Footage and Verisimilitude:Realism in David Simon’s Treme

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Written by Chris Huiyuan Zhang

Treme is the first show created by David Simon after The Wire, it has told a story that involves many struggling New Orleanians in the post-Katrina era.

One of the most notable aspects in David Simon’s work is the use of opening credits as a tool to set the tone and implying the theme of the entire season. In Treme, a montage of archive footage which features Mardi Gras shown in black and white, photos and videos which displays the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the lost New Orleanians who did not have a home to go or a place to work in the post-Katrina era. It is Simon’s approach of telling a story that features real-life social issues and how he implying the truth of a story by integrating documentary into fiction.

“Opening credits and found-footage film have many things in common. Both accentuate montage:first and foremost these films are not shot, they are edited. A primacy of the camera does not exist. Both opening credits and found-footage films work with associative cuts or polyvalent montage.” (Jager,315)

Moreover, the disorientation between documentary and fiction is not only shown in the opening credits of Treme but also many characters who play themselves in the fictional world. As an instance, Kermit Ruffins, the New Orleanian Jazz trumpeter has played himself along with the appearance of  Elvis Costello,  chef David Chang and so on. The co-existence of fictional and real characters has implicated the co-existence outside the fictional world and remind the viewers of the real-life New Orleanians are not far off from its fictional portrayal in Treme.

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“David Simon and Eric Overmyer made an unprecedented choice by revealing the power of realism in fiction. They created a more complex and richer fictional universe by giving viewers an intimate look at the characters’ lives and access to their personalities.”(Gendrin, 8)

Jazz, Cajun cuisine and Mardi Gras, David Simon has written a love poem to a city that is forgotten and forsaken. Simon’s uncompromising in the integrity of a story has affected the viewers to be aware of what they are watching are issues that also exist in reality.

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Reference:

1.Dominique Gendrin, Catherine Dessinges, Shearon Roberts (2017). HBO’s Treme and Post-Katrina Catharsis: The Mediated Rebirth of New Orleans1st edition. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books.
2.Jäger, L. (2010). Media, culture, and Mediality: New insights into the current state of researchJager, L., Linz, E., and Schneider, I., eds. . Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.
Video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M1Iagf3GSs
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