Subjectivity and Emotion in Documentary Film
by Belinda Smaill
Monash University Film & Television Studies
In the past documentary has been popularly perceived in ways that align it with education, science, history and other ‘discourses of sobriety’. This frame has never been adequate for conceptualising the stylistic and thematic breadth of documentary culture. In part, documentary is compelling because it frames subjectivity in distinct ways. This paper proposes a refocusing of debates and a renewed methodology to deal with documentary. This methodology will account for how emotionality marries with the social project of documentary in ways that make the non-fiction genre a compelling site for perceiving how fantasies of self and other circulate through specific textual practices in the public sphere. This is an investigation into how individuals are positioned by documentary representation as subjects that are entrenched in the emotions, whether it is pleasure, hope, pain, empathy or disgust. I will draw on a number of salient examples but will pay particular attention to the Brazilian documentary, Bus 174 (2002).
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