front cover of Activist Media
Activist Media
Documenting Movements and Networked Solidarity
Gino Canella
Rutgers University Press, 2022
Now more than ever, activists are using media to document injustice and promote social and political change. Yet with so many media platforms available, activists sometimes fail to have a coherent media and communication strategy.
 
Drawing from his experiences as a documentary filmmaker with Black Lives Matter 5280 and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 105 in Denver, Colorado, Gino Canella argues that activist media create opportunities for activists to navigate conflict and embrace their political and ideological differences. Canella details how activist media practices—interviewing organizers, script writing, video editing, posting on social media, and hosting community screenings—foster solidarity among grassroots organizers.
 
Informed by media theory, this book explores how activists are using media to mobilize supporters, communicate their values, and reject anti-union rhetoric. Furthermore, it demonstrates how collaborative media projects can help activists build broad-based coalitions and amplify their vision for a more equitable and just society.
 
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Artifactual
Forensic and Documentary Knowing
Elizabeth Anne Davis
Duke University Press, 2023
In Artifactual, Elizabeth Anne Davis explores how Cypriot researchers, scientists, activists, and artists process and reckon with civil and state violence that led to the enduring division of the island, using forensic and documentary materials to retell and recontextualize conflicts between and within the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities. Davis follows forensic archaeologists and anthropologists who attempt to locate, identify, and return to relatives the remains of Cypriots killed in those conflicts. She turns to filmmakers who use archival photographs and footage to come to terms with political violence and its legacies. In both forensic science and documentary filmmaking, the dynamics of secrecy and revelation shape how material remains such as bones and archival images are given meaning. Throughout, Davis demonstrates how Cypriots navigate the tension between an ethics of knowledge, which valorizes truth as a prerequisite for recovery and reconciliation, and the politics of knowledge, which renders evidence as irremediably partial and perpetually falsifiable.
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At the Pivot of East and West
Ethnographic, Literary, and Filmic Arts
Michael M. J. Fischer
Duke University Press, 2023
In At the Pivot of East and West, Michael M. J. Fischer examines documentary filmmaking and literature from Southeast Asia and Singapore for their para-ethnographic insights into politics, culture, and aesthetics. Women novelists—Lydia Kwa, Laksmi Pamuntjak, Sandi Tan, Jing Jing Lee, and Danielle Lim—renarrate Southeast Asian generational and political worlds as gendered psychodramas, while filmmakers Tan Pin Pin and Daniel Hui use film to probe into what can better be seen beyond textual worlds. Other writers like Daren Goh, Kevin Martens Wong, and Nuraliah Norasid reinvent the detective story for the age of artificial intelligence, use monsters to reimagine the Southeast Asian archipelago, and critique racism and the erasure of ethnic cultural histories. Continuing his project of applying anthropological thinking to the creative arts, Fischer exemplifies how art and fiction trace the ways in which taken-for-granted common sense changes over time, speak to the transnational present, and track signals of the future before they surface in public awareness.
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The Autobiographical Documentary in America
Jim Lane
University of Wisconsin Press, 2002

Since the late 1960s, American film and video makers of all genres have been fascinated with themes of self and identity. Though the documentary form is most often used to capture the lives of others, Jim Lane turns his lens on those media makers who document their own lives and identities. He looks at the ways in which autobiographical documentaries—including Roger and Me, Sherman’s March, and Silverlake Life—raise weighty questions about American cultural life. What is the role of women in society? What does it mean to die from AIDS? How do race and class play out in our personal lives? What does it mean to be a member of a family? Examining the history, diversity, and theoretical underpinnings of this increasingly popular documentary form, Lane tracks a fundamental transformation of notions of both autobiography and documentary.

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Bits and Pieces
Screening Animal Life and Death
Sarah O'Brien
University of Michigan Press, 2023
Bits and Pieces: Screening Animal Life and Death gathers pivotal and more mundane moments, dispersed across a predominantly Western history of moving images, in which animals materialize in movies and TV shows, from iconic scenes of cattle slaughter in early Soviet montage to quandaries over hunting trophies in recent home-renovation reality TV series, to animals in Black horror films. Sarah O'Brien carefully views these fragments in dialogue with germinal texts at the intersection of animal studies, film and television studies, and cultural studies. She explores the capacity of moving images to unsettle the ways in which audiences have become habituated to viewing animal life and death on screens, and, more importantly, to understanding these images as more and less connected to the “production for consumption” of animals that is specific to modern industrialization. By looking back at films and TV series in which the places and practices of killing or keeping animals enter, occupy, or slip from the foreground, Bits and Pieces takes seriously the idea that cinema and television have the capacity not only to catch but to challenge and change viewers’ regard for animals.
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Celluloid Pueblo
Western Ways Films and the Invention of the Postwar Southwest
Jennifer L. Jenkins
University of Arizona Press, 2016
The five Cs of Arizona—copper, cattle, cotton, citrus, and climate—formed the basis of the state’s livelihood and a readymade roster of subjects for films. With an eye on the developing national appetite for all things western, Charles and Lucile Herbert founded Western Ways Features in 1936 to document the landscape, regional development, and diverse cultures of Arizona, the U.S. Southwest, and northern Mexico.

Celluloid Pueblo tells the story of Western Ways Features and its role in the invention of the Southwest of the imagination. Active during a thirty-year period of profound growth and transformation, the Herberts created a dynamic visual record of the region, and their archival films now serve as a time capsule of the Sunbelt in the mid-twentieth century. Drawing upon a ten-year career with Fox, Western Ways owner-operator Charles Herbert brought a newshound’s sensibility and acute skill at in-camera editing to his southwestern subjects. The Western Ways films provided counternarratives to Hollywood representations of the West and established the regional identity of Tucson and the borderlands.

Jennifer L. Jenkins’s broad-sweeping book examines the Herberts’ work on some of the first sound films in the Arizona borderlands and their ongoing promotion of the Southwest. The book covers the filmic representation of Native and Mexican lifeways, Anglo ranching and leisure, Mexican missions and tourism, and postwar borderlands prosperity and progressivism. The story of Western Ways closely follows the boom-and-bust arc of the midcentury Southwest and the constantly evolving representations of an exotic—but safe and domesticated—frontier.
 
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A Century of Brazilian Documentary Film
From Nationalism to Protest
Darlene J. Sadlier
University of Texas Press, 2022

Since the late nineteenth century, Brazilians have turned to documentaries to explain their country to themselves and to the world. In a magisterial history covering one hundred years of cinema, Darlene J. Sadlier identifies Brazilians’ unique contributions to a diverse genre while exploring how that genre has, in turn, contributed to the making and remaking of Brazil.

A Century of Brazilian Documentary Film is a comprehensive tour of feature and short films that have charted the social and political story of modern Brazil. The Amazon appears repeatedly and vividly. Sometimes—as in a prize-winning 1922 feature—the rainforest is a galvanizing site of national pride; at other times, the Amazon has been a focus for land-reform and Indigenous-rights activists. Other key documentary themes include Brazil’s swings from democracy to dictatorship, tensions between cosmopolitanism and rurality, and shifting attitudes toward race and gender. Sadlier also provides critical perspectives on aesthetics and media technology, exploring how documentaries inspired dramatic depictions of poverty and migration in the country’s Northeast and examining Brazilians’ participation in streaming platforms that have suddenly democratized filmmaking.

