Documentary Book List

Recommended Books on Non-Fiction/Documentary Film and Video

The Visible Evidence community has compiled this list of recently published books that were recommended as most valuable for thinking about documentary/non-fiction film and video. This list is open to books in languages other than English. In terms of criteria for inclusion, the definition of value is expansive, as the Visible Evidence community itself is expansive.

To recommend books for this list, please email the author, title, and a link to the press’ book page to Joshua Malitsky, associate professor in Cinema and Media Studies and director of Indiana University Media School’s Center for Documentary Research and Practice.

Recommended Books

Adamson, MorganEnduring Images: A Future History of New Left Cinema. University of Minnesota Press, 2018.

A timely reassessment of political film culture in the 1960s and ’70s, Enduring Images examines international cinematic movements of the New Left in light of sweeping cultural and economic changes of that era. Looking at new forms of cinematic resistance—including readings of particular films, collectives, and movements—it makes a case for cinema’s centrality to the global New Left.

Aguayo, Angela J. Documentary Resistance: Social Change and Participatory Media. Oxford University Press, 2019.

Documentary Resistance: Social Change and Participatory Media offers a new approach to understanding the networked capacity of documentary media to create public commons areas, crafting connections between unlikely interlocutors. In this process communities invest in the exchange of documentary moving image discourse around politics and social change. This book advances a new argument suggesting that documentary’s capacity for social change is found in its ability to establish forms of collective identification and political agency capable of producing and sustaining activist media cultures. It advances the creation of a conceptual, theoretical, and historical space in which documentary and social change can be examined, drawing upon research in cinema, media, and communication studies as well as cultural theory to explore how political ideas move into participatory action. This book takes a distinctive approach, understanding how struggles for social justice are located, reflected, and represented on the documentary screen, but also in pre- and post-production processes. To address this living history, this project includes over sixty unpublished field interviews with documentary filmmakers, critics, funders, activists, and distributors.

Alvarado, Alejandro. La poscensura en el cine documental de la transición española (Postcensorship in the Documentary Film of the Spanish Transition). Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2018.

Documentary cinema in Spain experienced one of its most productive moments during the years of the transition to democracy. This resulted in the production of some of the riskiest proposals, in aesthetic and political terms, in the history of Spanish cinema. These films filled the vacuum caused by the prohibition and propaganda with which Franco’s regime had controlled the documentary. But once democracy and freedom had been recovered, the new context did not favour documentary production; in fact to the contrary, as has been widely recorded by historians: the continuity of this type of cinema in Spain was a mirage. At the beginning of the 80s, various administrative, industrial and aesthetic factors came together that resulted in the practical disappearance of the documentary from the screens for more than two decades. Some of these films suffered processes that obstructed their production, distribution and screening, as was the case of El Proceso de Burgos, Despues de… or in a paradigmatic way Rocio, a documentary that continues to be affected, due to the fact that the screening of the complete film is still forbidden throughout the entire Spanish state to this day. In spite of the repeal of Francoist censorship in November 1977, the apparatus and the moral values of the regime and the triumph of political consensus subtly prolonged its influence. This study unravels the mechanisms that, by obstructing the production of a rupturist documentary cinema in full transition, could be called postcensorship because of the impact of these mechanisms against freedom of expression and creation during a full redefinition of public space in Spain.

Aufderheide, Patricia, Jaszi, Peter. Reclaiming Fair Use: Putting Balance back in Copyright. Second Edition. University of Chicago Press, 2018.

In the increasingly complex and combative arena of copyright in the digital age, record companies sue college students over peer-to-peer music sharing, YouTube removes home movies because of a song playing in the background, and filmmakers are denied a distribution deal when a permissions i proves undottable. Analyzing the dampening effect that copyright law can have on scholarship and creativity, Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi urge us to embrace in response a principle embedded in copyright law itself—fair use. Originally published in 2011, Reclaiming Fair Use challenged the widely held notion that copyright law is obsolete in an age of digital technologies. Beginning with a survey of the contemporary landscape of copyright law, Aufderheide and Jaszi drew on their years of experience advising documentary filmmakers, English teachers, performing arts scholars, and other creative professionals to lay out in detail how the principles of fair-use can be employed to avoid copyright violation. Taking stock of the vibrant remix culture that has only burgeoned since the book’s original publication, this new edition addresses the expanded reach of fair use—tracking the Twitter hashtag #WTFU (where’s the fair use?), the maturing of the transformativeness measure in legal disputes, the ongoing fight against automatic detection software, and the progress and delays of digitization initiatives around the country. Full of no-nonsense advice and practical examples, Reclaiming Fair Use remains essential reading for anyone interested in law, creativity, and the ever-broadening realm of new media.

Baron, Jaimie and Fuhs, Kristen, eds. I Am Not Your Negro: A Docalogue. Routledge, 2020.

As the inaugural volume in the Docalogue series, this book models a new form for the discussion of documentary film. James Baldwin’s writing is intensely relevant to contemporary politics and culture, and Peck’s strategies for representing him and conveying his work in I Am Not Your Negro (2016) raise important questions about how documentary can bring the work of a complex thinker like Baldwin to a broader public. By combining five distinct perspectives on a single documentary film, this book offers different critical approaches to the same media object, acting both as an intensive scholarly treatment of a film and as a guide for how to analyze, theorize, and contextualize a documentary.

Battaglia, GiuliaDocumentary Film in India: an Anthropological History. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.

This book maps a hundred years of documentary film practices in India. It demonstrates that in order to study the development of a film practice, it is necessary to go beyond the classic analysis of films and filmmakers and focus on the discourses created around and about the practice in question. The book navigates different historical moments of the growth of documentary filmmaking in India from the colonial period to the present day. In the process, it touches upon questions concerning practices and discourses about colonial films, postcolonial institutions, independent films, filmmakers and filmmaking, the influence of feminism and the articulation of concepts of performance and performativity in various films practices. It also reflects on the centrality of technological change in different historical moments and that of film festivals and film screenings across time and space. Grounded in anthropological fieldwork and archival research and adopting Foucault’s concept of ‘effective history’, this work searches for points of origin that creates ruptures and deviations taking distance from conventional ways of writing film histories. Rather than presenting a univocal set of arguments and conclusions about changes or new developments of film techniques, the originality of the book is in offering an open structure (or an open archive) to enable the reader to engage with mechanisms of creation, engagement and participation in film and art practices at large. In adopting this form, the book conceptualises ‘Anthropology’ as also an art practice, interested, through its theoretico-methodological approach, in creating an open archive of engagement rather than a representation of a distant ‘other’. Similarly, documentary filmmaking in India is seen as primarily a process of creation based on engagement and participation rather than a practice interested in representing an objective reality.

Bennett-Carpenter, BenjaminDeath in Documentaries: The Memento Mori Experience. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill | Rodopi, 2017.

Memento mori is a broad and understudied cultural phenomenon and experience. The term “memento mori” is a Latin injunction that means “remember mortality,” or more directly, “remember that you must die.” In art and cultural history, memento mori appears widely, especially in medieval folk culture and in the well-known Dutch still life vanitas paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Yet memento mori extends well beyond these points in art and cultural history. In Death in Documentaries: The Memento Mori Experience, Benjamin Bennett-Carpenter suggests that documentaries are an especially apt form of contemporary memento mori. Bennett-Carpenter shows that documentaries may offer composed transformative experiences in which a viewer may renew one’s consciousness of mortality – and thus renew one’s life.

Bernard, Sheila Curran and Rabin, Kenn. Archival Storytelling: A Filmmaker’s Guide to Finding, Using, and Licensing Third-Party Visuals and Music. Second Edition. Routledge, 2020.

Fully revised and updated, Archival Storytelling second edition is a timely, pragmatic look at the use of audiovisual materials available to filmmakers and scholars, from the earliest photographs of the 19th century to the work of media makers today. Whether you’re a top Hollywood filmmaker or a first-time documentarian, at some point you are going to want to find, use, and license third-party materials—images, audio, or music that you yourself did not create—to use in your work. This book explains what’s involved in researching and licensing visuals and music, and exactly what media makers need to know when filming in a world crowded with rights-protected images and sounds. Filled with insights from filmmakers, archivists, and intellectual property experts, this second edition defines key terms such as copyright, fair use, public domain, and orphan works. It guides readers through the complex archival process and challenges them to become not only archival users but also archival and copyright activists.

Boyle, Deirdre. Ferryman of Memories: The Films of Rithy Panh. Rutgers University Press, 2023.

Rithy Panh survived the Cambodian genocide and found his life work. Aesthetics and ethics inform all he does, whether he is directing Isabel Huppert in The Sea Wall, following laborers digging trenches or interrogating the infamous director of S-21 prison. Written for film lovers as well as scholars, Ferryman of Memories introduces Panh and his incomparable cinema. 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.

Bricca, Jacob. How Documentaries Work. Oxford University Press, 2023.

How Documentaries Work breaks down the hidden conventions of documentaries in clear and accessible language for film students and documentary enthusiasts alike. Jacob Bricca, ACE, an award-winning documentary director, producer, and editor, provides a behind-the-scenes, under-the-hood view of what’s really going on in the construction of nonfiction films and television shows. This book presents examples from contemporary documentaries and docuseries and delivers insights from some of the most exciting nonfiction filmmakers and craftspeople working today, including director Steve James (City So Real, Hoop Dreams), producer Amy Ziering (Allen v. Farrow, The Hunting Ground), editor Aaron Wickenden, ACE (Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, 20 Feet from Stardom), and composer Miriam Cutler (RBG, Lost in La Mancha). Chapters such as “Flow,” “Narrative,” and “Time” offer a new way of looking at documentary film language, while others like “Titles,” “Music,” and “Sound” deliver extraordinary insights on seemingly ordinary topics. A compact volume written in plain, easy-to-understand language, this book promises to change the way you think about nonfiction films and television shows forever.

Bricca, Jacob. Documentary Editing: Principles and Practice. Second Edition. Routledge Press, 2023.

This book offers clear and detailed strategies for tackling every stage of the documentary editing process, from organizing raw footage and building select reels to fine cutting and final export. Written by a Sundance award-winning documentary editor with a dozen features to his credit and containing examples from over 100 films, this book presents a step-by-step guide for how to turn seemingly shapeless footage into focused scenes, and how to craft a structure for a documentary of any length. The book contains insights and examples from seven of America’s top documentary editors, including Geoffrey Richman, ACE (The Cove, Tiger King), Kate Amend, ACE (¡Viva Maestro!, The Keepers), and Mary Lampson (Harlan County U.S.A.). Written for both practitioners and enthusiasts, this book offers unique and invaluable insights into the documentary editing process. The second edition is completely revised and updated with contemporary examples and contains a new chapter titled, “Editing the Short Documentary.” “Documentary Editing” YouTube Channel.

Brylla, Catalin, Kramer, Mette, eds. Cognitive Theory and Documentary Film. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

This groundbreaking edited collection is the first major study to explore the intersection between cognitive theory and documentary film studies, focusing on a variety of formats, such as first-person, wildlife, animated and slow TV documentary, as well as docudrama and web videos. Documentaries play an increasingly significant role in informing our cognitive and emotional understanding of today’s mass-mediated society, and this collection seeks to illuminate their production, exhibition, and reception. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the essays draw on the latest research in film studies, the neurosciences, cultural studies, cognitive psychology, social psychology, and the philosophy of mind. With a foreword by documentary studies pioneer Bill Nichols and contributions from both theorists and practitioners, this volume firmly demonstrates that cognitive theory represents a valuable tool not only for film scholars but also for filmmakers and practice-led researchers.

