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Visible Evidence

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Between the Sheets, in the Streets

Queer, Lesbian, Gay Documentary

Chris Holmlund

From film festivals to university campuses, from private homes to first-run theaters, people everywhere are viewing and discussing gay, lesbian, queer, bisexual, and transgender films and videos. Between the Sheets, In the Streets considers these videos and films, testifying to the unavoidable connections between sexuality (the sheets) and activism (the streets) for all who identify as gay, lesbian, or queer in the 1990s.

This first collection of essays to focus exclusively on queer, lesbian, and gay documentary argues that documentary films and videos speak with a sense of political and social urgency, acting as testaments to the importance of reclaiming history and asserting the importance of these points of view. Among the topics discussed are representations of young queers on such shows as MTV’s The Real World; pre-Stonewall films; portrayals of lesbians and aging; video activism in Oregon and the South; and the works of Derek Jarman, Su Friedrich, Cheryl Dunye, and Sadie Benning. A range of films and videos is examined, including Strangers in Good Company, Paris Is Burning, Juggling Gender, Silverlake Life, and Without You I’m Nothing.

Tracing an exhilarating range of perspectives and subject positions, Between the Sheets, In the Streets is an essential guide to current developments in queer, lesbian, and gay documentary.

Contributors: Chris Cagle, Brown U; Linda Dittmar, U of Massachusetts, Boston; Lynda Goldstein, Pennsylvania State U, Wilkes-Barre Campus; Ronald Gregg, Drake U; Janet Jakobsen, U of Arizona; Lynda McAfee, New York Public Library; Kathleen McHugh, U of California, Riverside; Beverly Seckinger, U of Arizona; Marc Siegel, UCLA; Chris Straayer, Tisch School of the Arts; Erika Suderburg, U of California, Riverside; Thomas Waugh, Concordia U, Montreal; Justin Wyatt, U of North Texas.

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Cine-Ethnography

Jean Rouch

One of the most influential figures in documentary and ethnographic filmmaking, Jean Rouch has made more than one hundred films in West Africa and France. In such acclaimed works as Jaguar, The Lion Hunters, and Cocorico, Monsieur Poulet, Rouch has explored racism, colonialism, African modernity, religious ritual, and music. He pioneered numerous film techniques and technologies, and in the process inspired generations of filmmakers, from New Wave directors, who emulated his cinema verité style, to today’s documentarians.Ciné-Ethnography is a long-overdue English-language resource that collects Rouch's key writings, interviews, and other materials that distill his thinking on filmmaking, ethnography, and his own career. Editor Steven Feld opens with a concise overview of Rouch’s career, highlighting the themes found throughout his work. In the four essays that follow, Rouch discusses the ethnographic film as a genre, the history of African cinema, his experiences of filmmaking among the Songhay, and the intertwined histories of French colonialism, anthropology, and cinema. And in four interviews, Rouch thoughtfully reflects on each of his films, as well as his artistic, intellectual, and political concerns. Ciné-Ethnography also contains an annotated transcript of Chronicle of a Summer—one of Rouch's most important works—along with commentary by the filmmakers, and concludes with a complete, annotated filmography and a bibliography. The most thorough resource on Rouch available in any language, Ciné-Ethnography makes clear this remarkable and still vital filmmaker's major role in the history of documentary cinema. Jean Rouch was born in Paris in 1917. He studied civil engineering before turning to film and anthropology in response to his experiences in West Africa during World War II. Rouch is the recipient of numerous awards, including the International Critics Award at Cannes for the film Chronicle of a Summer in 1961. Steven Feld is professor of music and anthropology at Columbia University.

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Cinema’s Alchemist

The Films of Péter Forgács

Bill Nichols

Péter Forgács, based in Budapest, is best known for his award-winning films built on home movies from the 1930s to the 1960s that document ordinary lives soon to intersect with offscreen historical events. Cinema’s Alchemist offers a sustained exploration of the imagination and skill with which Forgács reshapes such film footage, originally intended for private and personal viewing, into extraordinary films dedicated to remembering the past in ways that matter for our future.

Contributors: Whitney Davis, U of California, Berkeley; László F. Földényi, U of Theatre, Film and Television, Budapest; Marsha Kinder, U of Southern California; Tamás Korányi; Scott MacDonald, Hamilton College; Tyrus Miller, U of California, Santa Cruz; Roger Odin, U of Paris III Sorbonne–Nouvelle; Catherine Portuges, U of Massachusetts Amherst; Michael S. Roth, Wesleyan U; Kaja Silverman, U of Pennsylvania; Ernst van Alphen, Leiden U, the Netherlands; Malin Wahlberg, Stockholm U.

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Circuits of Culture

Media, Politics, and Indigenous Identity in the Andes

Jeff D. Himpele

Set against the background of Bolivia’s prominent urban festival parades and the country’s recent appearance on the front lines of antiglobalization movements, Circuits of Culture is the first social analysis of Bolivian film and television, their circulation through the social and national landscape, and the emergence of the country’s indigenous video movement.

 

At the heart of Jeff Himpele’s examination is an ethnography of the popular television program, The Open Tribunal of the People. The indigenous and underrepresented majorities in La Paz have used the talk show to publicize their social problems and seek medical and legal assistance from the show’s hosts and the political party they launched. Himpele studies the program in order to identify the possibilities of the mass media as a site for political discourse and as a means of social action.

 

Charting as well the history of Bolivia’s media culture, Himpele perceptively investigates cinematic media as sites for understanding the modernization of Bolivia, its social movements, and the formation of indigenous identities, and in doing so provides a new framework for exploring the circulation of culture as a way of creating publics, political movements, and producing media.

 

Jeff D. Himpele is associate director for the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton University. He is an anthropologist and documentary filmmaker; his films include the award-winning Incidents of Travel in Chichen Itza and Taypi Kala: Six Visions of Tiwanaku.

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Creating the Witness

Documenting Genocide on Film, Video, and the Internet

Leshu Torchin

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

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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F Is For Phony

Fake Documentary And Truth’S Undoing

Alexandra Juhasz Juhasz

Fake documentaries mimic documentary genre expectations, unraveling the documentary’s authority and dismantling understandings of identity, history, and nation. The interdisciplinary essays in F Is for Phony discuss a broad scope of works and explore issues raised by “fake docs” such as the fiction/documentary divide, the ethics of reality-based manipulation, and whether documentariness derives from form or reception.

Defining the borderline between fact and fiction, the contributors reveal what fake documentaries imply and usually make explicit: that many documentaries lie to tell the truth, and that the truth is relative.

Contributors: Steve Anderson, Catherine L. Benamou, Mitchell W. Block, Luis Buñuel, Marlon Fuentes, Craig Hight, Charlie Keil, Alisa Lebow, Eve Oishi, Robert F. Reid-Pharr, Gregorio C. Rocha, Jane Roscoe, Catherine Russell, Elisabeth Subrin.

Alexandra Juhasz is professor of media studies at Pitzer College. She is author of Women of Vision: Histories in Feminist Film and Video (Minnesota, 2001).

Jesse Lerner is associate professor of media studies at Pitzer College.

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Ferocious Reality

Documentary according to Werner Herzog

Eric Ames

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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First Person Jewish

Alisa S. Lebow

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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Japanese Documentary Film

The Meiji Era Through Hiroshima

Abe Mark Nornes

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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