thing about this narrative is the way in which the editing allows the threads of the story to be intercut.
Sea King - Britain's Flying Past
This seems to be a fairly straightforward narrative, charting the history and significant achievements of the Sea King Helicopter squadrons and the crews that operate them. It has a linear narrative with an introduction to its military and civilian roles, followed by a chronological account of the important and formative events that has made this aircraft so successful in both of its roles. The climax combines the military (ZA298) and civilian (London 2012) roles in delivering the Olympic flame to the Tower of London.
Asking Documentary Narrative Structure
Horsemeat – The insider
Jennifer O’Leary investigates a criminal conspiracy to export horses unfit for human consumption into the food chain. (BBC Northern Ireland)
The documentary uses covert surveillance footage, filmed reconstructions, face to face interviews with officials, horse charity workers, dealers, an anonymous insider’s testimony and the reporter’s voice overs to investigate who is involved and how the authorities have no effective control of the Horse Passport system in the Republic of Ireland and Ulster.
This is a complex narrative. I have attempted to show below, how the story is told and a brief outline. I have fitted the story into the 3 Act model as I see it.
|Act 1||Act 2||Act 3|
1. Introduction to the investigation and footage of the anonymous Insider giving his story.
2. Narrator questions the validity of the passport system.
3. Horse welfare charity worker tells of the imbalance of the numbers exported for slaughter into the human consumption market.
4. Explanation of the system as it should be.
5. Questions emerge concerning two abattoirs, in England and Republic of Ireland and horse dealers in Ireland.
|Climax Builds |
Insider tells of sick horses being administered Phenyl Butizone and Cortisone so they can stand in the lorries just hours before slaughter
USPCA mount covert surveillance and get a break through and arrests in Scotland for Horse cruelty. Forged passports and microchips seized. 2 Men imprisoned in Scotland
Chief Veterinary Officer tries to defend system.
Other charities mount their own operations to trace the source of horses in the Republic
No checks of individual passports at point of exit from Ireland
Inconsistencies in stories from English abattoir concerning a dealer. Whistle-blower in RoI contacts DEFRA with concerns about Horse Passports in Irish abattoir.
|Hanging Question |
The Insider claims that he took forged horse passports to a contact in the Republic’s D of A. They were handed back and he was told “leave the mess to sort itself out”
Department of Agriculture in Dublin claims it is not aware of DEFRA’s concerns despite a multi-agency meeting at Aintree Racecourse in 2011.
Horse welfare charity workers have contacted authorities many times over 8 years concerning the numbers and condition of horses corralled for export in Ireland.
There is no resolution to this narrative, just the revelation that there are more questions still to be answered in light of the European Food Crisis and the fraudulent inclusion of horsemeat into beef products.