Bui, Camille. Cinépratiques de la ville: Documentaires et urbanité après Chronique d’un été. Presses Universitaires de Provence, Aix en Provence, 2018.

Le paysage urbain, qui engendre des visions mythiques dans le cinéma de fiction, tend à être discret dans la création documentaire, en particulier celle qui s’inscrit dans la continuité du cinéma direct et du cinéma-vérité. Si certains documentaires font perdre de vue les architectures spectaculaires ou les panoramas de carte postale, c’est pour inviter à mieux saisir la ville dans ses pratiques quotidiennes. C’est ce cinéma de l’urbanité qu’inauguraient, en 1960, Jean Rouch et Edgar Morin avec Chronique d’un été, film de parcours et d’interactions qui propose une expérience vivante au cœur de la géographie parisienne. S’appuyant sur ce film-matrice pour analyser un ensemble de films contemporains, cet ouvrage montre comment la mise en scène documentaire peut devenir agent d’une urbanité démocratique à l’heure de la globalisation et du néolibéralisme. Car pour Johan van der Keuken à Amsterdam, Richard Sandler à New York ou encore Shannon Walsh à Montréal, faire un film permet autant de témoigner que de prendre part à la vie urbaine aux côtés de citadins ordinaires. Comment rendre compte de ce rapport dynamique entre images et praxis ? Par une analyse sensible à la façon dont les forces de l’urbanité (mouvement, interaction, gentrification…) rencontrent des formes filmiques (cadre, son synchrone, montage…). Nourrie par l’apport des études urbaines, cette approche esthétique envisage comment le cinéma documentaire a le pouvoir de représenter et de pratiquer l’espace au présent, tout en projetant des villes à venir.

Cahill, James Leo and Caminati, Luca, eds. Cinema of Exploration: Essays on an Adventurous Film Practice. Routledge, 2021.

Drawing together 18 contributions from leading international scholars, this book conceptualizes the history and theory of cinema’s century-long relationship to modes of exploration in its many forms, from colonialist expeditions to decolonial radical cinemas to the perceptual voyage of the senses made possible by the cinematic apparatus. This is the first anthology dedicated to analysing cinema’s relationship to exploration from a global, decolonial, and ecological perspective. Featuring leading scholars working with pathbreaking interdisciplinary methodologies (drawing on insights from science and technology studies, postcolonial theory, indigenous ways of knowing, and film theory and history), it theorizes not only cinema’s implication in imperial conquest but also its cutting-edge role in empirical expansion and experiments in sensual and critical perception. The collected essays consider filmmaking in cross-cultural contexts and films made in or about peoples in South America, Asia, Africa, Indigenous North America, as well as polar, outer space, and underwater exploration, with famous figures such as Jacques Yves Cousteau alongside amateur and scientific filmmakers.

Cammaer, Gerda, Fitzpatrick, Blake, Lessard, Bruno, eds. Critical Distance in Documentary Media. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

This collection of essays presents new formulations of ideas and practices within documentary media that respond critically to the multifaceted challenges of our age. As social media, augmented reality, and interactive technologies play an increasing role in the documentary landscape, new theorizations are needed to account for how such media both represents recent political, socio-historical, environmental, and representational shifts, and challenges the predominant approaches by promoting new critical sensibilities. The contributions to this volume approach the idea of “critical distance” in a documentary context and in subjects as diverse as documentary exhibitions, night photography, drone imagery, installation art, mobile media, nonhuman creative practices, sound art and interactive technologies. It is essential reading for scholars, practitioners and students working in fields such as documentary studies, film studies, cultural studies, contemporary art history and digital media studies.

Campo, Javier, Crowder-Taraborrelli, Tomas, Garavelli, Clara, Piedras, Pablo, and Wilson, Kristi, eds. Documentary Cinema. An Aesthetic and Political CrossroadsPrometeo, 2020.

Este libro actualiza el panorama crítico, académico y ciné?lo sobre el cine documental mediante un conjunto de indagaciones recientes que abordan un territorio audiovisual complejo, multiforme y en continua expansión. Especialistas de renombre internacional algunos de ellos por primera vez publicados en nuestro idioma re?exionan en este volumen sobre las aristas culturales, estéticas, políticas y éticas que caracterizan el exponencial crecimiento del documental contemporáneo. La masificación y el desarrollo de las tecnologías digitales, las políticas de fomento cinematográfico, los nuevos consumos de contenidos audiovisuales en diferentes plataformas, son parte del fenómeno actual de renovación del documental. Desde perspectivas que combinan enfoques técnicos e historiográ?cos novedosos, este libro se dedica a estudiar problemáticas que hacen a las interacciones entre memoria e historia, poética y género, sexualidades y nuevas subjetividades, entre otras, en las películas de no ?cción.

Campo, Javier, Pérez-Blanco Humberto, eds. A Trail of Fire for Political Cinema: The Hour of the Furnaces Fifty Years Later. University of Chicago Press, 2019.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the premiere of La Hora de Los Hornos (The Hour of the Furnaces) (Getino and Solanas, 1968), A Trail of Fire for Political Cinema is an edited collection that closely analyses the film, looking to the context and the sociopolitical landscape of 1960s Argentina, as well as the film’s legacy and contemporary relevance. Attention is paid to the corpus of political documentaries made between 1968 and 1976, including those that marked the last coup d’état in Argentina, to emphasize how formal and thematic trends relate to their Argentinian social context. In order to highlight The Hour of the Furnaces’s contemporary relevance as a form of politically engaged activism, the book will also look at Fernando Solanas’s documentary output in the twenty-first century.

Cazenave, Jennifer. An Archive of the Catastrophe: The Unused Footage of Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah. SUNY Press, 2019.

Claude Lanzmann’s 1985 magnum opus, Shoah, is a canonical documentary on the Holocaust—and in film history. Over the course of twelve years, Lanzmann gathered 230 hours of location filming and interviews with survivors, witnesses, and perpetrators, which he condensed into a 9½-hour film. The unused footage was scattered and inaccessible for years before it was restored and digitized by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In An Archive of the Catastrophe, Jennifer Cazenave presents the first comprehensive study of this collection. She argues that the outtakes pose a major challenge to the representational and theoretical paradigms produced by the documentary, while offering new meanings of Shoah and of Holocaust testimony writ large. They lend fresh insight into issues raised by the film, including questions of resistance, rescue, refugees, and, above all, gender—Lanzmann’s twenty hours of interviews with women make up a mere ten minutes of the finished documentary. As a rare instance of outtakes preserved during the pre-digital era of cinema, this unused footage challenges us to establish a new critical framework for understanding how documentaries are constructed and reshapes the way we view this key Holocaust film.

Chambers, Ciara, Jönsson, Mats, Vande Winkel, Roel, eds. Researching Newsreels: Local, National and Transnational Case Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

This volume addresses the underscrutinised topic of cinema newsreels. These short, multi-themed newsfilms, usually accompanied by explanatory intertitles or voiceovers, were a central part of the filmgoing experience around the world from 1910 through the late 1960s, and in many cases even later. As the only source of moving image news available before the widespread advent of television, newsreels are important social documents, recording what the general public was told and shown about the events and personalities of the day. Often disregarded as quirky or trivial, they were heavily utilised as propaganda vehicles, offering insights into the socio-political norms reflected in cinema during the first half of the twentieth century. The book presents a range of current research being undertaken in newsreel studies internationally and makes a case for a reconsideration of the importance of newsreels in the wider landscape of film history.

Chanan, Michael. From Printing to Streaming: Cultural Production Under Capitalism. Pluto Press, 2022.

For mainstream economics, cultural production raises no special questions: creative expression is to be harvested for wealth creation like any other form of labor. As Karl Marx saw it, however, capital is hostile to the arts because it cannot fully control the process of creativity. But while he saw the arts as marginal to capital accumulation, that was before the birth of the mass media. Engaging with major issues in Marxist theory around art and capitalism, From Printing to Streaming traces how the logical of cultural capitalism evolved from the print age to digital times, tracking the development of printing, photography, sound recording, newsprint, advertising, film and broadcasting, exploring the peculiarities of each as commodities, and their recent transformation by digital technology, where everything melts into computer code. Showing how these developments have had profound implications for both cultural creation and consumption, Chanan offers a radical and comprehensive analysis of commodification of artistic creation and the struggle to realize its potential in the digital age.

Chang, Anita Wen-ShinThird Digital Documentary: A Theory and Practice of Transmedia Arts Activism, Critical Design and Ethics. Peter Lang, 2020.

This book offers a theory and methodology of transmedia arts activism within the technocultural and sociopolitical landscape of expanded documentary production, distribution, reception and participation. Through a detailed analysis of the author’s transmedia project on indigenous and minority language endangerment and revival that consists of the feature-length documentary Tongues of Heaven and the companion web application Root Tongue: Sharing Stories of Language Identity and Revival, she reveals the layers and depths of a critical arts practice when confronted with complex sociopolitical issues while working with multiple communities across territorial/national boundaries. In the context of the growing field of transmedia documentaries, the author discusses the potentials and benefits of a critical design practice and production ethics that can transform this field to pilot new collaborations in documentary and digital media platforms towards a third digital documentary.

Clark, Joseph. News Parade: The American Newsreel and the World as Spectacle. University of Minnesota Press, 2020.

In News Parade, Joseph Clark examines the history of the newsreel and how it changed the way Americans saw the world. He combines an examination of the newsreel’s methods of production, distribution, and reception with an analysis of its representational strategies to understand the newsreel’s place in the history of twentieth-century American culture and film history. Clark focuses on the sound newsreel of the 1930s and 1940s, arguing that it represents a crucial moment in the development of a spectacular society where media representations of reality became more fully integrated into commodity culture. Using several case studies, including the newsreel’s coverage of Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight and the Sino–Japanese War, News Parade shows how news film transformed the relationship between its audience and current events, as well as the social and political consequences of these changes. It pays particular attention to how discourses of race and gender worked together with the rhetoric of speed, mobility, and authority to establish the power and privilege of newsreel spectatorship. In the age of fake news and the profound changes to journalism brought on by the internet, News Parade demonstrates how new technologies and media reshaped the American public’s relationship with the news in the 1930s—a history that can help us to better understand the transformations happening today.

Cohen, HartThe Strehlow Archive: Explorations in Old and New Media. Routledge, 2018.

The Strehlow Archive is one of Australia’s most important collections of film, sound, archival records and museum objects relating to the ceremonial life of Aboriginal people. The aim of this book is to provide a significant study of the relationship of archives to contemporary forms of digital mediation. The volume introduces a specific archive, the Strehlow Collection, and tracks the ways in which its materials and research dissemination practices are influenced by media forms we now identify with the emergence of digital technology.

Conway, MikeThe Tunnel and the Struggle over Television News in Cold War America. University of Massachusetts Press, 2019.

In 1962, an innovative documentary on a Berlin Wall tunnel escape brought condemnation from both sides of the Iron Curtain during one of the most volatile periods of the Cold War. The Tunnel, produced by NBC’s Reuven Frank, clocked in at ninety minutes and prompted a range of strong reactions. While the television industry ultimately awarded the program three Emmys, the U.S. Department of State pressured NBC to cancel the program, and print journalists criticized the network for what they considered to be a blatant disregard of journalistic ethics. It was not just The Tunnel’s subject matter that sparked controversy, but the medium itself. The surprisingly fast ascendance of television news as the country’s top choice for information threatened the self-defined supremacy of print journalism and the de facto cooperation of government officials and reporters on Cold War issues. In Contested Ground, Mike Conway argues that the production and reception of television news and documentaries during this period reveals a major upheaval in American news communications.