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Collecting Visible Evidence
Jane Gaines
University of Minnesota Press, 1999

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Communicating Ideas with Film, Video, and Multimedia
A Practical Guide to Information Motion-Media
S. Martin Shelton
Southern Illinois University Press, 2004
Written for a broad audience of professional informational and corporate filmmakers, film students, technical writers, and clients, Communicating Ideas with Film, Video, and Multimedia: A Practical Guide to Information Motion-Media is an insider’s perspective on the informational media industry. With over thirty-five years of experience, award-winning filmmaker S. Martin Shelton presents his astute views on the state of the profession and offers sage, constructive advice for the successful design and production of information motion-media.

 

Forgoing discussions of technology, Shelton instead concentrates on the communication principles that can motivate an audience to achieve a particular goal—a goal that must be realistic, worthwhile, and appropriate. His inventive approach coalesces theory of the media with its philosophy, analysis, history, and application, as well as his own informed personal opinions. This valuable guide examines how to effectively encode information in motion-media by using in-depth communication analysis and pertinent filmic design. Throughout, Shelton emphasizes that kinetic visuals, rather than audio, are the defining elements of the best motion-media communication. Organized into five parts that can be used independently or in sequence, the volume frames key topics in the industry that collectively form a cohesive strategy for motion-media design and production. First, Shelton discusses the essence of the medium as a communication tool. In the second part, he addresses the forms and functions of motion-media. The third part details communication analysis and its application. Next, Shelton delves into script design, distribution, and career growth. Lastly, he offers advice on business aspects of the profession. Told from the vantage point of a seasoned expert, Communicating Ideas with Film, Video, and Multimedia is a “how to do it” book as well as a treatise on “why to do it.” Shelton’s narrative is complemented by twenty-six illustrations (including multimedia flowcharts, sample forms, and photographs of some of the great documentary filmmakers), a variety of script formats, and a listing of the all-time best documentary films.

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The Conscience of Cinema
Thomas Waugh
Amsterdam University Press, 2016
This is the first book to survey the entire career of Joris Ivens, a prolific documentary filmmaker who worked on every continent over the course of seven decades. More than a biography of a leftist committed to changing the world through film, The Conscience of Cinema is also a microcosmic history of the documentary and its form, culture, and place within twentieth-century world cinema. Ivens worked in almost every genre, including the essay, compilation, hybrid dramatization, socialist realism, and more. Whether in his native Netherlands, the Soviet Union, the United States, Vietnam, or beyond, he left an indelible artistic and political mark that continues to resonate in the twenty-first century.
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Crafting Truth
Documentary Form and Meaning
Spence, Louise
Rutgers University Press, 2011
Documentaries such as Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman's Born into Brothels, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, Jeffrey Blitz's Spellbound, along with March of the Penguins and An Inconvenient Truth have achieved critical as well as popular success. Although nonfiction film may have captured imaginations, many viewers enter and leave theaters with a nanve concept of "truth" and "reality"-for them, documentaries are information sources. But is truth or reality readily available, easily acquired, or undisputed? Or do documentaries convey illusions of truth and reality? What aesthetic means are used to build these illusions?

A documentary's sounds and images are always the product of selection and choice, and often underscore points the filmmaker wishes to make. Crafting Truth illuminates the ways these films tell their stories; how they use the camera, editing, sound, and performance; what rhetorical devices they employ; and what the theoretical, practical, and ethical implications of these choices are. Complex documentary concepts are presented through easily accessible language, images, and a discussion of a wide range of films and videos to encourage new ways of thinking about and seeing nonfiction film.
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Creating the Witness
Documenting Genocide on Film, Video, and the Internet
Leshu Torchin
University of Minnesota Press, 2012

Since the beginning of the conflict in 2003, more than 300,000 lives have been lost in Darfur. Players of the video game Darfur Is Dying learn this sobering fact and more as they work to ensure the survival of a virtual refugee camp. The video game not only puts players in the position of a struggling refugee, it shows them how they can take action in the real world.

Creating the Witness examines the role of film and the Internet in creating virtual witnesses to genocide over the last one hundred years. The book asks, how do visual media work to produce witnesses—audiences who are drawn into action? The argument is a detailed critique of the notion that there is a seamless trajectory from observing an atrocity to acting in order to intervene. According to Leshu Torchin, it is not enough to have a camera; images of genocide require an ideological framework to reinforce the messages the images are meant to convey. Torchin presents wide-ranging examples of witnessing and genocide, including the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust (engaging film as witness in the context of the Nuremburg trials), and the international human rights organization WITNESS and its sustained efforts to use video to publicize human rights advocacy and compel action.

From a historical and comparative approach, Torchin’s broad survey of media and the social practices around it investigates the development of popular understandings of genocide to achieve recognition and response—both political and judicial—ultimately calling on viewers to act on behalf of human rights.




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Documentary Time
Film and Phenomenology
Malin Wahlberg
University of Minnesota Press, 2008

Finding the theoretical space where cinema and philosophy meet, Malin Wahlberg’s sophisticated approach to the experience of documentary film aligns with attempts to reconsider the premises of existential phenomenology. The configuration of time is crucial in organizing the sensory affects of film in general but, as Wahlberg adroitly demonstrates, in nonfiction films the problem of managing time is writ large by the moving image’s interaction with social memory and historical figures.

Wahlberg discusses a thought-provoking corpus of classical and recent experiments in film and video (including Andy Warhol’s films) in which creative approaches to the time of the image and the potential archive memory of filmic representation illuminates meanings of temporality and time experience. She also offers a methodological account of film and brings Deleuze and Ricoeur into dialogue with Bazin and Mitry on the subject of cinema and phenomenology.

Drawing attention to the cultural significance of the images’ imprint as a trace of the past, Documentary Time brings to bear phenomenological inquiry on nonfiction film while at the same time reconsidering the existential dimensions of time that have always puzzled humans.

Malin Wahlberg is a research fellow in cinema studies at Stockholm University.

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Double Exposure
How Social Psychology Fell in Love with the Movies
Kathryn Millard
Rutgers University Press, 2022
Double Exposure examines the role of film in shaping social psychology’s landmark postwar experiments. We are told that most of us will inflict electric shocks on a fellow citizen when ordered to do so. Act as a brutal prison guard when we put on a uniform. Walk on by when we see a stranger in need. But there is more to the story. Documentaries that investigators claimed as evidence were central to capturing the public imagination. Did they provide an alibi for twentieth century humanity? Examining the dramaturgy, staging and filming of these experiments, including Milgram's Obedience Experiments, the Stanford Prison Experiment and many more, Double Exposure recovers a new set of narratives.
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Dying in Full Detail
Mortality and Digital Documentary
Jennifer Malkowski
Duke University Press, 2017
In Dying in Full Detail Jennifer Malkowski explores digital media's impact on one of documentary film's greatest taboos: the recording of death. Despite technological advances that allow for the easy creation and distribution of death footage, digital media often fail to live up to their promise to reveal the world in greater fidelity. Malkowski analyzes a wide range of death footage, from feature films about the terminally ill (Dying, Silverlake Life, Sick), to surreptitiously recorded suicides (The Bridge), to #BlackLivesMatter YouTube videos and their precursors. Contextualizing these recordings in the long history of attempts to capture the moment of death in American culture, Malkowski shows how digital media are unable to deliver death "in full detail," as its metaphysical truth remains beyond representation. Digital technology's capacity to record death does, however, provide the opportunity to politicize individual deaths through their representation. Exploring the relationships among technology, temporality, and the ethical and aesthetic debates about capturing death on video, Malkowski illuminates the key roles documentary death has played in twenty-first-century visual culture.
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Envisioning Asia
On Location, Travel, and the Cinematic Geography of U.S. Orientalism
Jeanette Roan
University of Michigan Press, 2010

