Documenting the Documentary: Close Readings of Documentary Film and Video

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Wayne State University Press, 1998 - Performing Arts - 488 pages
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Documenting the Documentary features essays by twenty-seven film scholars from a wide range of critical and theoretical perspectives. Each essay focuses on one or two important documentaries, engaging in questions surrounding ethics, ideology, politics, power, race, gender, and representation -- but always in terms of how they arise out of or are involved in the reading of specific documentaries as particular textual constructions. By closely reading documentaries as rich visual works, this anthology fills a void in the critical writing on documentaries, which tends to privilege production over aesthetic pleasure. As we perceive and comprehend the world through visual media increasingly, understanding the textual strategies by which individual documentaries are organized has become critically important. Together, the essays cover the significant developments in the history of the documentary, from the first commercially released feature, Nanook of the North (1922), to modern independent productions, such as An American Family (1973), Tongues Untied (1989), and Finding Christa (1991), and including important national and stylistic movements and various production contexts from the mainstream to the avant-garde. Seth Feldman places Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera (1929) within the context of constructivism and futurism; Vivian Sobchack discusses the strategies of Bunuel's Las Hurdas (Land without Bread, 1931) in relation to surrealism; and Joanne Hershfield explores Que viva Mexico! (1932) as the presentation of an exotic culture by a European director. Documenting the Documentary offers clear, serious, and insightful analyses of documentary films, and is a welcome balancebetween theory and criticism, abstract conceptualization and concrete analysis.
 

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Contents

Foreword by Bill Nichols
11
Peace between Man and Machine
40
Paradise Regained
55
Synthetic Vision
70
The Art of National Projection
83
The Mass Psychology of Fascist Cinema
99
American Documentary Finds Its Voice
119
Men Cannot Act before the Camera in the Presence
136
Seeing with Experimental Eyes
269
A Bastard Union of Several Forms
286
The Documentary of Displaced Persona
302
Gender Power and a Cucumber
318
Documentary Film and the Discourse of Hysterical
333
The Filmmaker as Global Circumnavigator
360
Mirrors without Memories
379
Documentaphobia and Mixed Modes
397

The Poetics of Propaganda
154
It Was an Atrocious Film
171
The Dialogic Imagination of Jean Rouch
188
Terror and Memory in Alain Resnaiss Night and
204
Dont You Ever Just Watch?
223
Ethnography in the First Person
238
The Two Avantgardes
254
Silence and Its Opposite
416
Containing Fire
429
Contested Territory
446
General Bibliography
463
Sources for Films and Videos
469
Index
477
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About the author (1998)

Barry Keith Grant is a professor of film studies at Brock University and is an adjunct faculty member of the graduate program in film and video at York University in Toronto. He is the editor of The Dread of Difference (University of Texas Press,1996) and Film Genre Reader (University of Texas Press, 1995), and is the author of Voyages of Discovery (University of Illinois Press, 1992).

Jeannette Sloniowski is the director of the communication studies program and assistant professor of film at Brock University.

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