Coover, Roderick, ed. The Digital Imaginary: Literature and Cinema of the Database. Bloomsbury, 2020.

Over the past half century, computing has profoundly altered the ways stories are imagined and told. Immersive, narrative, and database technologies transform creative practices and hybrid spaces revealing and concealing the most fundamental acts of human invention: making stories. The Digital Imaginary illuminates these changes by bringing leading North American and European writers, artists and scholars, like Sharon Daniel, Stuart Moulthrop, Nick Montfort, Kate Pullinger and Geof Bowker, to engage in discussion about how new forms and structures change the creative process. Through interviews, commentaries and meta-commentaries, this book brings fresh insight into the creative process form differing, disciplinary perspectives, provoking questions for makers and readers about meaning, interpretation and utterance. The Digital Imaginary will be an indispensable volume for anyone seeking to understand the impact of digital technology on contemporary culture, including storymakers, educators, curators, critics, readers and artists, alike.

Daniels, JillMemory, Place and Autobiography: Experiments in Documentary Filmmaking. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019.

There has been a significant growth in autobiographical documentary films in recent years. This innovative book proposes that the filmmaker in her dual role as maker and subject may act as a cultural guide in an exploration of the social world. It argues that, in the cinematic mediation of memory, the mimetic approach in the construction of documentary films may not be feasible, and memory may instead be evoked elliptically through hybrid strategies such as critical realism and fictional enactment. Recognizing that identity is formed by history and what ‘goes on’ in the world, the book charts the historical trajectory of the British independent filmmaking movement from the mid-1970s to the present growth of new online distribution outlets and new media through digital technologies and social media.

Evrard, Audrey. Precarious Sociality, Ethics and Politics: French Documentary Cinema in the Early Twenty-First Century. University of Wales Press, 2022.

This book brings an original perspective on French cinema’s ‘return to work’ in the early twenty-first century, focusing on the transformation of cinematic activism in view of the rapid dissolution of class narratives and solidarities. It is argued that, reckoning with widespread anxieties about job insecurity, social uncertainty, loss and invisibility in French society, filmmakers catalysed new modes of intervention best described as embodied praxes of sociality. Combining rigorous film analyses with concepts borrowed from philosophy, sociology, geography and political theory, this study positions documentary as a privileged point of articulation between aesthetics, politics and ethics. The wide-ranging film corpus features well-established auteurs and less canonical filmmakers to celebrate the vitality of contemporary French documentary cinema and its creative contributions to international discussions about work, precarity and social resilience.

Formenti, Cristina. The Classical Animated Documentary and Its Contemporary Evolution. Bloomsbury, 2022.

The Classical Animated Documentary and Its Contemporary Evolution is the first book to provide an historical insight into the animated documentary. Drawing on archival research and textual analysis, it shows how this form, usually believed to be strictly contemporaneous, instead took shape in the 1940s. Cristina Formenti integrates a theoretical and a historical approach in order to shed new light on the animated documentary as a form as well as on the work of renowned studios such as The Walt Disney Studios, Halas & Batchelor, National Film Board of Canada and never before addressed ones, such as Corona Cinematografica. She also highlights the differences and the similarities existing among the animated documentaries created between the 1940s and the mid-1980s and those produced today so as to demonstrate how the latter do not represent a complete otherness in respect to the former, but rather an evolution.

Fox, Broderick. Documentary Media: History, Theory, Practice. Second Edition. Routledge Publishers, Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.

In a digital moment where both the democratizing and totalitarian possibilities of media are unprecedented, the need for complex, ethical, and imaginative documentary media—for you, the reader of this book to think, question, and create—is vital. Whether you are an aspiring or seasoned practitioner, an activist or community leader, a student or scholar, or simply a curious audience member, author Broderick Fox opens up documentary media, its changing forms, and diversifying social functions to readers in a manner that is at once rigorous, absorbing, and practical. This new edition updates and further explores the various histories, ideas, and cultural debates that surround and shape documentary practice today. Each chapter engages readers by challenging traditional assumptions, posing critical and creative questions, and offering up innovative historical and contemporary examples. Additionally, each chapter closes with an “Into Practice” section that provides analysis and development exercises and hands-on projects that will assist you in generating a full project prospectus, promotional trailer, and web presence for your own documentary.

Freeman, Marilyn. The Illuminated Space: A Personal Theory & Contemplative Practice of Media Art. The 3rd Thing, 2020.

In this fragmentary and fluent little gem, writer and time-based artist Marilyn Freeman offers up her own contemplative practice of dowsing for and creating “opportune moments” of insight and healing. With humor and humility, Freeman reveals her innovative approach to making video essays, a process developed over years of art-making, study and personal searching—a process of waking up again and again to the extraordinary possibilities hidden in everyday existence. Freeman introduces a theory of “evocative” practice as an alternative to the conventions of narrative and non-fiction filmmaking—a risky and rigorous engagement with form that invites the audience to participate in the creation of meaning. Her examination of the dialectical relationship of sound and image takes us far deeper than just a critical study of audio/visual media—deep into the human heart with its dark traumas and its shimmering capacity for honest and compassionate reckoning. Transgressing disciplinary boundaries and trading authority for authentic inquiry, Freeman takes us with her on a foray into time-based art that leaps and wanders from movie theaters to museums to Instagram in search of the “illuminated spaces” where we encounter ourselves and each other. This book is an essential resource for artists who question the importance of their work in these dark times, and for anyone seeking wisdom and wonder in our ordinary world.

French, Lisa. The Female Gaze in Documentary Film: An International Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan, 2021.

The Female Gaze in Documentary Film – an International Perspective makes a timely contribution to the recent rise in interest in the status, presence, achievements and issues for women in contemporary screen industries. It examines the works, contributions and participation of female documentary directors globally. The central preoccupation of the book is to consider what might constitute a ‘female gaze’, an inquiry that has had a long history in filmmaking, film theory and women’s art. It fills a gap in the literature which to date has not substantially examined the work of female documentary directors. Moreover, research on sex, gender and the gaze has infrequently been the subject of scholarship on documentary film, particularly in comparison to narrative film or television drama. A distinctive feature of the book is that it is based on interviews with significant female documentarians from Europe, Asia and North America.

Fritsche, MariaThe American Marshall Plan Film Campaign and the Europeans: A Captivated Audience? London: Bloomsbury, 2018.

The American Marshall Plan Film Campaign and the Europeans is the first book to explore the use of the Marshall Plan films and, importantly, their distribution and reception across Europe. The study examines every available film – the 170 that remain from the 200 estimated to have been made – and looks at how they were designed to instil hope, argue the case for economic restructuring and persuade the Europeans of the superiority of the liberal-capitalist system. The book goes on to reason that the films served as a powerful weapon in the cultural Cold War, but that the European audiences were by no means passive victims of the US propaganda effort. Maria Fritsche discusses the Marshall Plan films in the context of countries across Western, Northern and Southern Europe, covering the majority of the 17 European countries that participated in the Plan in the process. The book incorporates 70 images and utilises a vast number of archival sources to explore the strategies the US adopted to sway the minds of the Europeans, the problems they encountered in the process and, not least, the varied responses of the European audiences.

Geva, DanThe Ethics Lab Guidebook. CILECT, 2019.

Establishing a video collection of ethical testimonies of students, teachers, filmmakers, and scholars from film schools throughout the world lies at the heart of The Ethics Lab’s effort to explore the ethical dimension of our lives and art-making. This Guidebook explores, step by step, The Ethics Lab’s goals and methodology that return to and revitalize a primordial human practice: recounting autobiographies. Ethics, in this worldview, is no longer perceived as a set of restrictive dos and don’ts. Nor is it imposed as a set of universal abstracts or legal imperatives. Rather, our ethical landscape is shaped by its community members, who serve as a vital source for creative self-growth and comprise a nurturing locus of inspiring communality. The Ethics Lab Guidebook’s challenge is to inspire people to navigate their moral landscape under the guidance of the beckoning lights of thousand-year-old stars of moral wisdom—making an invaluable contribution to the film school educational system and to contemporary research in the field of ethics.

Geva, Dan. A Philosophical History of Documentary, 1895-2022. Springer Link, 2021.

This book presents a chronology of thirty definitions attributed to the word, term, phrase, and concept of “documentary” between the years 1895 and 1959. The book dedicates one chapter to each of the thirty definitions, scrutinizing their idiosyncratic language games from close range while focusing on their historical roots and concealed philosophical sources of inspiration. Dan Geva’s principal argument is twofold: first, that each definition is an original ethical premise of documentary; and second, that only the structured assemblage of the entire set of definitions successfully depicts the true ethical nature of documentary insofar as we agree to consider its philosophical history as a reflective object of thought in a perpetual state of being-self-defined: an ethics sui generis.

Geva, Dan. Toward a Philosophy of the Documentarian: A Prolegomenon. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

The theme of this book is the documentarian—what the documentarian is and how we can understand it as a concept. Working from the premise that the documentarian is a special—extended—sign, the book develops a model of a quadruple sign structure for-and-of the documentarian, growing out of enduring traditions in philosophy, semiotics, psychoanalysis, and documentary theory. Dan Geva investigates the intellectual premise that allows the documentarian to show itself as an extremely sophisticated, creative, and purposeful being-in-the-world—one that is both embedded in its own history and able to manifest itself throughout its entire documentary life project, as a stand-alone conceptual phase in the history of ideas.

Ghosh, Bishnupriya, Sarkar, Bhaskar, eds. The Routledge Companion to Media and Risk. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2020.

This collection presents new work in risk media studies from critical humanities perspectives. Defining, historicizing, and consolidating current scholarship, the volume seeks to shape an emerging field, signposting its generative insights while examining its implicit assumptions. When and under what conditions does risk emerge? How is risk mediated? Who are the targets of risk media? Who manages risk? Who lives with it? Who are most in danger? Such questions—the what, how, who, when, and why of risk media—inform the scope of this volume. With roots in critical media studies and science and technology studies, it hopes to inspire new questions, perspectives, frameworks, and analytical tools not only for risk, media, and communication studies, but also for social and cultural theories. Editors Bishnupriya Ghosh and Bhaskar Sarkar bring together contributors who elucidate and interrogate risk media’s varied histories and futures.

Glick, JoshuaLos Angeles Documentary and the Production of Public History, 1958-1977. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2018.

Los Angeles Documentary and the Production of Public History, 1958–1977 explores how documentarians working between the election of John F. Kennedy and the Bicentennial created conflicting visions of the recent and more distant American past. Drawing on a wide range of primary documents, Joshua Glick analyzes the films of Hollywood documentarians such as David Wolper and Mel Stuart, along with lesser-known independents and activists such as Kent Mackenzie, Lynne Littman, and Jesús Salvador Treviño. While the former group reinvigorated a Cold War cultural liberalism, the latter group advocated for social justice in a city plagued by severe class stratification and racial segregation. Glick examines how mainstream and alternative filmmakers turned to the archives, civic institutions, and production facilities of Los Angeles in order to both change popular understandings of the city and shape the social consciousness of the nation.

Godmilow, Jill. Kill the Documentary: A Letter to Filmmakers, Students, and Scholars. Columbia University Press, 2022.

