There is no doubt that Flaherty, Wright, and Grierson had a major influences on both the Italian Neo-realism and the French New Wave, so are many others, King Vidor, Renoir, Stroheim,Eisenstein, Chaplin ....... but what's missing from the list is Vertov, in my opinion, The Man With the Movie Camera was the first true Cinema-Verite film.
I'm not sure that MAN W MOVIE CAMERA could be tagged as the first cinema-verite film, even if one accepted that appellation for such a highly stylized & editorialized film. There is such a long stream of "actuality" films going all the way back to the EDISON labs along with Biograph, Mutoscope, plus the Lumiere's at al. How, in terms of a non-editorialized lens of reportage, is MAN W CAM any more objective and unobtrusive than the reportage of the Lumiere's TRAIN PULLING INTO THE STATION (1895)? If anything the hyperstylization, the director/cinematographer/editor forcing, in directorially omnipotent & manipulative fashion, the viewers en masse to make certain conclusions and connections about the content they would not had certain cinematic devices not been employed-- which by nature is precisely what cinema verite is not... this from the very first disqualifies Vertov's film from jump. The filmmaker wants the audience to see the filmmaker
-- the filmmaker films the filmmaker and his participating staff... editor, cameraman, director.. and films him filming the subjects. The filmmaker portraits himself
in omnipotent allseeing poses above the city, uses special effects (always a verite no-no), causes us to see from-- repeatedly reminds us that we are seeing from-- his eye, not ours. If anything is more anti-verite's ethic I simply cannot think of it. The verite filmmaker honors the aesthetic of remaining completely invisible, of never editorializing, of never polluting the natural flow of captured reality by becoming a part of it.
An example: in the acknowledged verite masterpiece SALESMAN by the Maysles, there's a scene where Paul Brennan, the least successful salesman of the bunch & primary subject of the film, is riding a train on his way to a regional sales conference. We quietly watch as Brennan sits in melancholy ruminating his arrival at the conference with a poor couple of weeks of sales behind him. Intercut with this footage-- in the lightest possible hint at montage of two clearly
-linked actualities-- is footage from the actual conference itself. The Maysles caught static for this schematic due to it's unnatural arrangement in time (the train ride came before the conference and therefore they should not be staggered into each other in pieces), and due to the suggestion that the film can see that Paul "sees" what's coming in his head (verite does not speculate on such intangible matters that cannot be mutually, physically seen by all), i e see into the future.
In MAN W MOVIE CAM there are so many association-blocks, completely volountary conclusions & playful embellishments (and literal head-games and showoffy moments, let's face it) far beyond what is considered acceptable for straight reportage... never mind cinema verite, that I think you'd have a very hard time getting away with that appellation on this film.
Notwithstanding the fact that, going back to my original statement, there are quite a number of films which long predate this film, which are far truer representations of the pure verite spirit, that it renders the proclamation that
There is no doubt that Flaherty, Wright, and Grierson had a major influences on both the Italian Neo-realism and the French New Wave, so are many others, King Vidor, Renoir, Stroheim,Eisenstein, Chaplin ....... but what's missing from the list is Vertov, in my opinion, The Man With the Movie Camera was the first true Cinema-Verite film
completely erroneous. (and as for influences on neo-realism, French NW, you're leaving out the towering influence of the Swedes & especially von Stroeheim, who's GREED was an enormous influence on those two schools for obvious reasons).
If you're looking for a bevy of influences on the verite movement I'd suggest you buy two sets: Kino's 4-disc EDISON THE INVENTION OF THE MOVIES, as you'll see how much true verite there was in the one reelers going straight to the very birth of cinema. Even the first "acting" was done by regular folks doing what they do in real-life... hammering steel on an anvil, cutting hair, boxing, performing the acts they performed in music halls, but called into the studio to do the same for the camera. Fictional stories came later, as the initial attraction of the "movies" was the simple awe over the invention-- to see something that had happened in the past, as if it were happening all over again before your very eyes. People would pay a penny or nickel and put their eyes to the viewer to watch footage of folks strolling on a sunday in front of the Eiffel Tower, a snowstorm, etc.. and simply not be able to believe it. It was only after the novelty wore off with the public and spectacles became more competitive, that they had to start making shit up to keep making money.
The other set I'd reccommend for your paper is UNSEEN CINEMA. Or, if you don't have the funds, at least pick up PICTURING A METROPOLIS, which is available seperately.
And of course, pick up the masterpiece which is a feature the same length of Vertov's film, which is far closer to the verite ethic in that the footage is not editorially interrupted by the director as the string of actualities play out, predates and had an obvious influence on Vertov's film right down do all that hypergeometric machine (probably Freund's leftover's from METROPOLIS) footage: Walter Ruttmann & Karl Freund & Carl Mayer's magesterial BERLIN; SYMPHONY OF A GREAT CITY (which I like infinitely better than Vertov's film, as the filmmakers truly let the city tell it's own magnificent story.. whereas the subject of vertov's film is himself, Kaufmann and vertov's wife, his amazing editor). This film created the term "city symphony", which MAN W is an obvious, but highly stylized specimen of.