A Companion to Contemporary Documentary Film by Alexandra Juhasz, Alisa Lebow

By Alexandra Juhasz, Alisa Lebow

A better half to modern Documentary Film offers a set of unique essays that discover significant matters surrounding the kingdom of present documentary movies and their skill to motivate and impact change. 

  • Presents a complete number of essays with regards to all facets of up to date documentary films
  • Includes approximately 30 unique essays by way of most sensible documentary movie students and makers, with each one thematic grouping of essays sub-edited via significant figures within the field
  • Explores a number of issues relevant to modern documentary filmmakers and the examine of documentary movie – the planet, migration, paintings, intercourse, virus, faith, battle, torture, and surveillance
  • Considers a large variety of documentary movies that fall outdoors normal canons, together with foreign and avant-garde documentaries awarded in various media

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Fredric Jameson famously describes cultural texts or artifacts as “symbolic acts” in which “real social contradictions, insurmountable in their own terms, find a purely formal resolution in the aesthetic realm” (Jameson, 1982: 64). It is in this sense that I will offer readings of these three documentaries as aesthetic acts that, in their own specific manner, have “the function of inventing imaginary or formal ‘solutions’ to unresolvable social contradictions” (Jameson, 1982: 64) – unresolvable in perhaps a stronger and more determinate way than the social contradictions to which Jameson referred.

But in this section the focus is rather on how in the past two decades or so there has been a rush of documentary films that convey a “sense of planet” through a “global-eye consciousness” preoccupied with the possibility of developing an ecocritical perspective in documentary film. One such film is Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s Home (2009), a $12 million feature-length environmental documentary that became the first film to premiere on YouTube at the same time as in cinemas and on TV. By mid 2012, the film had received more than 32 million views on YouTube.

I was interested in querying how documentary cinemas provide an account of a postcapitalist imagination – or fail to do so. In one of the films discussed, for example, The Planet, the filmmakers present a series of apocalyptic imaginaries of potential social and economic disintegration and urge the audiences to put their trust in the hands of the science of climate change. These types of documentary narratives, while important for raising awareness and instigating action, more often than not do in fact risk reinforcing the status quo and transforming the end of days into just one big manageable crisis.

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