Can the documentary be useful? Can a film change how its viewers think about the world and their potential role in it? In Kill the Documentary, the award-winning director Jill Godmilow issues an urgent call for a new kind of nonfiction filmmaking. She critiques documentary films from Nanook of the North to the recent Ken Burns/Lynn Novick series The Vietnam War. Tethered to what Godmilow calls the “pedigree of the real” and the “pornography of the real,” they fail to activate their viewers’ engagement with historical or present-day problems. Whether depicting the hardships of poverty or the horrors of war, conventional documentaries produce an “us-watching-them” mode that ultimately reinforces self-satisfaction and self-absorption. In place of the conventional documentary, Godmilow advocates for a “postrealist” cinema. Instead of offering the faux empathy and sentimental spectacle of mainstream documentaries, postrealist nonfiction films are acts of resistance. They are experimental, interventionist, performative, and transformative. Godmilow demonstrates how a film can produce meaningful, useful experience by forcefully challenging ways of knowing and how viewers come to understand the world. She considers her own career as a filmmaker as well as the formal and political strategies of artists such as Luis Buñuel, Georges Franju, Harun Farocki, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Rithy Panh, and other directors. Both manifesto and guidebook, Kill the Documentary proposes provocative new ways of making and watching films

Gordon, RachelThe Documentary Distribution Toolkit: How to Get Out, Get Seen, and Get an Audience. Routledge, 2021.

Mapping out a diverse journey through documentary distribution, this book is a comprehensive global how-to reference guide providing insights into the landscape of documentary distribution; targeting the right audiences to expand the reach of your documentary; and building a sustainable career. Detailing how to prepare your documentary, strategies for crowdfunding, working with documentary organizations and online platforms, and outlining the channels to consider, The Documentary Distribution Toolkit demystifies the process of distributing your documentary. Featuring case studies and interviews including filmmaker Alice Elliot, representatives from public television stations such as ARTE, ZDF, Al Jazeera, TRT (Turkey), NHK, as well as drawing on author Rachel Gordon’s over 20 years of experience working in documentary distribution. Foregrounding documentaries for non-profit and educational purposes, each chapter gives guidance on how to think locally and globally, on money matters to consider, and personal questions to answer before proceeding to help filmmakers manage their time, money, and energy wisely.

Grieveson, LeeCinema and the Wealth of Nations. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018.

Cinema and the Wealth of Nations explores how media, principally in the form of cinema, was used during the interwar years by elite institutions to establish and sustain forms of liberal political economy beneficial to their interests. It examines the media produced by institutions such as states, corporations, and investment banks, as well as the emergence of a corporate media industry and system supported by state policy and integral to the establishment of a new consumer system. Lee Grieveson shows how media was used to encode liberal political and economic power during the period that saw the United States eclipse Britain as the globally hegemonic nation and the related inauguration of new forms of liberal economic globalization. But this is not a distant history. Cinema and the Wealth of Nations examines a foundational conjuncture in the establishment of media forms and a media system instrumental in, and structural to, the emergence and expansion of a world system that has been—and continues to be—brutally violent, unequal, and destructive.

Hallas, Roger. A Medium Seen Otherwise: Photography in Documentary Film. Oxford University Press, 2023.

Through a new look at how political, historical, and art documentaries engage with photographic images, objects, and archives, A Medium Seen Otherwise argues that film allows us to better understand what people do with analog and digital photographs as material objects that enable social and political relations through multisensory experience. Moreover, as a time-based medium with sound, film can bring the event of photography into fuller view, demonstrating how no single participant in it (photographer, subject, camera, photograph, or viewer) has sovereignty over its affect, meaning, or value. The book thus explores the ways in which the innovative incorporation of photography into documentary film permits us to see both of these media otherwise. Photographs, whether professional or vernacular, are conventionally understood to furnish documentaries with indexical evidence and visual illustration of history, yet the spatio-temporal and aural dimensions of film permit documentaries to illuminate photography’s wider capacities beyond the merely representational. Combining new critical perspectives on well-known documentary filmmakers and photographers (Agnès Varda, Rithy Panh, Edward Burtynsky, Malick Sidibé, Vivian Maier, JR, Ken Burns, Errol Morris, and Akram Zaatari) with analyses of lesser known, but important, documentaries, author Roger Hallas investigates a global range of documentary and vernacular photographic contexts, including Lebanon, Palestine, Mali, Congo, Cambodia, Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Chile, Canada, and the US. While authorship and representation remain common rhetorical frameworks for documentaries about photography, A Medium Seen Otherwise offers a compelling account of how the intermediality between documentary film and photography can posit far more expansive conceptions of both media. A companion website shows clips of films discussed in the book.

Hallas, Roger, edDocumenting the Visual Arts. Routledge, 2019.

Bringing together an international range of scholars, as well as filmmakers and curators, this book explores the rich variety in form and content of the contemporary art documentary. Since their emergence in the late 1940s as a distinct genre, documentaries about the visual arts have made significant contributions to art education, public television, and documentary filmmaking, yet they have received little scholarly attention from either art history or film studies. Documenting the Visual Arts brings that attention to the fore. Whether considering documentaries about painting, sculpture, photography, performance art, site-specific installation, or fashion, the chapters of this book engage with the key question of intermediality: how film can reframe other visual arts through its specific audio-visual qualities, in order to generate new ways of understanding those arts. The essays illuminate furthermore how art documentaries raise some of the most critical issues of the contemporary global art world, specifically the discourse of the artist, the dynamics of documentation, and the visuality of the museum. Contributors discuss documentaries by filmmakers such as Frederick Wiseman, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Jia Zhangke, and Trisha Ziff, and about artists such as Michael Heizer, Ai Weiwei, Do Ho Suh, and Marina Abramović.

Hamilton, Kevin, O’Gorman, NedLookout America! The Secret Hollywood Studio at the Heart of the Cold War. Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture. Dartmouth College Press, 2018.

This is the first work ever written on the most important film studio in U.S. Cold War history: Lookout Mountain Laboratory, known during the 1960s as the 1352nd Photographic Group of the United States Air Force. The studio, christened Lookout Mountain Laboratory after its hilltop location in Hollywood, operated from 1947 to 1969 at the nexus between the emerging military-industrial complex and the Hollywood culture industry. It made hundreds of movies, processed hundreds of thousands of feet of film, stored volumes of Cold War imagery, and served as a regular meeting spot for atomic scientists, military brass, and Hollywood professionals. In the course of its history, Lookout Mountain Laboratory employed hundreds of Hollywood studio veterans and could summon the services, as needed, of such film luminaries as John Ford, Jimmy Stewart, and Marilyn Monroe. Moreover, Lookout Mountain Laboratory worked closely with the most important innovators in scientific and technical film and photography in mid-century America, above all the government contractor EG&G (or Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier). Based on extensive archival research and interviews, this landmark history engages with issues of the Cold War, the visual culture of the era, and the cultural collaborations of the national-security state.

Hart, Phoebe. Crafting Contemporary Documentaries and Docuseries for Global Screens: Docu-mania. Lexington Books, 2024.

This book explores the industrial and personal challenges faced by filmmakers in bringing the current worldwide craze for documentary films and series to screens small and large. Utilizing a number of case studies drawn from in-depth interviews with acclaimed documentary directors, producers, and screenwriters from around the world, Phoebe Hart offers a thematic analysis to reveal the risks and opportunities for practitioners. Hart examines these themes in the context of current scholarship to provide insight into the modes and methods of making factual screen content as she engages with the documentary form and the marking of it, acquisition of mastery and inspiration, and specific rituals and habits of practice. From the unique vantage point of being a “pracademic” – that is, being both a successful documentary filmmaker and a recognized screen researcher and teacher – Hart ultimately argues for greater support of filmmakers and pursuit of a deeper understanding of creative processes.

Honess Roe, Annabelle, Pramaggiore, Maria, edsVocal Projections: Voices in Documentary. London: Bloomsbury, 2018.

Vocal Projections: Voices in Documentary examines a previously neglected topic in the field of documentary studies: the political, aesthetic, and affective functions that voices assume. On topics ranging from the celebrity voice over to ventriloquism, from rockumentary screams to feminist vocal politics, these essays demonstrate myriad ways in which voices make documentary meaning beyond their expository, evidentiary and authenticating functions. The international range of contributors offers an innovative approach to the issues relating to voices in documentary. While taking account of the existing paradigm in documentary studies pioneered by Bill Nichols, in which voice is equated with political rhetoric and subjective representation, the contributors move into new territory, addressing current and emerging research in voice, sound, music and posthumanist studies.

Imran, RahatActivist Documentary Film in Pakistan: the Emergence of a Cinema of Accountability. First Edition. Routledge Publishers, Taylor & Francis Group, 2018 (paperback).

This book, the first academic book on Pakistani documentary cinema, traces the development of activist filmmaking practices in Pakistan which have emerged as a response to the consequences of religious fundamentalism, extremism, and violation of human rights. Beginning with the period of General Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization process (1977-88), it discusses a selection of representative documentary films that have critically addressed and documented the various key transformations, events, and developments that have shaped Pakistan’s socio-political, socio-economic, and cultural history. Such activist filmmaking practice in Pakistan is today an influential factor in addressing the politics, and negative and oppressive effects of the Islamization era, discriminatory laws, particularly gender-discriminatory Sharia laws, violation of human and citizen rights, authoritarianism, internal strife, the spread of religious fundamentalism, and the threat of Talibanization, and oppressive tribal customs and traditions. The contribution of Pakistani documentary filmmakers stands as a significant body of work that has served the cause of human rights, promoting awareness and social change in Pakistan, particularly regarding gender rights.

Jaeckle, Jeff, and Ryan, Susan, eds. ReFocus: The Films of Barbara Kopple. Edinburgh University Press, 2019.

As the first woman to win two Best Documentary Oscars and the recipient of numerous lifetime achievement awards, Barbara Kopple deserves scholarly attention. Two of her early documentaries, Harlan County USA and American Dream, not only won Academy Awards but are foundational within the study of documentary as a whole. In ReFocus: The Films of Barbara Kopple, a range of international scholars trace Kopple’s career to date, analysing her contributions in the contexts of funding, style, production and reception, and examining her films’ interrogations of social class using the lenses of gender, sexuality and race. In a shifting digital media landscape, Kopple’s critical reputation is also assessed, alongside her enduring influence on contemporary filmmakers.

Johnson, Martin L. Main Street Movies: The History of Local Film in the United States. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018.

Prior to the advent of the home movie camera and the ubiquitousness of the camera phone, there was the local film. This cultural phenomenon, produced across the country from the 1890s to the 1950s, gave ordinary people a chance to be on the silver screen without leaving their hometowns. Through these movies, residents could see themselves in the same theaters where they saw major Hollywood motion pictures. Traveling filmmakers plied their trade in small towns and cities, where these films were received by locals as being part of the larger cinema experience. With access to the rare film clips under discussion, Main Street Movies documents the diversity and longevity of local film production and examines how itinerant filmmakers responded to industry changes to keep sponsors and audiences satisfied. From town pride films in the 1910s to Hollywood knockoffs in the 1930s, local films captured not just images of local people and places but also ideas about the function and meaning of cinema that continue to resonate today.

Kazuhiro, Soda. Why I Make Documentaries. Translated by Matt Schley, edited by Silvio Grasselli. Viaindustriae Publishing, 2023.