"Whereas some other scholars read selected films mainly to illustrate political arguments, Roan never loses sight of the particularities of film as a distinctive cultural form and practice. Her drive to see 'cinema as a mechanism of American orientalism' results in not just a textual analysis of these films, but also a history of their material production and distribution."
---Josephine Lee, University of Minnesota

"Envisioning Asia offers an exciting new contribution to our understandings of the historical developments of American Orientalism. Jeannette Roan deftly situates changing cinematic technologies within the context of U.S. imperial agendas in this richly nuanced analysis of 'shooting on location' in Asia in early 20th century American cinema."
---Wendy Kozol, Oberlin College

"Through her vivid illustration of the role of American cinema in the material, visual, and ideological production of Asia, Jeanette Roan takes the reader on a journey to Asia through a very different route from the virtual travel taken by the viewers of the films she discusses."
---Mari Yoshihara, University of Hawai'i at Manoa

The birth of cinema coincides with the beginnings of U.S. expansion overseas, and the classic Hollywood era coincides with the rise of the United States as a global superpower. In Envisioning Asia, Jeanette Roan argues that throughout this period, the cinema's function as a form of virtual travel, coupled with its purported "authenticity," served to advance America's shifting interests in Asia. Its ability to fulfill this imperial role depended, however, not only on the cinematic representations themselves but on the marketing of the films' production histories---and, in particular, their use of Asian locations. Roan demonstrates this point in relation to a wide range of productions, offering an engaging and useful survey of a largely neglected body of film. Not only that, by focusing on the material practices involved in shooting films on location---that is, the actual travels, negotiations, and labor of making a film---she moves beyond formal analysis to produce a richly detailed history of American interests, attitudes, and cultural practices during the first half of the twentieth century.

Jeanette Roan is Adjunct Professor of Visual Studies at California College of the Arts and author of "Exotic Explorations: Travels to Asia and the Pacific in Early Cinema" in Re/collecting Early Asian America: Essays in Cultural History (2002).

Cover art: Publicity still, Tokyo File 212 (Dorrell McGowan and Stuart McGowan, 1951). The accompanying text reads: "Hundreds of spectators gather on the sidelines as technicians prepare to photograph a parade scene in 'Tokyo File 212,' a Breakston-McGowan Production filmed in Japan for RKO Radio distribution." Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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Experimental Ethnography
The Work of Film in the Age of Video
Catherine Russell
Duke University Press, 1999
Experimental film and ethnographic film have long been considered separate, autonomous practices on the margins of mainstream cinema. By exploring the interplay between the two forms, Catherine Russell throws new light on both the avant-garde and visual anthropology.
Russell provides detailed analyses of more than thirty-five films and videos from the 1890s to the 1990s and discusses a wide range of film and videomakers, including Georges Méliès, Maya Deren, Peter Kubelka, Ray Birdwhistell, Jean Rouch, Su Friedrich, Bill Viola, Kidlat Tahimik, Margaret Mead, Tracey Moffatt, and Chantal Akerman. Arguing that video enables us to see film differently—not as a vanishing culture but as bodies inscripted in technology, Russell maps the slow fade from modernism to postmodern practices. Combining cultural critique with aesthetic analysis, she explores the dynamics of historical interruption, recovery, and reevaluation. As disciplinary boundaries dissolve, Russell contends, ethnography is a means of renewing the avant-gardism of “experimental” film, of mobilizing its play with language and form for historical ends. “Ethnography” likewise becomes an expansive term in which culture is represented from many different and fragmented perspectives.
Original in both its choice of subject and its theoretical and methodological
approaches, Experimental Ethnography will appeal to visual anthropologists, as well as film scholars interested in experimental and documentary practices.
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Fdr'S Moviemaker
Memoirs And Scripts
Pare Lorentz
University of Nevada Press, 1992

"The films of Pare Lorentz are acknowledged masterpieces of world cinema. They are groundbreaking documentary records of our country in the hard years of the Depression." —William M. Drennen, Jr.In the depths of the Great Depression, the U.S. Government produced a series of films about the pressing problems facing the nation—drought, flood, poverty, and slums. Starting with a minuscule initial budget of $6,000, Lorentz, a young film critic from New York who had never made a motion picture, was hired to head the project. The first fruit of his labor, The Plow That Broke the Plains, was a moving and dramatic account of the Dust Bowl that met with immediate and critical acclaim. Lorentz followed up his first film with The River, a history of the Mississippi River Basin and the effect of the Tennessee Valley Authority on the area. Both films demonstrated the potential of the documentary as a powerful impetus to social change, prompting widespread discussion not only of the problems they presented but also of the documentary form itself. This book combines the autobiographical history of a creative communicator and pioneer documentary filmmaker with the full scripts of The Plow That Broke the Plains, The River, Ecce Homo, and The Fight for Life.

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Feminism And Documentary
Diane Waldman
University of Minnesota Press, 1999

front cover of Ferocious Reality
Ferocious Reality
Documentary according to Werner Herzog
Eric Ames
University of Minnesota Press, 2012

Over the course of his career Werner Herzog, known for such visionary masterpieces as Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974), has directed almost sixty films, roughly half of which are documentaries. And yet, in a statement delivered during a public appearance in 1999, the filmmaker declared: “There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.” Ferocious Reality is the first book to ask how this conviction, so hostile to the traditional tenets of documentary, can inform the work of one of the world’s most provocative documentarians.

Herzog, whose Cave of Forgotten Dreams was perhaps the most celebrated documentary of 2010, may be the most influential filmmaker missing from major studies and histories of documentary. Examining such notable films as Lessons of Darkness (1992) and Grizzly Man (2005), Eric Ames shows how Herzog dismisses documentary as a mode of filmmaking in order to creatively intervene and participate in it. In close, contextualized analysis of more than twenty-five films spanning Herzog’s career, Ames makes a case for exploring documentary films in terms of performance and explains what it means to do so. Thus his book expands the field of cinema studies even as it offers an invaluable new perspective on a little studied but integral part of Werner Herzog’s extraordinary oeuvre.

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Ferryman of Memories
The Films of Rithy Panh
Deirdre Boyle
Rutgers University Press, 2023
Ferryman of Memories: The Films of Rithy Panh is an unconventional book about an unconventional filmmaker. Rithy Panh survived the Cambodian genocide and found refuge in France where he discovered in film a language that allowed him to tell what happened to the two million souls who suffered hunger, overwork, disease, and death at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. His innovative cinema is made with people, not about them—even those guilty of crimes against humanity.  Whether he is directing Isabelle Huppert in The Sea Wall, following laborers digging trenches, or interrogating the infamous director of S-21 prison, aesthetics and ethics inform all he does.  With remarkable access to the director and his work, Deirdre Boyle introduces readers to Panh’s groundbreaking approach to perpetrator cinema and dazzling critique of colonialism, globalization, and the refugee crisis. Ferryman of Memories reveals the art of one of the masters of world cinema today, focusing on nineteen of his award-winning films, including Rice People, The Land of Wandering Souls, S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine, and The Missing Picture.
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First Person Jewish
Alisa S. Lebow
University of Minnesota Press, 2008

Documentaries have increasingly used the first person, with a number of prominent filmmakers finding critical and commercial success with this intimate approach. Jewish filmmakers have particularly thrived in this genre, using it to explore disparate definitions of the self in relation to the larger groups of family and community.

