Today, I found myself referencing Sidney Meyers‘ The Quiet One during a discussion in one of my classes. This 1948 film about a young African-American boy ignored by his parents and saved by a school where he receives psychiatric counseling is more docudrama than strict documentary. Still it stands as an important, but forgotten film.
The Quiet One was nominated for both best documentary and best screenplay (the narration was penned by James Agee); an honor wholly inconceivable today, even if many documentaries are scripted.While the film is manipulative and heavy handed at times, there are moments when it presents a view of life completely foreign to American films of that era. It presents something that feels instinctive, unscripted, and real. Today, the film is more of a history lesson, a moment when the world of American fiction filmmaking began to blend with non-fiction film techniques and vice-versa.