“What is a documentary?” “Why do I make documentaries?” Soda Kazuhiro–one of the most prominent Japanese filmmakers, who has based his documentarist career on a radically independent filmmaking method–writes this reflexive diary on his own work, pursuing to find answers to these and to other crucial questions that arose along his long path of research. This first curated English version of his most enlightening and complete text has been enriched with a brand new iconographic apparatus from Soda Kazuhiro’s movies and a new, updated introduction by the author himself.

Kim, Jihoon. Activism and Post-Activism: Korean Documentary Cinema, 1981-2022. Oxford University Press, 2024.

The first-ever English-language book on the beginning and evolution of South Korean nonfiction films and videos in the non-governmental and non-corporate sectors, from the early 1980s to the present day. Kim discusses more than 200 activist, personal, experimental, archival, and digital films and videos, mostly introduced for the first time in English. This book is essential reading for documentary’s engagement with key socio-political and economic changes in contemporary Korea.

Kim, Jihoon. Documentary’s Expanded Fields: New Media and the Twenty-First-Century Documentary. Oxford University Press, 2022. Viaindustriae Publishing, 2023.

Building on the interdisciplinary framework of documentary studies, digital media studies, and contemporary art criticism, Jihoon Kim investigates the ways in which these practices both challenge and update the aesthetic, epistemological, political, and ethical assumptions of traditional film-based documentary. Providing a diverse range of case studies that classify and examine these practices, the book argues that the new media technologies and the experiential platforms outside the movie theater, such as the gallery, the world wide web, and social media services, expand five horizons of documentary cinema: image, vision, dispositif, archive, and activism. This reconfiguration of these five horizons demonstrates that documentary cinema in the age of new media and platforms, which Kim labels as the ‘twenty-first-century documentary,’ dynamically changes its boundaries while also exploring new experiences of reality and history in times of the contemporary crises across the globe, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kinik, Anthony, Jacobs, Steven, Hielscher, Eva. The City Symphony Phenomenon: Cinema, Art, and Urban Modernity Between the Wars. First Edition.  Routledge Publishers, Taylor & Francis Group, 2019.

The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of the city symphony, an experimental film form that presented the city as protagonist instead of mere decor. Combining experimental, documentary, and narrative practices, these films were marked by a high level of abstraction reminiscent of high-modernist experiments in painting and photography. Moreover, interwar city symphonies presented a highly fragmented, oftentimes kaleidoscopic sense of modern life, and they organized their urban-industrial images through rhythmic and associative montage that evoke musical structures. In this comprehensive volume, contributors consider the full 80 film corpus, from Manhatta and Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt to lesser-known cinematic explorations.

Kishore, ShwetaIndian Documentary Film and Filmmakers: Independence in Practice. Edinburgh University Press, 2018.

Independent documentary is enjoying a resurgence in post-reform India. But in contemporary cinema and media cultures, where ‘independent’ operates as an industry genre or critical category, how do we understand the significance of this mode of cultural production? Based on detailed onsite observation of documentary production, circulation practices and the analysis of film texts, this book identifies independence as a ‘tactical practice’, contesting the normative definitions and functions assigned to culture, cultural production and producers in a neoliberal economic system. Focusing on selected filmmakers, the book establishes how they have reorganised the dominance of industrial media, technology and social relations to develop practices that build upon principles of de-economisation, artisanship and interdependence.

Krzych, Scott. Beyond Bias: Conservative Media, Documentary Form, and the Politics of Hysteria. Oxford University Press, 2021.

Beyond Bias offers the first scholarly study of contemporary right-wing documentary film and video. Drawing from contemporary work in political theory and psychoanalytic theory, the book identifies what author Scott Krzych describes as the hysterical discourse prolific in conservative documentary in particular, and right-wing media more generally. In its hysterical mode, conservative media emphasizes form over content, relies on the spectacle of debate to avoid substantive dialogue, mimics the aesthetic devices of its opponents, reduces complex political issues to moral dichotomies, and relies on excessive displays of opinion to produce so much mediated “noise” as to drown out alternative perspectives or viewpoints. Though often derided for its reliance on nonsense or hyperbole, conservative media marshals incoherence as its prized aesthetic and rhetorical weapon, a means to bolster the political status quo precisely by confusing those audiences who come into its orbit. As a work of documentary studies, Beyond Bias also places conservative non-fiction films in conversation with their more conventional counterparts, drawing insight from the manner by which conservative media hystericizes such issues as the archive, observational methods, directorial participation, and the often moral imperatives by which documentary filmmakers attempt to offer insight into their subjects.

Lessard, Bruno. The Cinema of Wang Bing: Chinese Documentary between History and Labor. University of Chicago Press, 2023.

In The Cinema of Wang Bing, Bruno Lessard examines documentarian Wang Bing’s most important films. He focuses on the two obsessions at the heart of Wang’s oeuvre—the legacy of Maoist China in the present and the transformation of labor since China’s entry into the market economy—and how the crucial figures of survivor and worker are represented on screen. Bruno Lessard argues that Wang is a minjian (grassroots) intellectual whose films document the impact of Mao’s Great Leap Forward on Chinese collective memory and register the repercussions of China’s turn to neoliberalism on workers in the post-Reform era. Bringing together Chinese documentary studies and China studies, Lessard shows how Wang’s practice reflects the minjian ethos when documenting the survivors of the Great Famine and those who have not benefited from China’s neoliberal policies—from laid-off workers to migrant workers. The films discussed include some of Wang’s most celebrated works such as West of the Tracks and Dead Souls, as well as neglected documentaries such as Coal Money and Bitter Money.

Lord, Susan, Caridad Cumaná, María, et al., eds. The Cinema of Sara Gómez: Reframing Revolution. New Directions in National Cinemas, 2021.

Throughout the 1960s until her untimely death in 1974, Afro-Cuban filmmaker Sara Gómez engaged directly and courageously with the social, political, economic, and cultural transformations promised by the Cuban Revolution. Gómez directed numerous documentary films in 10 prolific years. She also made De cierta manera (One way or another), her only feature-length film. Her films navigate complex experiences of social class, race, and gender by reframing revolutionary citizenship, cultural memory, and political value. Not only have her inventive strategies become foundational to new Cuban cinema and feminist film culture, but they also continue to inspire media artists today who deal with issues of identity and difference. The Cinema of Sara Gómez assembles history, criticism, biography, methodology, and theory of Gómez’s work in scholarly writing; interviews with friends and collaborators; the film script of De cierta manera; and a detailed and complete filmography.

Loustaunau, Esteban and Shaw, Lauren, edsTelling Migrant Stories: Latin American Diaspora in Documentary Film. University of Florida Press, 2018.

In the media, migrants are often portrayed as criminals; they are frequently dehumanized, marginalized, and unable to share their experiences. Telling Migrant Stories explores how contemporary documentary film gives voice to Latin American immigrants whose stories would not otherwise be heard. The essays in the first part of the volume consider the documentary as a medium for Latin American immigrants to share their thoughts and experiences on migration, border crossings, displacement, and identity. Contributors analyze films including Harvest of Empire, Sin país, The Vigil, De nadie, Operation Peter Pan: Flying Back to Cuba, Abuelos, La Churona, and Which Way Home, as well as internet documentaries distributed via platforms such as Vimeo and YouTube. The second part of the volume features transcribed interviews with documentary filmmakers, including Luis Argueta, Jenny Alexander, Tin Dirdamal, Heidi Hassan, and María Cristina Carrillo Espinosa. They discuss the issues surrounding migration, challenges they faced in the filmmaking process, the impact their films have had, and their opinions on documentary film as a force of social change.

MacDonald, Scott and Zimmermann, Patricia, eds. Flash Flaherty: Tales from a Film Seminar. Indiana University Press, 2021.

Flash Flaherty,the much-anticipated follow-up volume to The Flaherty: Decades in the Cause of Independent Cinema, offers a people’shistory of the world-renowned Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, an annual event where participants confront and reimagine the creative process surrounding multiple document/documentary forms and modes of the moving image. This collection, which includes a mosaic of personal recollections from attendees of the Flaherty Seminar over a span of more than 60 years, highlights many facets of the “Flaherty experience.” The memories of the seminarians reveal how this independent film and media seminar has created a lively and sometimes cantankerous community within and beyond the institutionalized realm of American media culture. Editors Scott MacDonald and Patricia R. Zimmermann have curated a collective polyphonic account that moves freely between funny anecdotes, poetic impressions, critical considerations, poignant recollections, scholarly observations, and artistic insights. Together, the contributors to Flash Flaherty exemplify how the Flaherty Seminar propels shared insights, challenging debates, and actual change in the world of independent media.

MacKay, John. Dziga Vertov: Life and Work (Volume 1: 1896-1921). Academic Studies Press, 2018.

Largely forgotten during the last 20 years of his life, the Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov (1896-1954) has occupied a singular and often controversial position over the past sixty years as a founding figure of documentary, avant-garde, and political-propaganda film practice. Creator of Man with a Movie Camera (1929), perhaps the most celebrated non-fiction film ever made, Vertov is equally renowned as the most militant opponent of the canons of mainstream filmmaking in the history of cinema. This book, the first in a three-volume study, addresses Vertov’s youth in the largely Jewish city of Bialystok, his education in Petrograd, his formative years of involvement in filmmaking, his experiences during the Russian Civil War, and his interests in music, poetry and technology.

Malitsky, Joshua, ed. A Companion to Documentary Film History. Wiley Blackwell, 2021.

In a contemporary media culture suffused with competing truth claims, documentary media have become one of the most significant means through which we think in depth about the past. The most rigorous collection of essays on nonfiction film and media history and historiography currently available, A Companion to Documentary Film History offers an in-depth, global examination of central historical issues and approaches in documentary, and of documentary’s engagement with historical and contemporary topics, debates, and themes. The Companion‘s twenty original essays by prominent nonfiction film and media historians challenge prevalent conceptions of what documentary is and was, and explore its growth, development, and function over time. The authors provide fresh insights on the mode’s reception, geographies, authorship, multimedia contexts, and movements, and address documentary’s many aesthetic, industrial, historiographical, and social dimensions.

Mani, Lata. Myriad Intimacies. Duke University Press, 2022.

In Myriad Intimacies postcolonial theorist, spiritual practitioner, and filmmaker Lata Mani oscillates between text and video, poetry and prose, genre and form, register and voice, and secular and sacred to offer a transmedia exploration of the interrelatedness of lives, concepts, frameworks, and aspects of self. She draws on concepts from tantra—a philosophy that celebrates matter as alive, embodiment as sacred, and the senses as a form of intelligence—alongside feminist, critical race, and cultural theory to meditate on the ways in which everyone and everything exists in mutually constitutive interrelations. Addressing issues ranging from desire, the body, nature, and love, to otherness, identity politics, social justice, #MeToo, and the COVID-19 pandemic, Mani foregrounds the power and necessity of recognizing relationality as foundational. Throughout, she offers a way of reframing what we think we know and how we come to know it, demonstrating that it is only by acknowledging and embracing the indivisible and interdependent nature of existence that we restore our true intimacy with each other and the world.

Melamed, Laliv. Sovereign Intimacy: Private Media and the Traces of Colonial Violence. University of California Press, 2023.