In First Person Jewish, Alisa S. Lebow examines more than a dozen films from Jewish artists to reveal how the postmodern impulse to turn the lens inward intersects provocatively (and at times unwittingly) with historical tropes and stereotypes of the Jew. Focusing her efforts on Jewish filmmakers working on the margins, Lebow analyzes the work of Jonathan Caouette, Chantal Akerman, and Alan Berliner, among others, also including a discussion of her own first person film Treyf (1998), made with Cynthia Madansky. The filmmakers in this study, Lebow argues, are confronting a desire to both define and reimagine contemporary Jewishness.

Using a multidisciplinary approach to first person films, Lebow shows how this form of self-expression is challenging both autobiography and documentary and, in the process, changing the art of cinema and recording the cultural shifts of our time.

Alisa S. Lebow is a filmmaker and lecturer in film and TV studies at Brunel University.

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French Colonial Documentary
Mythologies of Humanitarianism
Peter J. Bloom
University of Minnesota Press, 2008

Despite altruistic goals, humanitarianism often propagates foreign, and sometimes unjust, power structures where it is employed. Tracing the visual rhetoric of French colonial humanitarianism, Peter J. Bloom’s unexpected analysis reveals how the project of remaking the colonies in the image of France was integral to its national identity.

French Colonial Documentary investigates how the promise of universal citizenship rights in France was projected onto the colonies as a form of evolutionary interventionism. Bloom focuses on the promotion of French education efforts, hygienic reform, and new agricultural techniques in the colonies as a means of renegotiating the social contract between citizens and the state on an international scale. Bloom’s insightful readings disclose the pervasiveness of colonial iconography, including the relationship between “natural man” and colonial subjectivity; representations of the Senegalese Sharpshooters as obedient, brave, and sexualized colonial subjects; and the appeal of exotic adventure narratives in the trans-Saharan film genre.

Examining the interconnection between French documentary realism and the colonial enterprise, Bloom demonstrates how the colonial archive is crucial to contemporary debates about multiculturalism in France.


Peter J. Bloom is associate professor of film and media studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara.y debates about multiculturalism in France.

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How Do We Look?
Resisting Visual Biopolitics
Fatimah Tobing Rony
Duke University Press, 2022
In How Do We Look? Fatimah Tobing Rony draws on transnational images of Indonesian women as a way to theorize what she calls visual biopolitics—the ways visual representation determines which lives are made to matter more than others. Rony outlines the mechanisms of visual biopolitics by examining Paul Gauguin’s 1893 portrait of Annah la Javanaise—a trafficked thirteen-year-old girl found wandering the streets of Paris—as well as US ethnographic and documentary films. In each instance, the figure of the Indonesian woman is inextricably tied to discourses of primitivism, savagery, colonialism, exoticism, and genocide. Rony also focuses on acts of resistance to visual biopolitics in film, writing, and photography. These works, such as Rachmi Diyah Larasati’s The Dance that Makes You Vanish, Vincent Monnikendam’s Mother Dao (1995), and the collaborative films of Nia Dinata, challenge the naturalized methods of seeing that justify exploitation, dehumanization, and early death of people of color. By theorizing the mechanisms of visual biopolitics, Rony elucidates both its violence and its vulnerability.
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Immediations
The Humanitarian Impulse in Documentary
Pooja Rangan
Duke University Press, 2017
Endangered life is often used to justify humanitarian media intervention, but what if suffering humanity is both the fuel and outcome of such media representations? Pooja Rangan argues that this vicious circle is the result of immediation, a prevailing documentary ethos that seeks to render human suffering urgent and immediate at all costs. Rangan interrogates this ethos in films seeking to “give a voice to the voiceless,” an established method of validating the humanity of marginalized subjects, including children, refugees, autistics, and animals. She focuses on multiple examples of documentary subjects being invited to demonstrate their humanity: photography workshops for the children of sex workers in Calcutta; live eyewitness reporting by Hurricane Katrina survivors; attempts to facilitate speech in nonverbal autistics; and painting lessons for elephants. These subjects are obliged to represent themselves using immediations—tropes that reinforce their status as the “other” and reproduce definitions of the human that exclude non-normative modes of thinking, being, and doing. To counter these effects, Rangan calls for an approach to media that aims not to humanize but to realize the full, radical potential of giving the camera to the other.
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Improvising Cinema
Gilles Mouëllic
Amsterdam University Press, 2014
This spirited volume explores the history and diversity of improvisation in the cinema, including works by Jean Renoir, Jean-Luc Godard, and Nobuhiro Suwa. Gilles Mouëllic examines improvisational practices that can be specifically attributed to the cinema and argues in favors of their powers as instigators of unprecedented forms of expression. Improvising Cinema reflects both on the permanence of attempting improvisation and the relationship between technology and aesthetics. Mouëllic concludes preservation becomes even more invaluable in the case of improvisation, as the creative act exists only within the brief time span of the performance.
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Indigenous Aesthetics
Native Art, Media, and Identity
By Steven Leuthold
University of Texas Press, 1998

What happens when a Native or indigenous person turns a video camera on his or her own culture? Are the resulting images different from what a Westernized filmmaker would create, and, if so, in what ways? How does the use of a non-Native art-making medium, specifically video or film, affect the aesthetics of the Native culture?

These are some of the questions that underlie this rich study of Native American aesthetics, art, media, and identity. Steven Leuthold opens with a theoretically informed discussion of the core concepts of aesthetics and indigenous culture and then turns to detailed examination of the work of American Indian documentary filmmakers, including George Burdeau and Victor Masayesva, Jr. He shows how Native filmmaking incorporates traditional concepts such as the connection to place, to the sacred, and to the cycles of nature. While these concepts now find expression through Westernized media, they also maintain continuity with earlier aesthetic productions. In this way, Native filmmaking serves to create and preserve a sense of identity for indigenous people.

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Innovation in Ethnographic Film
From Innocence to Self-Consciousness, 1955-1985
Peter Loizos
University of Chicago Press, 1993
In the first coprehensive introduction to the nature and development of ethnographic film, Peter Loizos reviews fifty of the most important films made between 1955 and 1985. Going beyond programmatic statements, he analyzes the films themselves, identifying and discussing their contributions to ethnographic documentation.

Loizos begins by reviewing works of John Marshall and Timothy Asch in the 1950s and moves through those of Jean Rouch, Robert Gardner, and many more recent filmmakers. He reveals a steady course of innovations along four dimensions: production technology, subject matter, strategies of argument, and ethnographic authentication. His analyses of individual films address questions of realism, authenticity, genre, authorial and subjective voice, and representation of the films' creators as well as their subjects.

Innovation in Ethnographic Film, as a systematic and iluminating review of developments in ethnographic film, will be an important resource for the growing number of anthropologists and other scholars who use such films as tools for research and teaching.

