Listening Journal # 4: Long Form Audio Documentary

November 15, 2009 at 1:27 am (Listening Journals) (, , , , , , , , , )


Dying on the streets is pretty popular in the city of Paris. That is where the group Les Morts de la Rue or the Dead of the Street comes in to provide any kind of humane memorial or ceremony-like burial for them. Photo by:

Buried Alone

Criteria for reviewing:

1- Who (or what company) produced the documentary?
2- Who narrated the documentary?
3- What was the length of the documentary?
4- Describe the documentary.
5- Why was the documentary interesting?
6- Quality of the narrator’s voice?
7- Was the documentary too long? Too short?
8- Other observations/suggestions.

1- On the website, under production information, it says produced by: unknown. But, under the title of the piece, it says from: Sarah Elzas. So, it might be the producer of the piece as well as its narrator.

2- Sarah Elzas is the narrator of the documentary.

3- The length of the documentary is 10:32 minutes.

4- Description of the documentary:

The documentary is about the homeless people who live on the streets of Paris and die alone with no family or friends present at their burial. They get buried by grave diggers without any ceremony. It is a right that French law grants to those who die unclaimed. So, there is this homeless advocates’ group or collective who decided to attend every burial of any one who dies and has their bodies unclaimed to honor and pay some respect to them on their burial day. The piece starts off at the cemetery where the burials take place. It goes on telling the process of identifying the dead person and investigating their death circumstances and why this group of volunteers do what they do attending the burial days of people who died alone. It also gives the political picture of such activity and that is raising awareness about homelessness in France and the premature death because of that.

5- The documentary was interesting for me because

The topic and place of the documentary were the point of interest to me. I love Paris and I was interested to know something new about it. Plus, I thought there must be some French all through. I was right.
Also, the piece was very descriptive. It made me feel as if I were at one of those burials, describing the people who do it and what they are in.
The nat sound of opening the car in which the dead person was transported to the cemetery and having it roped down to the open hole was appealing and helped draw the picture. There was always nat sound accompanying the narration. It made me feel very engaged.

Additionally, the variety of people on the piece made it more comprehensive and complete. There was the people from the group, people from the officials about the homelessness campaign, and people who are usually found at the burial out of their interest in doing something human as such.

6- The quality of the narrator’s voice was real good. Before I settle on this piece, I have heard some pieces where I can hear some humming in the narrator’s recording, and then clear sound bytes or nat sound. But in Buried Alone, the narrator’s voice was clear and there was no difference in the levels of her narration and her interviewees.

7- The documentary wasn’t too long nor was it too short. It was long enough to give out the information the reporter has been collecting. It didn’t leave me wondering about any aspects of the issue that might haven’t possibly covered.

8- Other observations or suggestions:

I liked the variety of people on the piece. As much as it sometimes got me confused, I felt was provided with different many perspectives.
There was a French lady reading out a piece of poem written for one of the dead and for the voice over of this woman, I heard the narrator’s. So, I thought what a big mistake. But then I realized it was sort of part of her script. Then, I thought the integration of having the actual poem read by the French woman with the narrator’s voice translating and identifying was a good idea. I just had to be a little bit more patient.

Compared to some of the other websites where I could listen to audio documentaries, this one had a better piece of information: having the length of the piece beneath the title. In addition, it has topics sorted out to so I could listen to a piece according to my preference.

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