In the early 1990s, Israeli television began dedicating Memorial Day airtime to videos produced by the grieving families of soldiers killed in the line of duty. When these videos first appeared, during a period of growing Israeli discontent with the occupation of southern Lebanon, they were widely perceived as a challenge to the state, reclaiming the dead from Israel’s militaristic memory culture by resituating them in intimate domestic contexts via mediated commemorations. By tracing an emerging media system of freelance filmmaking, privatized television, state institutes of care, and grassroots campaigns, Laliv Melamed reveals how these videos nevertheless avoid a fundamental critique of Israeli militarism, which is instead invited into the familiar space of the home. These intimate connections of memory and media exploit bonds of kinship and reshape larger relationships between the state and its citizens, enabling a collective disavowal of colonial violence. In Sovereign Intimacy, Melamed offers a poignant and critical view of the weaponization of home media and mourning in service of the neoliberal settler state.

Miles, Adrian, ed. Digital Media and Documentary – Antipodean Approaches.  Springer Link, 2018.

This collection of essays by Australian based practitioner–theorists brings together new research on interactive documentary making. The chapters explore how documentary theory and practice is influenced by digitisation, mobile phones, and new internet platforms. The contributors highlight the questions raised for documentary makers and scholars as new production methods, narrative forms, and participation practices emerge. The book presents an introduction to documentary techniques shaped by new digital technologies, and will appeal to documentary scholars, students, and film-makers alike.

Milliken, Christie, and Anderson, Steve F., eds. Reclaiming Popular Documentary. Indiana University Press, 2021.

Reclaiming Popular Documentary reverses this long-standing tendency by showing that documentaries can be—and are—made for mainstream or commercial audiences. Editors Christie Milliken and Steve Anderson, who consider popular documentary to be a subfield of documentary studies, embrace an expanded definition of popular to acknowledge the many evolving forms of documentary, such as branded entertainment, fictional hybrids, and works with audience participation. Together, these essays address emerging documentary forms—including web-docs, virtual reality, immersive journalism, viral media, interactive docs, and video-on-demand—and offer the critical tools viewers need to analyze contemporary documentaries and consider how they are persuaded by and represented in documentary media. By combining perspectives of scholars and makers, Reclaiming Popular Documentary brings new understandings and international perspectives to familiar texts using critical models that will engage media scholars and fans alike.

Morag, Raya. Perpetrator Cinema: Confronting Genocide in Cambodian Documentary. Wallflower | Columbia University Press, 2020.

Perpetrator Cinema explores a new trend in the cinematic depiction of genocide that has emerged in Cambodian documentary in the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries. While past films documenting the Holocaust and genocides in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and elsewhere have focused on collecting and foregrounding the testimony of survivors and victims, the intimate horror of the autogenocide enables post–Khmer Rouge Cambodian documentarians to propose a direct confrontation between the first-generation survivor and the perpetrator of genocide. These films break with Western tradition and disrupt the political view that reconciliation is the only legitimate response to atrocities of the past. Rather, transcending the perpetrator’s typical denial or partial confession, this extraordinary form of “duel” documentary creates confrontational tension and opens up the possibility of a transformation in power relations, allowing viewers to access feelings of moral resentment.

Morgan, Daniel. The Lure of the Image: Epistemic Fantasies of the Moving Camera. University of Chicago Press, 2021.

The Lure of the Image shows how a close study of camera movement challenges key assumptions underlying a wide range of debates within cinema and media studies. Highlighting the shifting intersection of point of view and camera position, Daniel Morgan draws on a range of theoretical arguments and detailed analyses across cinemas to reimagine the relation between spectator and camera—and between camera and film world. With sustained accounts of how the camera moves in films by Fritz Lang, Guru Dutt, Max Ophuls, and Terrence Malick and in contemporary digital technologies, The Lure of the Image exposes the persistent fantasy that we move with the camera within the world of the film and examines the ways that filmmakers have exploited this fantasy. In so doing, Morgan provides a more flexible account of camera movement, one that enables a fuller understanding of the political and ethical stakes entailed by this key component of cinematic style.

Motrescu-Mayes, Annamaria, Nicholson, Heather Norris. British Women Amateur Filmmakers. Edinburgh University Press 2018.

The study of amateur filmmaking and media history is a rapidly-growing specialist field, and this ground-breaking book is the first to address the subject in the context of British women’s amateur practice. Using an interdisciplinary framework that draws upon social and visual anthropology, imperial and postcolonial studies, and British and Commonwealth history, the book explores how women used the evolving technologies of the moving image to write visual narratives about their lives and times. Locating women’s recreational visual practice within a century of profound societal, technological and ideological change, British Women Amateur Filmmakers discloses how women negotiated aspects of their changing lifestyles, attitudes and opportunities through first-person visual narratives about themselves and the world around them.

Nash, KateInteractive Documentary: Theory and Debate. Routledge, 2022.

The book considers work at the intersection of documentary and digital media practice exploring a number of key questions that will have implications for thinking about digital factual media – are we seeing an increase in non-narrative documentary forms and why might that matter? Can simulation be a helpful theoretical framework for understanding documentary games? Is empathy a helpful way of thinking about audience positioning in some virtual reality experience? The book is grounded in an analysis of multiple examples of digital documentary practice, making links to documentary and digital media scholarship.

Nichols, Bill.Introduction to Documentary. Third Edition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017.

The third edition of Bill Nichols’s best-selling text provides an up-to-date introduction to the most important issues in documentary history and criticism. A new chapter, “I Want to Make a Documentary: Where Do I Start?” guides readers through the steps of planning and preproduction and includes an example of a project proposal for a film that went on to win awards at major festivals. Designed for students in any field that makes use of visual evidence and persuasive strategies, Introduction to Documentary identifies the genre’s distinguishing qualities and teaches the viewer how to read documentary film. Each chapter takes up a discrete question, from “How did documentary filmmaking get started?” to “Why are ethical issues central to documentary filmmaking?” Here Nichols has fully rewritten each chapter for greater clarity and ease of use, including revised discussions of earlier films and new commentary on dozens of recent films from The Cove to The Act of Killing and from Gasland to Restrepo.

Nichols, BillSpeaking Truths with Film: Evidence, Ethics, Politics in Documentary. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2016.

How do issues of form and content shape the documentary film? What role does visual evidence play in relation to a documentary’s arguments about the world we live in? In what ways do documentaries abide by or subvert ethical expectations? Are mockumentaries a form of subversion? Can the documentary be an aesthetic experience and at the same time have political or social impact? And how can such impacts be empirically measured? Pioneering film scholar Bill Nichols investigates the ways documentaries strive for accuracy and truthfulness and simultaneously fabricate a form that shapes reality. Such films may rely on reenactment to re-create the past, storytelling to provide satisfying narratives, and rhetorical figures such as metaphor or devices such as irony to make a point. Documentaries are truly a fiction unlike any other. With clarity and passion, Nichols offers incisive commentaries on the basic questions of documentary’s distinct relationship to the reality it represents, as well as close readings of provocative documentaries from this form’s earliest days to its most recent incarnations. These essays offer a definitive account of what makes documentary film such a vital part of our cultural landscape.

Odorico, Stefano. The Interactive Documentary Form: Aesthetics, Practice and Research. Bielefeld: transcript, 2018.

While the concept of the documentary film is well established, interactive documentary is a newly emerging form of non-linear, non-fiction narrative that animates viewers to control their own path through a film. Stefano Odorico examines the aesthetic structures and dynamics of interactive documentary as a web-based film experience. His study considers theoretical issues such as critical complexity, reality effect, and polyphony, and assesses their respective media practices. Questions of distribution and preservation are addressed through the analysis of a number of film festivals, museums, and archives. Lastly, Odorico explores the potential of interactive documentary as a research method not only specifically for film and media studies but also for the academia more generally.

Piotrowska, Agnieszka, ed. Creative Practice Research in the Age of Hopelessness. Edinburgh University Press, 2020.

Bringing together a range of creative practitioners and notable scholars, such as Thomas Elsaesser, Catherine Grant, Roberta Mock, Warren Buckland, Kiki Tianqi Yu, William Brown and others, this fascinating collection explores the challenges of retaining integrity during times of political and economic tensions in higher education and elsewhere. Creative Practice Research in the Age of Neoliberal Hopelessness offers a space for reflection for both practitioners and theorists, examining the conflict between creative inspiration and the reality of having to produce work that contributes to human knowledge, and that can also be measured against governmental standards, rules and regulations. The contributors present a radical and much-needed intervention that will interest all academics engaged with creative practice research. It also contains one of Thomas Elsaesser’s final pieces of writing, a unique personal account of the making of his first and only film The Sun Island.

Piotrowska, Agnieszka. Psychoanalysis and Ethics in Documentary Film. 2nd Revised Edition. Routledge, 2023.

This distinctively interdisciplinary book draws upon psychoanalytic theory to explore how expectations, desires and fears of documentary subjects and filmmakers are engaged, and the ethical issues that can arise as a result. Original and accessible, the second edition of this ground-breaking book addresses the four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis and documentary film, reviews documentary film practice as a field, provides a personal account of the author’s relationship with a subject of her own work, and presents a thorough interrogation of the ethics of documentary. The updated text includes a new introduction by the author and an additional chapter ‘Stories We Tell’ by Sarah Polley, centered on ethics and the role of the filmmaker in relation to her participants.

Presence, Steve, Wayne, Mike, and Newsinger, Jack. Contemporary Radical Film Culture: Networks, Organisations, and Activists. Routledge, 2020.

Comprising essays from some of the leading scholars and practitioners in the field, this is the first book to investigate twenty-first century radical film practices across production, distribution and exhibition at a global level. This book explores global radical film culture in all its geographic, political and aesthetic diversity. It is inspired by the work of the Radical Film Network (RFN), an organisation established in 2013 to support the growth and sustainability of politically engaged film culture around the world. Since then, the RFN has grown rapidly, and now consists of almost 200 organisations across four continents, from artists’ studios and production collectives to archives, distributors and film festivals. With this foundation, the book engages with contemporary radical film cultures in Africa, Asia, China, Europe, the Middle East as well as North and South America, and connects key historical moments and traditions with the present day. Topics covered include artists’ film and video, curation, documentary, feminist and queer film cultures, film festivals and screening practices, network-building, policy interventions and video-activism.

Ramírez-Soto, Elizabeth(Un)veiling Bodies: A Trajectory of Chilean Post-Dictatorship Documentary. Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Cultures, 20. Cambridge: Legenda, 2019.

Documentary plays an essential role in the struggles over memories of Latin America’s dictatorial pasts. Ever since Chile’s military coup of 11 September 1973, whether inside the country or in exile, filmmakers have passionately and incessantly documented, created, and reenacted memories from this traumatic event and its aftermath. (Un)veiling Bodies analyses the rich landscape of Chilean documentary during the first two decades after the restoration of civilian rule in 1990. Ramírez-Soto proposes a trajectory that shifts from revealing the bodies of direct victims to unveiling the body of the film itself. This is a journey deeply intertwined with the country’s own democratic transition. Informed by the affective turn in film studies, this book offers a novel approach to this largely unexplored field of Chilean cinema by arguing that these heterogeneous works shift from a ‘cinema of the affected’ to a ‘cinema of affect’. By doing so, these documentaries contribute to Chilean society’s own restoration of the senses.

Ramos, Julio, and Robbins, Dylon, eds. Guillén Landrián o el desconcierto fílmico. Almenara Press, 2019.