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Japanese Documentary Film
The Meiji Era Through Hiroshima
Abe Mark Nornes
University of Minnesota Press, 2003
Among Asian countries—where until recently documentary filmmaking was largely the domain of central governments—Japan was exceptional for the vigor of its nonfiction film industry. And yet, for all its aesthetic, historical, and political interest, the Japanese documentary remains little known and largely unstudied outside of Japan. This is the first English-language study of the subject, an enlightening close look at the first fifty years of documentary film theory and practice in Japan. Beginning with films made by foreigners in the nineteenth century and concluding with the first two films made after Japan’s surrender in 1945, Abé Mark Nornes moves from a “prehistory of the documentary,” through innovations of the proletarian film movement, to the hardening of style and conventions that started with the Manchurian Incident films and continued through the Pacific War. Nornes draws on a wide variety of archival sources—including Japanese studio records, secret police reports, government memos, letters, military tribunal testimonies, and more—to chart shifts in documentary style against developments in the history of modern Japan. Abé Mark Nornes is associate professor at the University of Michigan, where he teaches in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures and the Program in Film and Video Studies.
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John Grierson
Life, Contributions, Influence
Jack C. Ellis
Southern Illinois University Press, 2000

More than any other person, Jack C. Ellis notes, John Grierson, a Scot, was responsible for the documentary film as it has developed in English-speaking countries.

While in the United States in the 1920s, Grierson first applied the term documentary to Robert Flaherty's Moana. In 1927, Grierson returned to Britain, where he was hired to promote the marketing of products of the British Empire. The first practical application of Grierson’s theory of documentary film was Drifters, a 1929 short feature about herring fishing in the North Sea. That success led Grierson to establish the Empire Marketing Board Film Unit (later the General Post Office Film Unit).

In 1939, Grierson moved to Canada, leaving behind a legacy of some sixty British filmmakers who spread his ideas and techniques to other countries. In Canada, he progressed beyond national concerns to global problems. The National Film Board of Canada stands as the largest and most impressive monument to Grierson's concepts and actions in regard to the use of film by governments in communicating with citizens.

            

Ellis examines Grierson's accomplishments in detail, probing the complexities of Grierson's motivations and personality. His subject, a true titan in the world of documentary film, was the first filmmaker to use public and private institutional sponsorship—not the box office—to pay for his films. He also employed nontraditional distribution techniques, going outside the movie theaters to reach audiences in schools and factories, union halls, and church basements. Essentially, Grierson created documentary film and established an audience for it.

            

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Latin American Documentary Filmmaking
Major Works
David William Foster
University of Arizona Press, 2013
Latin American Documentary Filmmaking is the first volume written in English to explore Latin American documentary filmmaking with extensive and intelligent analysis. David William Foster, the leading authority on Latin American urban cultural production, provides rich, new interpretations on the production of gender, political persecution, historical conflicts, and exclusion from the mainstream in many of Latin America’s most important documentary films.

Foster provides a series of detailed examinations of major texts of Latin American filmmaking, discussing their textual production and processes of meaning. His analysis delves deeply into the world of Latin American film and brings forth a discourse of structure that has previously been absent from the fields of filmmaking and Latin American studies. This volume provides perspective on diverse and methodological approaches, pulling from a wide scope of cinematic traditions. Using his own critical readings and research, Foster presents his findings in terms that are accessible to non-Spanish speakers and Latin American film enthusiasts.

A much-needed contribution to the field of Latin American documentary film, Foster’s research and perspective will be a valuable source for those interested in film studies, gender studies, and culture.
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Michael Moore and the Rhetoric of Documentary
Edited by Thomas W. Benson and Brian J. Snee
Southern Illinois University Press, 2015

Not afraid to tackle provocative topics in American culture, from gun violence and labor policies to terrorism and health care, Michael Moore has earned both applause and invective in his career as a documentarian. In such polarizing films as Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Sicko, Moore has established a unique voice of radical nostalgia for progressivism, and in doing so has become one of the most recognized documentary filmmakers of all time.

In the first in-depth study of Moore’s feature-length documentary films, editors Thomas W. Benson and Brian J. Snee have gathered leading rhetoric scholars to examine the production, rhetorical appeals, and audience reception of these films. Contributors critique the films primarily as modes of public argument and political art. Each essay is devoted to one of Moore’s films and traces in detail how each film invites specific audience responses.

Michael Moore and the Rhetoric of Documentary reveals not only the art, the argument, and the emotional appeals of Moore’s documentaries but also how these films have revolutionized the genre of documentary filmmaking.

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Michael Moore
Filmmaker, Newsmaker, Cultural Icon
Matthew Bernstein, Editor
University of Michigan Press, 2010

For more than twenty years, Michael Moore has transformed himself from a marginal filmmaker into a cultural icon, unofficial spokesperson for liberals and the Left. American conservatives constantly use him for target practice and target. Book author, film director, television personality, and Web presence, Moore is now a one-man cultural phenomenon. Although Michael Moore is a constant presence on the media landscape, this is the first volume to focus on the Moore phenomenom. It explores Moore's work in film and elsewhere, bringing diverse perspectives on his activities and status as voice of liberal America and the disenfranchised working class. Topics examined include the disjunction between Moore's celebrity status and everyman, middle-western persona, his self-mocking ironic sensibility, his tendency to diagnose American social and political problems in terms of class rather than gender, his reception abroad, and his uneasy relationship with the conventions of documentary filmmaking. The contributors are leading scholars and film critics, including Paul Arthur, Cary Elza, Jeffrey P. Jones, Douglas Kellner, Richard Kilborn, William Luhr, Charles Musser, Richard R. Ness, Miles Orvell, Richard Porton, Sergio Rizzo, Christopher Sharrett, Gaylyn Studlar, and David Teztlaff. The volume features both assessments of Moore's work in general and close analyses of his most successful films. The result is a definitive assessment of Moore's career to date.

Matthew Bernstein is Professor and Chair of Film Studies at Emory University. He is author of Walter Wanger: Hollywood Independent.

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Paid to Care
Domestic Workers in Contemporary Latin American Culture
Rachel Randall
University of Texas Press, 2023

An insight into the struggles of paid domestic workers in Latin America through an exploration of films, texts, and digital media produced since the 1980s in collaboration with them or inspired by their experiences.

Paid domestic work in Latin America is often undervalued, underpaid, and underregulated. Exploring a wave of Latin American cultural texts since the 1980s that draw on the personal experiences of paid domestic work or intimate ties to domestic employees, Paid to Care offers insights into the struggles domestic workers face through an analysis of literary testimonials, documentary and fiction films, and works of digital media.

From domestic workers’ experiences of unionization in the 1980s to calls for their rights to be respected today, the cultural texts analyzed in Paid to Care provide additional insight into public debates about paid domestic work. Rachel Randall examines work made in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay. The most recent of these texts respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, which put many domestic workers’ health and livelihoods at risk. Engaging with the legal histories of domestic work in multiple distinct national contexts, Randall demonstrates how the legacy of colonialism and slavery shapes the profession even today. Focusing on personal or coproduced cultural representations of domestic workers, Paid to Care explores complex ethical issues relating to consent, mediation, and appropriation.

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Photopoetics at Tlatelolco
Afterimages of Mexico, 1968
By Samuel Steinberg
University of Texas Press, 2016

In the months leading up to the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City, students took to the streets, calling for greater democratization and decrying crackdowns on political resistance by the ruling PRI party. During a mass meeting held at the Plaza of the Three Cultures in the Tlatelolco neighborhood, paramilitary forces opened fire on the gathering. The death toll from the massacre remains a contested number, ranging from an official count in the dozens to estimates in the hundreds by journalists and scholars. Rereading the legacy of this tragedy through diverse artistic-political interventions across the decades, Photopoetics at Tlatelolco explores the state’s dual repression—both the massacre’s crushing effects on the movement and the manipulation of cultural discourse and political thought in the aftermath.

