Because His Bike Stood There: Visual Documents, Visible Evidence and the Discourse of Documentary

Frank Kessler

Abstract


The article discusses the use and post-production treatment of footage shot by Dutch filmmaker Louis van Gasteren in his documentary Because My Bike Stood There (1966). The images depict a young man being beaten up by the police during a clash between the forces of order and people waiting to enter a photo exhibition on, ironically, police violence that had occurred about ten days earlier in Amsterdam. Van Gasteren combines the footage with an interview in which the victim explains that he had seen the exhibition and wanted to pass in order to walk over to his bike, when the policemen attacked him. Van Gasteren used slow-motion and thus enhanced the effect of the images illustrating the young man's narrative, a strategy used twenty-five years later by the defence lawyers during the infamous Rodney King trial. This raises the issue of how documentary footage is discursively framed to enhance its persuasive effect. Van Gasteren's film is not only an important historical document, it also invites to reflect on the status of "visible evidence" ascribed to documentary footage.

Keywords


documentary; Louis van Gasteren; Rodney King; visible evidence

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