El cine de Guillén Landrián estremece la percepción habitual de los cuerpos y las cosas. En tanto transforma el horizonte de las formas reconocibles, su trabajo impacta no sólo la lógica de las sensaciones sino también las categorías normativas del orden cinemático en su relación más íntima con el gobierno de la vida. Esto explica, al menos en parte, la censura de su obra y su gradual deterioro en las bóvedas del ICAIC por casi tres décadas, hasta que una nueva generación de cineastas y críticos, cerca del año 2000, la redescubre y transforma en figura de una revisión mayor de la historia del cine cubano de la Revolución.

Rice, D. Andy. Political Camerawork: Documentary and the Lasting Impact of Reenacting Historical Trauma. Indiana University Press, 2023.

What mental and physical distress do actors, camerapersons, and reporters experience when working on reenactments of traumatic moments in history? In Political Camerawork, D. Andy Rice theorizes that the intense feelings produced while creating these performed scenarios, called “simulation documentaries,” connect difficult pasts to the present. Building on his background as a nonfiction film director, producer, editor, and cinematographer, Rice analyzes performance techniques to gain insight into the emotional toll of simulation documentaries, including those reliving the Vietnam War, the US military’s embodied training in California during the Iraq War, and an annual quadruple lynching reenactment organized by Black civil rights activists in Georgia. Investigating the lasting impact of these productions, Political Camerawork reveals that, by performing a simulation of a traumatic event they didn’t directly experience, those involved become carriers of the trauma.

Robé, Christopher. Abolishing Surveillance: Digital Media Activism and State Repression. PM Press, 2023.

Abolishing Surveillance offers the first in-depth study of how various communities and activist organizations are resisting such efforts by integrating digital media activism into their actions against state surveillance and repression and for a better world. The book focuses on a wide array of movements within the United States such as Latinx copwatching groups in New York City, Muslim and Arab American communities in Minneapolis, undercover animal rights activists, and countersummit protesters to explore the ways in which government surveillance and repression impacts them and, more importantly, their different but related online and offline tactics and strategies employed for self-determination and liberation. Digital media production becomes a core element in such organizing as cell phones and other forms of handheld technology become more ubiquitous. Yet such uses of technology can only be successfully employed when built upon strong grassroots organizing that has always been essential for social movements to take root. Neither idealizing nor disparaging the digital media activism explored within its pages, Abolishing Surveillance analyzes the successes and failures that accompany each case study. The book explores the historically shifting terrain since the 1980s to the present of how historically disenfranchised communities, activist organizations, and repressive state institutions battle over the uses of digital technology and media-making practices as civil liberties, community autonomy, and the very lives of people and other-than-human animals hang in the balance.

Robé, Christopher, Charbonneau, Stephen, eds. InsUrgent Media from the Front: A Media Activism Reader. Indiana University Press, 2020.

In the 1940s, it was 16 mm film. In the 1980s, it was handheld video cameras. Today, it is cell phones and social media. Activists have always found ways to use the media du jour for quick and widespread distribution. InsUrgent Media from the Front takes a look at activist media practices in the 21st century and sheds light on what it means to enact change using different media of the past and present. Chris Robé and Stephen Charbonneau’s edited collection uses the term “insUrgent media” to highlight the ways grassroots media activists challenged and are challenging hegemonic norms like colonialism, patriarchy, imperialism, classism, and heteronormativity. Additionally, the term is used to convey the sense of urgency that defines media activism. Unlike slower traditional media, activist media has historically sacrificed aesthetics for immediacy. Consequently, this “run and gun” method of capturing content has shaped the way activist media looks throughout history. With chapters focused on indigenous resistance, community media, and the use of media as activism throughout US history, InsUrgent Media from the Front emphasizes the wide reach media activism has had over time. Visibility is not enough when it comes to media activism, and the contributors provide examples of how to refocus the field not only to be an activist but to study activism as well.

Rogers, Christine, Kim Munro, Liz Burke and Catherine Gough-Brady, eds. Construction of the Real: Intersections of Documentary-Based Film Practice and Theory. Intellect Books, 2023.

Constructions of the Real features a wide range of writing from non-fiction and documentary filmmakers who undertake theoretically informed practice and think through making. These global filmmakers and writers straddle the divide between the academy and industry and they reflect on, interrogate and explicate their filmmaking practices in relationship to questions of form, content, and process. The book is in four sections. The first is on intimate, first-person works where memory and identity are explored. The second features responses to and interventions in historical and dominant relationships to place. The third explores multivarious forms of essay films. In the final section, filmmakers discuss the precarity of non-fiction filmmaking in its form and financial rewards. This book is anti-colonial, in that it offers diverse new voices and new practices promoting hybridity and experimentation and makes claims for knowledges that fall outside of traditional scholarship. This book presents the silenced and the marginalized. It engages with current debates about the role of creative scholarship and makes a claim for non-fiction filmmaking as a knowledge-making practice for revealing, critiquing, and interpreting the world.

Sadlier, Darlene J. A Century of Brazilian Documentary Film: From Nationalism to Protest. The University of Texas Press, 2022.

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.

Sadlier, Darlene J. Memories of Underdevelopment (Memorias del Subdesarrollo). Bloomsbury, 2023.

Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s Memories of Underdevelopment (1968) is a classic of Cuban revolutionary culture, and is hailed as a prime example of a radical style of 1960s political filmmaking that became known worldwide as Latin American “new cinema.” Darlene J. Sadlier’s detailed study approaches this much-written-about film from a new perspective. Her analysis situates the film in its historical context, considering how Cuban political history affected and informed the production of the film, particularly its use of archival footage. She discusses the film as an adaptation of Edmundo Desnoes’s novel Memorias del subdesarrollo (1965), exploring how the novel itself is “re-written” in significant ways by the film. Sadlier goes on to analyse the curious opening of the film on an outdoor scene of Afro-Cubans dancing to the “new” music of Pello del Afrokán, arguing that this opening scene prefaces the film’s exploration of both class and race. She focuses on the unique style of the film, particularly the use of voiceover, music and documentary footage to show how the themes of ennui, isolation, writing, and remembering are depicted. In doing so, she highlights the film’s lasting impact and its role in defining Latin American “new cinema”.

Salazkina, Masha, Fibla-Gutiérrez, Enrique, eds. Global Perspectives on Amateur Film Histories and Cultures. Indiana University Press, 2020.

For too long, the field of amateur cinema has focused on North America and Europe. In this book, editors Masha Salazkina and Enrique Fibla-Gutiérrez fill the literature gap by extending that focus and increasing inclusivity. Through carefully curated essays, Salazkina and Fibla-Gutiérrez bring wider meaning and significance to the discipline through their study of alternative cinema in new territories, fueled by different historical and political circumstances, innovative technologies, and ambitious practitioners. The essays in this volume work to realize the radical societal democratization that shows up in amateur cinema around the world. In particular, diverse contributors highlight the significance of amateur filmmaking, the exhibition of amateur films, the uses and availability of film technologies, and the inventive and creative approaches of filmmakers and advocates of amateur film. Together, these essays shed new light on alternative cinema in a wide range of cities and countries where amateur films thrive in the shadow of commercial and conventional film industries.

Schultz-Figueroa, Benjamin. The Celluloid Specimen: Moving Image Research into Animal Life. University of California Press, 2023.

In The Celluloid Specimen, Benjamín Schultz‑Figueroa examines rarely seen behaviorist films of animal experiments from the 1930s and 1940s. These laboratory recordings—including Robert Yerkes’s work with North American primate colonies, Yale University’s rat‑based simulations of human society, and B. F. Skinner’s promotions for pigeon‑guided missiles—have long been considered passive records of scientific research. In Schultz‑Figueroa’s incisive analysis, however, they are revealed to be rich historical, political, and aesthetic texts that played a crucial role in American scientific and cultural history—and remain foundational to contemporary conceptions of species, race, identity, and society.

Skvirsky, Salomé Aguilera. The Process Genre: Cinema and the Aesthetics of Labor. Duke University Press, 2020.

From IKEA assembly guides and “hands and pans” cooking videos on social media to Mister Rogers’s classic factory tours, representations of the step-by-step fabrication of objects and food are ubiquitous in popular media. In The Process Genre, Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky introduces and theorizes the process genre–a heretofore unacknowledged and untheorized transmedial genre characterized by its representation of chronologically ordered steps in which some form of labor results in a finished product. Originating in the fifteenth century with machine drawings, and now including everything from cookbooks to instructional videos and art cinema, the process genre achieves its most powerful affective and ideological results in film. By visualizing technique and absorbing viewers into the actions of social actors and machines, industrial, educational, ethnographic, and other process films stake out diverse ideological positions on the meaning of labor and on a society’s level of technological development. In systematically theorizing a genre familiar to anyone with access to a screen, Skvirsky opens up new possibilities for film theory.

Slugan, MarioFiction and Imagination in Early Cinema: A Philosophical Approach to Film History. Bloomsbury, 2019.

When watching the latest installment of Batman, it is perfectly normal to say that we see Batman fighting Bane or that we see Bruce Wayne making love to Miranda Tate. We would not say that we see Christian Bale dressed up as Batman going through the motions of punching Tom Hardy dressed up us Bane. Nor do we say that we see Christian Bale pretending to be Bruce Wayne making love with Marion Cotillard, who is playacting the role Miranda Tate. But if we look at the history of cinema and consider contemporary reviews from the early days of the medium, we see that people thought precisely in this way about early film. They spoke of film as no more than documentary recordings of actors performing on set. In an innovative combination of philosophical aesthetics and new cinema history, Mario Slugan investigates how our default imaginative engagement with film changed over the first two decades of cinema. It addresses not only the importance of imagination for the understanding of early cinema but also contributes to our understanding of what it means for a representational medium to produce fictions. Specifically, Slugan argues that cinema provides a better model for understanding fiction than literature.

Snowdon, Peter. The People Are Not an Image: Vernacular Video After the Arab Spring. Verso, 2020.

The wave of uprisings and revolutions that swept the Middle East and North Africa between 2010 and 2012 were most vividly transmitted throughout the world not by television or even social media, but in short videos produced by the participants themselves and circulated anonymously on the internet. In The People Are Not an Image, Snowdon explores this radical shift in revolutionary self-representation, showing that the political consequences of these videos cannot be located without reference to their aesthetic form. Looking at videos from Tunisia, Bahrain, Syria, Libya, and Egypt, Snowdon attends closely to the circumstances of both their production and circulation, drawing on a wide range of historical and theoretical material, to discover what they can tell us about the potential for revolution in our time and the possibilities of video as a genuinely decentralised and vernacular medium.

Spiegel, Simon, Reiter, Andrea, and Goldberg, Marcy, eds. Utopia and Reality: Documentary, Activism and Imagined Worlds (New Dimensions in Science Fiction). University of Chicago Press, 2020.

“A welcome consideration of the utopian dimension of cinema, which goes beyond the usual description of fiction films that depict alternative societies (good and bad) to explore the utopian possibilities of documentary film.” — Peter Fitting, University of Toronto.

Stone, Nora. How Documentaries Went Mainstream: A History, 1960-2022. Oxford University Press, 2023.

The growing commercialization of documentary film has not gone unnoticed, but it has not been sufficiently explained. Streaming and the growing interest in reality TV are usually offered as initial explanations whenever a documentary enters the cultural conversation or breaks a box-office record, but neither of those causes grapple with the overlapping causal mechanisms that commercialized documentary film. How Documentaries Went Mainstream provides a more comprehensive and meaningful periodization of the commercialization of documentary film. Although the commercial ascension of documentary films might seem meteoric, it is the culmination of decades-long efforts that have developed and fortified the audience for documentary features. Author Nora Stone refines rough explanations of these efforts through a robust synoptic history of the market for documentary films, using knowledge of film economics and the norms of industry discourse to tell a richer story. This periodization will allow scholars to compare the commercialization of documentary film with other genres. Drawing on archival documents, industry trade journals and popular press, and interviews with filmmakers and film distributors, Stone illuminates how documentary features have become more plentiful, popular, and profitable than ever before.