Examining artifacts ranging from documentary photography and testimony to poetry, essays, chronicles, cinema, literary texts, video, and performance, Samuel Steinberg considers the broad photographic and photopoetic nature of modern witnessing as well as the specific elements of light (gunfire, flares, camera flashes) that ultimately defined the massacre. Steinberg also demonstrates the ways in which the labels of “massacre” and “sacrifice” inform contemporary perceptions of the state’s blatant and violent repression of unrest. With implications for similar processes throughout the rest of Latin America from the 1960s to the present day, Photopoetics at Tlatelolco provides a powerful new model for understanding the intersection of political history and cultural memory.

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Projecting History
German Nonfiction Cinema, 1967-2000
Nora M. Alter
University of Michigan Press, 2002

Between 1967 and 2000, film production in Germany underwent a number of significant transformations, including the birth and death of New German Cinema as well as the emergence of a new transnational cinematic practice. In Projecting History, Nora M. Alter explores the relationship between German cinematic practice and the student protests in both East and West Germany against the backdrop of the U.S. war in Vietnam in the sixties, the outbreak of terrorism in West Germany in the seventies, West Germany's rise as a significant global power in the eighties, and German reunification in the nineties.

Although a central tendency of New German Cinema in the 1970s was to reduce the nation's history to the product of individuals, the films addressed in Projecting History focus not on individual protagonists, but on complex socioeconomic structures. The films, by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Harun Farocki, Alexander Kluge, Ulrike Ottinger, Wim Wenders and others, address basic problems of German history, including its overall "peculiarity" within the European context, and, in particular, the specific ways in which the National Socialist legacy continues to haunt Germans.

Nora M. Alter is Associate Professor of German, Film and Media Studies, and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Florida. A specialist in twentieth-century film, comparative literature, and cultural studies, Alter has been the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and a Howard Foundation Fellowship. She is also the author of Vietnam Protest Theatre: The Television War on Stage.

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Public Television
Politics and the Battle over Documentary Film
Bullert, B.J.
Rutgers University Press, 1997
Public television's original mandate requires the system to address issues of controversy and facilitate the inclusion of voices and perspectives that lie outside the established consensus.  But attempts to include these voices reveal a system riddled with conflicting obligations and agendas.  Public Television  looks at who in the world of public television is powerful, who is weak, and who cares.

Through detailed chronologies, B. J. Bullert traces how independently produced documentaries pushed the limits of public television between 1985 and 1993.  She interviews the key players, film makers, programmers, journalists, and representatives of interest groups to illuminate how together they sought to frame and constrain viewers on perceptions of provocative works. Their stories are set against the backdrop of a larger story about the relationship between federal funding for the arts and public broadcasting and the promise of a democratic society. Bullert brings to light the subtle forces and interests that effectively control the style and content of documentaries that have been broadcast with the PBS logo. 

When film makers brought uncommon realities to the public television airwaves, a complex collective response from station programmers, interest groups, journalists, and viewers ensued.  Public Television charts the communication process through which visions of reality deemed threatening to some are packaged to make them more palatable for public television viewers.
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Realer Than Reel
Global Directions in Documentary
By David Hogarth
University of Texas Press, 2006

Television and globalization have transformed the traditional documentary almost beyond recognition, converting what was once a film genre devoted to public service and education into a popular televisual commodity with productions ranging from serious public affairs programming to TV "reality" shows and "docusoaps." Realer Than Reel offers a state-of-the-art overview of international documentary programming that investigates the possibilities documentary offers for local and public representation in a global age, as well as what actually constitutes documentary in a time of increasing digitalization and manipulation of visual media.

David Hogarth focuses on public affairs, nature, and reality shows from around the world, drawing upon industry data, producer interviews, analyses of selected documentary programs, and firsthand observations of market sites. He looks at how documentary has become a transnational product through exports, co-ventures, and festival contacts; how local and regional "place" is represented in global documentary, especially by producers such as Discovery Networks International and the National Geographic Channel; how documentary addresses the needs of its viewers as citizens through public service broadcasting; and how documentary is challenging accepted conventions of factuality, sense, and taste. The concluding chapter considers the future of both documentary as a genre and television as a global factual medium, asking whether TV will continue to "document" the world in any meaningful sense of the term.

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Recording Memories from Political Violence
A Film-maker's Journey
Cahal McLaughlin
Intellect Books, 2010

Based on work the author has carried out with survivor groups in Northern Ireland and South Africa, Recording Memories from Political Violence draws on written and audiovisual texts to describe and analyze the use of documentary filmmaking in recording experiences of political conflict. A variety of issues relevant to the genre are addressed at length, including the importance of ethics in the collaboration between the filmmaker and the participant and the effect of location on the accounts of participants. Cahal McLaughlin draws on the diverse fields of film and cultural studies, as well as nearly twenty years of production experience, in this informed and instructive contribution to documentary filmmaking and post-conflict studies.

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Recording Reality, Desiring the Real
Elizabeth Cowie
University of Minnesota Press, 2010
Documentary has once again emerged as one of the most vital cultural forms, whether seen in cinemas or inside the home, as digital, film, or video. In Recording Reality, Desiring the Real, Elizabeth Cowie looks at the history of documentary and its contemporary forms, showing how it has been simultaneously understood as factual, as story, as art, and as political, addressing the seeming paradox between the pleasures of spectacle in the documentary and its project of informing and educating.

Cowie claims that, as a radical film form, documentary has been a way for filmmakers to acknowledge historical and contemporary realities by presenting images of these realities. If documentary is the desire to know reality through its images and sounds, she asks, what kind of speaking (and speaking about) emerges in documentary, and how are we engaged by it? In considering this and other questions, Cowie examines a range of noteworthy films, including Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke, John Huston’s Let There Be Light, and Milica Tomic’s Portrait of My Mother.

Recording Reality, Desiring the Real
stakes documentary’s central place in cinema as both an art form and a form of social engagement, which together create a new understanding of spectatorship.
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Reporting for Arkansas
The Documentary Films of Jack Hill
Dale Carpenter
University of Arkansas Press, 2022

Jack Hill was a pioneering Arkansas documentary filmmaker dedicated to sharing his state’s history with a wider public. Following a decade as an award-winning investigative journalist and news anchor at KAIT in Jonesboro, Hill was pushed out by new management for his controversial reporting on corruption in a local sheriff’s office. What seemed like a major career setback turned out to be an opportunity: he founded the production company TeleVision for Arkansas, through which he produced dozens of original films. Although Hill brought an abiding interest in education and public health to this work from the beginning, he found his true calling in topics based in Arkansas history. Convinced that a greater acquaintance with the state’s most significant historical events would nurture a greater sense of homegrown pride, Hill tirelessly crisscrossed the state to capture the voices of hundreds of Arkansans recalling significant chapters in the state’s history, such as the oil boom in El Dorado and Smackover, the crucial contributions of the Arkansas Ordnance Plant in Jacksonville during World War II, and the role of Rosenwald Schools in expanding educational opportunities.

In Reporting for Arkansas, Dale Carpenter and Robert Cochran present a biography of Hill alongside an annotated selected filmography designed to accompany sixteen of his best films on subjects related to Arkansas history—all newly hosted online by the Center for Arkansas and Regional Studies at the University of Arkansas.

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Reuse, Misuse, Abuse
The Ethics of Audiovisual Appropriation in the Digital Era
Jaimie Baron
Rutgers University Press, 2021
In contemporary culture, existing audiovisual recordings are constantly reused and repurposed for various ends, raising questions regarding the ethics of such appropriations, particularly when the recording  depicts actual people and events. Every reuse of a preexisting recording is, on some level, a misuse in that it was not intended or at least anticipated by the original maker, but not all misuses are necessarily unethical. In fact, there are many instances of productive misuse that seem justified. At the same time, there are other instances in which the misuse shades into abuse. Documentary scholars have long engaged with the question of the ethical responsibility of documentary makers in relation to their subjects. But what happens when this responsibility is set at a remove, when the recording already exists for the taking and repurposing? Reuse, Misuse and Abuse surveys a range of contemporary films and videos that appropriate preexisting footage and attempts to theorize their ethical implications.
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The Rhetoric of the New Political Documentary
Edited by Thomas W. Benson and Brian J. Snee
Southern Illinois University Press, 2008

The Rhetoric of the New Political Documentary explores the most visible and volatile element in the 2004 presidential campaign—the partisan documentary film. This collection of original critical essays by leading scholars and critics—including Shawn J. and Trevor Parry-Giles, Jennifer L. Borda, and Martin J. Medhurst—analyzes a selection of political documentaries that appeared during the 2004 election season. The editors examine the new political documentary with the tools of rhetorical criticism, combining close textual analysis with a consideration of the historical context and the production and reception of the films.

The essays address the distinctive rhetoric of the new political documentary, with the films typically having been shot with relatively low budgets, in video, and using interviews and stock footage rather than observation of uncontrolled behavior. The quality was often good enough and interest was sufficiently intense that the films were shown in theaters and on television, which provided legitimacy and visibility before they were released soon afterwards on DVD and VHS and marketed on the Internet.

The volume reviews such films as Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11; two refutations of Moore’s film, Fahrenhype 9/11 and Celsius 41.11;Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election; and George W. Bush: Faith in the White House—films that experimented with a variety of angles and rhetorics, from a mix of comic disparagement and earnest confrontation to various emulations of traditional news and documentary voices.

The Rhetoric of the New Political Documentary represents the continued transformation of American political discourse in a partisan and contentious time and showcases the independent voices and the political power brokers that struggled to find new ways to debate the status quo and employ surrogate “independents” to create a counterrhetoric.

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The Right to Play Oneself
Looking Back on Documentary Film
Thomas Waugh
University of Minnesota Press, 2010
The Right to Play Oneself collects for the first time Thomas Waugh’s essays on the politics, history, and aesthetics of documentary film, written between 1974 and 2008. The title, inspired by Walter Benjamin’s and Joris Ivens’s manifestos of “committed” documentary from the 19 0s, reflects the book’s theme of the political potential of documentary for representing the democratic performance of citizens and artists.

Waugh analyzes an eclectic international selection of films and issues from the 1920s to the present day. The essays provide a transcultural focus, moving from documentaries of the industrialized societies of North America and Europe to those of 1980s India and addressing such canonical directors as Dziga Vertov, Emile de Antonio, Barbara Hammer, Rosa von Praunheim, and Anand Patwardhan. Woven through the volume is the relationship of the documentary with the history of the Left, including discussions of LGBT documentary pioneers and the firebrand collectives that changed the history of documentary, such as Challenge for Change and ACT UP’s Women’s Collective.

Together with the introduction by the author, Waugh’s essays advance a defiantly and persuasively personal point of view on the history and significance of documentary film.
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Screening Social Justice
Brave New Films and Documentary Activism
Sherry B. Ortner
Duke University Press, 2023
In Screening Social Justice, award-winning anthropologist Sherry B. Ortner presents an ethnographic study of Brave New Films, a nonprofit film production company that makes documentaries intended to mobilize progressive grassroots activism. Ortner positions the work of the company within a tradition of activist documentary filmmaking and within the larger field of “alternative media” that is committed to challenging the mainstream media and telling the truth about the world today. The company’s films cover a range of social justice issues, with particular focus on the hidden workings of capitalism, racism, and right-wing extremism. Beyond the films themselves, Brave New Films is also famous for its creative distribution strategies. All of the films are available for free on YouTube. Central to the intention of promoting political activism, the films circulate through networks of other activist and social justice organizations and are shown almost entirely in live screenings in which the power of the film is amplified. Ortner takes the reader inside both the production process and the screenings to show how a film can be made and used to mobilize action for a better world.
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The Social Documentary in Latin America
Julianne Burton
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990
Twenty essays by major filmmakers and critics provide the first survey of the evolution of documentary film in Latin America. While acknowledging the political and historical weight of the documentary, the contributors are also concerned with the aesthetic dimensions of the medium and how Latin American practitioners have defined the boundaries of the form.
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Soul of the Documentary
Framing, Expression, Ethics
Ilona Hongisto
Amsterdam University Press, 2015
Soul of the Documentary offers a groundbreaking new approach to documentary cinema. Ilona Hongisto stirs current thinking by suggesting that the work of documentary films is not reducible to representing what already exists. By close-reading a diverse body of films - from The Last Bolshevik to Grey Gardens - Hongisto shows how documentary cinema intervenes in the real by framing it and creatively contributes to its perpetual unfolding. The emphasis on framing brings new urgency to the documentary tradition and its objectives, and provokes significant novel possibilities for thinking about the documentary's ethical and political potentials in the contemporary world.
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Subject Of Documentary
Michael Renov
University of Minnesota Press, 2004
The documentary, a genre as old as cinema itself, has traditionally aspired to objectivity. Whether making ethnographic, propagandistic, or educational films, documentarians have pointed the camera outward, drawing as little attention to themselves as possible. In recent decades, however, a new kind of documentary has emerged in which the filmmaker has become the subject of the work. Whether chronicling family history, sexual identity, or a personal or social world, this new generation of nonfiction filmmakers has defiantly embraced autobiography. In The Subject of Documentary, Michael Renov focuses on how documentary filmmaking has become an important means for both examining and constructing selfhood. By looking at key figures in documentary filmmaking as well as noncanonical video art and avant-garde artists, Renov broadens the definition of what counts as documentary, and explores the intersection of the personal and political, considering how memory can create a way into asking troubling questions about identity, oppression, and resiliency. Offering historical context for the explosion of personal nonfiction filmmaking in the 1980s and 1990s, Renov analyzes films in which the subjectivity of the filmmaker is expressly defined in relation to political struggle or historical trauma, from Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool to Jonas Mekas's Lost, Lost, Lost. And, looking beyond the traditional documentary, Renov contemplates such nontraditional modes of autobiographical practice as the essay film, the video confession, and the personal Web page.Unique in its attention to diverse expressions of personal nonfiction filmmaking, The Subject of Documentary forges a new understanding of the heightened role and function of subjectivity in contemporary documentary practice.Michael Renov is professor of critical studies at the USC School of Cinema-Television. He is the editor of Theorizing Documentary and the coeditor of Resolutions: Contemporary Video Practices (Minnesota, 1996) and Collecting Visible Evidence (Minnesota, 1999).
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Subject to Reality
Women and Documentary Film
Shilyh Warren
University of Illinois Press, 2019
Revolutionary thinking around gender and race merged with new film technologies to usher in a wave of women's documentaries in the 1970s. Driven by the various promises of second-wave feminism, activist filmmakers believed authentic stories about women would bring more people into an imminent revolution. Yet their films soon faded into obscurity.