Terry, Mark. The Geo-Doc: Geomedia, Documentary Film, and Social Change. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

This book introduces a new form of documentary film: the Geo-Doc, designed to maximize the influential power of the documentary film as an agent of social change. By combining the proven methods and approaches as evidenced through historical, theoretical, digital, and ecocritical investigations with the unique affordances of Geographic Information System technology, a dynamic new documentary form emerges, one tested in the field with the United Nations. This book begins with an overview of the history of the documentary film with attention given to how it evolved as an instrument of social change. It examines theories surrounding mobilizing the documentary film as a communication tool between filmmakers and policymakers. Ecocinema and its semiotic storytelling techniques are also explored for their unique approaches in audience engagement. The proven methods identified throughout the book are combined with the spatial and temporal affordances provided by GIS technology to create the Geo-Doc, a new tool for the activist documentarian.

Thackway, Melissa, Teno, Jean-Marie. Reel Resistance – The Cinema of Jean-Marie Teno. Boydell & Brewer, 2020.

Both a monograph and a critical dialogue between academic Melissa Thackway, author of Africa Shoots Back, and the Cameroonian filmmaker Jean-Marie Teno, this collaborative work takes the reader on a journey through Teno’s multifaceted on-going filmic reflection on Cameroon and the wider African continent, its socio-political systems, history, memory and cultures. Presenting and contextualizing Teno’s cinema, it addresses the notion of political commitment in art and of cinema as a form of resistance. It also considers Teno’s filmmaking both in relation to the theoretical and aesthetic debates to have animated West and Central African filmmakers since the 1960s and 1970s, and in relation to documentary filmmaking practices on the continent and beyond. In so doing, the book offers an analysis of the predominant stylistic and thematic traits of Teno’s work, examines the individual films and the collective oeuvre, and highlights the evolutions of his film language and concerns. It identifies and explores the committed socio-political and historical themes at play, such as violence, power, history, memory, gender, trauma and exile. It also considers Teno’s unwavering focus, both thematically and in his filmmaking choices, on forms and instances of resistance, framing his cinema as a form of decolonial aesthetics.

Trump, Maxine. Making a Scene in Documentary Film: Iconic Filmmakers Discuss What Works and Why. Routledge, 2023.

This collection of iconic interviews helps demystify the documentary filmmaking process by deconstructing the most relevant and important scenes in some of today’s most well-known documentary films. It offers concrete, real-world examples of the situations and decisions that filmmakers navigate. We go behind the scenes with the creators to learn the methodologies and approaches these directors, cinematographers, editors, and sound recordists have taken to bring these amazing documentaries to life. Award-winning documentary filmmaker and esteemed Sundance advisor Maxine Trump goes in-depth with each filmmaker, asking about their creative process. Why did these scenes make such a deep impression on both the filmmakers and their audience? Was it the cinematic style, the dynamic dialogue, the magic of observational filmmaking, or a surprising turning point?

Trump, Maxine. The Documentary Filmmaker’s Roadmap: A Practical Guide to Planning, Production and Distribution. Routledge, 2018.

The Documentary Filmmaker’s Roadmap is a concise and practical guide to making a feature-length documentary film—from funding to production to distribution, exhibition and marketing. Using her award-winning film Musicwood—a New York Times Critics’ Pick—as a case study, director Maxine Trump guides the reader through the complex lifecycle of the documentary Film. Her interviews with lawyers, funders, distributors, TV executives and festival programmers provide a behind-the-scenes look that will assist readers on their own filmmaking journey. Written from the perspective of a successful documentary filmmaker, the book covers mistakes made and lessons learned, a discussion on the documentary genre, crowdfunding, pre-production through post, test screenings, the festival circuit distribution, legal pitfalls, fair use and more.

Vallejo, Aida, and Winton, Ezra, eds. Documentary Film Festivals Vol. 1: Methods, History, Politics. Palgrave MacMillan, 2020.

The first book to approach documentary film festivals from a global, historical and multi-disciplinary perspective. Approaches key challenges for festival organization, framed in key topics in current media studies (transmediality, industrial aspects and dynamics of production and distribution, curatorial practices, cross-genre hybridization, articulation of new socio-political spheres and movements, etc.).

Vallejo, Aida, and Winton, Ezra, eds. Documentary Film Festivals Vol. 2: Changes, Challenges, Professional Perspectives. Palgrave MacMillan, 2020.

The first book to approach documentary film festivals from a global, historical and multi-disciplinary perspective. Includes interviews with professionals who have intimate knowledge of the festival circuit and particular festivals. Approaches key challenges for festival organization, framed in key topics in current media studies (transmediality, industrial aspects and dynamics of production and distribution, curatorial practices, cross-genre hybridization, articulation of new socio-political spheres and movements, etc.).


The Routledge International Handbook of Ethnographic Film and Video is a state-of-the-art volume which encompasses the breadth and depth of the field of ethnographic film and video-based research, with a particular focus on making ethnographic film and video, as opposed to analyzing or critiquing it. It will appeal to a multidisciplinary and international audience, and features a dynamic, forward-thinking, innovative, and contemporary focus oriented toward the very latest developments in the field, as well as future possibilities.

Warren, Shilyh. Subject to Reality: Women and Documentary. 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.

Watson, RyanRadical Documentary and Global Crises: Militant Evidence in the Digital Age. Indiana University Press, 2021.

In Radical Documentary and Global Crises, Watson centers the discussion on extreme conflict, such as the Iraq War, the occupation of Palestine, the war in Syria, mass incarceration in the United States, and child soldier conscription in the Congo. Under these conditions, artists and activists aspire to document, archive, witness, and testify. The result is a set of practices that turn documentary media toward a commitment to feature and privilege the media made by the people living through the terror. This footage is then combined with new digitally archived images, stories, and testimonials to impact specific social and political situations. Radical Documentary and Global Crises re-orients definitions of what a documentary is, how it functions, how it circulates, and how its effect is measured, arguing that militant evidence has the power to expose, to amass, and to adjudicate.

Williams, Deane, ed. Ten Years of Studies in Documentary Film. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2019.

This volume is a ‘time capsule’ of the first 10 years of Studies in Documentary Film (2007–2016), tracing not only the development of the journal but also of documentary studies in the same period. Issues such as the rise of digital documentary forms and authorship, documentary activism, and the Chinese Independent documentary, as well as diverse political issues, are raised in the introduction and evidenced in the articles. The chapters have been chosen for the various themes they raise in documentary studies but also the broader field of documentary scholarship (including publishing), and the rise of the internet as a powerful force in documentary studies.

Winston, Brian and Winston, Matthew. The Roots of Fake News: Objecting to Objective Journalism. Routledge, 2020.

The Roots of Fake News argues that ‘fake news’ is not a problem caused by the power of the internet, or by the failure of good journalism to assert itself. Rather, it is within the news’s ideological foundations – professionalism, neutrality, and most especially objectivity – that the true roots of the current ‘crisis’ are to be found. Placing the concept of media objectivity in a fuller historical context, this book examines how current perceptions of a crisis in journalism actually fit within a long history of the ways news media have avoided, obscured, or simply ignored the difficulties involved in promising objectivity, let alone ‘truth’. The book examines journalism’s relationships with other spheres of human endeavour (science, law, philosophy) concerned with the pursuit of objective truth, to argue that the rising tide of ‘fake news’ is not an attack on the traditional ideologies which have supported journalism. Rather, it is an inevitable result of their inherent flaws and vulnerabilities.

Yaqub, Nadia, ed. Gaza on Screen. Duke University Press, 2023.

Gaza’s long association with resistance and humanitarian need has generated a complex and ever shifting range of visual material, comprising not just news reports and documentaries, but also essay, experimental, and fiction films, militant videos, and solidarity images. Contributors to Gaza on Screen, who include scholars and Gazan filmmakers, explore the practice, production, and impact of film and videos from and about the Gaza Strip. Conceptualizing screens—both large and small—as tools for mediation that are laden with power, the volume explores Gazan film and video in relation to humanitarianism and human rights, care, community, environment, mobility and confinement, and decolonization. The volume includes visual material ranging from solidarity broadcasts on Lebanese television, mid-twentieth-century British Pathé newsreels, and fiction films to breaking news, visuals of contemporary militant resistance, documentaries, and found footage films, arguing for a visual ecosystem in which differing types of film and video affect and inform each other. Throughout, Gaza on Screen demonstrates that screens shape and sustain relationships between Gaza and the world, and help to sustain the possibility of a different future.

Yu, Kiki Tianqi‘My’ Self on Camera: First Person Documentary Practice in an Individualising China. Edinburgh Studies in East Asian Film. Edinburgh University Press, 2018.

‘My’ Self on Camera is the first book to explore first person narrative documentary in China’s post-Mao era. Since the emergence of the individual as an ever more important social figure in China, this mode of independent filmmaking and cultural practice has become increasingly significant. Combining the approach of cultural ethnography, interviews, and textual analysis of selected films, this study examines the motivations, key aesthetic features and ethical tensions of presenting the self on camera, as well as the socio-political, cultural and technical conditions surrounding its practice. This book problematises how the sense of self and subjectivities are understood in contemporary China, and provides illuminating new insights on the changing notion of the individual through cinema.

Yue, Genevieve. Girl Head: Feminism and Film Materiality. Fordham University Press, 2020.

For decades, feminist film criticism has focused on issues of representation: images of women in film. But what are the feminist implications of the material object underlying that image, the filmstrip itself? What does feminist analysis have to offer in understanding the film image before it enters the realm of representation? Girl Head explores how gender and sexual difference have been deeply embedded within film materiality. In rich archival and technical detail, Yue examines three sites of technical film production: the film laboratory, editing practices, and the film archive. Within each site, she locates a common motif, the vanishing female body, which is transformed into material to be used in the making of a film. The book develops a theory of gender and film materiality through readings of narrative film, early cinema, experimental film, and moving image art. This original work of feminist media history shows how gender has had a persistent role in film production processes, well before the image ever appears onscreen.

Zimmermann, Patricia R. Documentary Across Platforms: Reverse Engineering Media, Place, and Politics. Indiana University Press, 2019.

In Documentary Across Platforms, noted scholar of film and experimental media Patricia R. Zimmermann offers a glimpse into the ever-evolving constellation of practices known as “documentary” and the way in which they investigate, engage with, and interrogate the world. Collected here for the first time are her celebrated essays and speculations about documentary, experimental, and new media published outside of traditional scholarly venues. These essays envision documentary as a complex ecology composed of different technologies, sets of practices, and specific relationships to communities, engagement, politics, and social struggles. Through the lens of reverse engineering—the concept that ideas just like objects can be disassembled to learn how they work and then rebuilt into something new and better—Zimmermann explores how numerous small-scale documentary works present strategies of intervention into existing power structures. Adaptive to their context, modular, and unfixed, the documentary practices she explores exploit both sophisticated high-end professional and consumer-grade amateur technologies, moving through different political terrains, different platforms, and different exhibition contexts. Together these essays demonstrate documentary’s role as a conceptual practice to think through how the world is organized and to imagine ways that it might be reorganized with actions, communities, and ideas.