Shilyh Warren reopens this understudied period and links it to a neglected era of women's filmmaking that took place from 1920 to 1940, another key period of thinking around documentary, race, and gender. Drawing women’s cultural expression during these two explosive times into conversation, Warren reconsiders key debates about subjectivity, feminism, realism, and documentary and their lasting epistemological and material consequences for film and feminist studies. She also excavates the lost ethnographic history of women's documentary filmmaking in the earlier era and explores the political and aesthetic legacy of these films in more explicitly feminist periods like the Seventies.

Filled with challenging insights and new close readings, Subject to Reality sheds light on a profound and unexamined history of feminist documentaries while revealing their influence on the filmmakers of today.

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Succeeding as a Documentary Filmmaker
A Guide to the Professional World
Alan Rosenthal
Southern Illinois University Press, 2011
 
While many film programs prepare students for the realities of Hollywood, comparatively little guidance is provided for the aspiring documentary filmmaker. Alan Rosenthal fills this void with Succeeding as a Documentary Filmmaker: A Guide to the Professional World. Unlike traditional manuals on documentary filmmaking, which focus primarily on the creation of films, this user-friendly volume draws upon real-world examples and the advice of experienced filmmakers to provide essential information about the nonfiction movie business. 

From the basics of the current film business environment and how to navigate it, to tips on how to maximize distribution and sales for a finished film, Rosenthal leads novice filmmakers step-by-step through the professional arena of documentary moviemaking. Included here are recommendations for how to make the most of a film school education; the best ways to find financing for a film and the realities of working with a budget; how to develop a successful proposal for a project; the intricacies of working both as an independent filmmaker and for others; and insight into the often complicated arenas of contracts and markets. Throughout the volume, Rosenthal shares the expertise of actual filmmakers on such subjects as film school and starting a career; pitching and funding projects; contract negotiation; effective marketing; and commissioning editors and legal help. Not limiting himself to merely the documentary world, the author also offers valuable information and advice for filmmakers interested in other genres of nonfiction movies - such as industrial, public relations, travel, and educational films - to provide a truly comprehensive and one-of-a-kind guide for readers. 

Packed with useful tips for novices, film students, and practitioners alike, Succeeding as a Documentary Filmmaker is an indispensable addition to the library of anyone involved in the world of nonfiction filmmaking.
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Useful Cinema
Charles R. Acland and Haidee Wasson, eds.
Duke University Press, 2011
By exploring the use of film in mid-twentieth-century institutions, including libraries, museums, classrooms, and professional organizations, the essays in Useful Cinema show how moving images became an ordinary feature of American life. In venues such as factories and community halls, people encountered industrial, educational, training, advertising, and other types of “useful cinema.” Screening these films transformed unlikely spaces, conveyed ideas, and produced subjects in the service of public and private aims. Such functional motion pictures helped to shape common sense about cinema’s place in contemporary life. Whether measured in terms of the number of films shown, the size of audiences, or the economic activity generated, the “non-theatrical sector” was a substantial and enduring parallel to the more spectacular realm of commercial film. In Useful Cinema, scholars examine organizations such as UNESCO, the YMCA, the Amateur Cinema League, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They also consider film exhibition sites in schools, businesses, and industries. As they expand understanding of this other American cinema, the contributors challenge preconceived notions about what cinema is.

Contributors. Charles R. Acland, Joseph Clark, Zoë Druick, Ronald Walter Greene, Alison Griffiths, Stephen Groening, Jennifer Horne, Kirsten Ostherr, Eric Smoodin, Charles Tepperman, Gregory A. Waller, Haidee Wasson. Michael Zryd
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Video for Change
A Guide For Advocacy and Activism
Edited by Sam Gregory, Gillian Caldwell, Ronit Avni, and Thomas Harding
Pluto Press, 2005
This is the first ever comprehensive practical guide to human rights and video campaigning.



Pictures from Abu Ghraib showed the power of the amateur image to grab the world's attention. The Asian tsunami, caught on camcorder, brought home the reality of what had happened more than any news report ever could. Around the world the increasing availability and affordability of technology has fuelled the world of social justice video activism. Film-making---at its best---has the power to change the way people think, and create real social change, and now the tools to do it are more accessible than ever before. This book shows how activists and human rights campaigners can harness the power of images and stories for their own purposes---it's a step-by-step guide to the handicam revolution.



Written by leading video activists, and staff of the world-renowned human rights organization WITNESS, this practical handbook will appeal to experienced campaigners as well as aspiring video activists. It combines a comprehensive analysis of what's going on in this growing global field with a how-to primer to doing it yourself.



Video for Change is packed with real-life stories from the fray, how-to guidance, and easy-to-use exercises. Clear and accessible, it provides a crash course in the basics of social justice video documentation and advocacy. The authors cover every aspect of filmmaking from technical guidance to strategic and ethical issues, making it indispensable for both amateur and professional filmmakers.



Readers are shown how to plan, film, edit and distribute; they are shown how to adopt an effective strategy so that their video makes a difference. The book is unique in that it also covers the practical ethics and responsibilities of social justice video-work and offers a global range of real-life stories to learn from.

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Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films and Digital Videos
Alan Rosenthal and Ned Eckhardt
Southern Illinois University Press, 2016
In a new edition of this popular guidebook, filmmakers Alan Rosenthal and Ned Eckhardt show readers how to utilize the latest innovations in equipment, technologies, and production techniques for success in the digital, web-based world of documentary film.
 
All twenty-four chapters of the volume have been revised to reflect the latest advances in documentary filmmaking. Rosenthal and Eckhardt discuss the myriad ways in which technological changes have impacted the creation process of documentary films, including how these evolving technologies both complicate and enrich filmmaking today. The book provides crucial insights for the filmmaker from the film’s conception to distribution of the finished film. Topics include creating dynamic proposals, writing narration, and navigating the murky world of contracts. Also included are many practical tips for first-time filmmakers. To provide context and to illustrate techniques, Rosenthal and Eckhardt reference more than one hundred documentaries in detail.
 
A new appendix, “Using the Web and Social Media to Prepare for Your Career,” guides filmmakers through the process of leveraging social media and crowdsourcing for success in filmmaking, fund-raising, and promotion. A day-to-day field manual packed with invaluable lessons, this volume is essential reading for both novice and experienced documentary filmmakers.
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Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films and Videos, Fourth Edition
Alan Rosenthal
Southern Illinois University Press, 2007
As Alan Rosenthal states in the preface to this new edition of his acclaimed resource for filmmakers, Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films and Videos is “a book about storytelling—how to tell great and moving stories about fascinating people, whether they be villains or heroes.”
 
In response to technological advances and the growth of the documentary hybrid in the past five years, Rosenthal reconsiders how one approaches documentary filmmaking in the twenty-first century. Simply and clearly, he explains how to tackle day-to-day problems, from initial concept through distribution. He demonstrates his ideas throughout the book with examples from key filmmakers’ work.
 
New aspects of this fourth edition include a vital new chapter titled "Making Your First Film," and a considerable enlargement of the section for producers, "Staying Alive," which includes an extensive discussion of financing, marketing, festivals, and distribution. This new edition offers a revised chapter on nonlinear editing, more examples of precise and exacting proposals, and the addition of a complex budget example with explanation of the budgeting process. Discussion of documentary hybrids, with suggestions for mastering changes and challenges, has also been expanded, while the “Family Films” chapter includes updated information that addresses rapid expansion in this genre.
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