Answer the following open-ended questions (25 pts each).
- Early in our documentary unit, we looked at how ethnography (the systematic study of cultures) and colonialism (the economic and political dominance over territories or peoples manufactured to be more dependent or primitive) influenced early documentary features like Nanook of the North. Discuss an example of a modern film or TV show that plays into or subverts these impulses. Be as specific as possible.
- Thinking about Wees’ framework for describing found footage methodologies, discuss how Marshawn Lynch: A History uses compilation, collage, and/or appropriation. (If you want to read more about his classification system, check out his short little book here).
- Choose one of the below quotes from Russell’s chapter “Archival Apocalypse: Found Footage as Ethnography” and explain what she might be saying using an example from a film.
- “There is no diegesis of a found-footage film, no represented noncontradictory world, only the traces of a reality (or multiple realities) outside the film, beyond representation” (Russell 241).
- “Appropriation, as an aesthetic practice, is a discourse of the uncanny, producing a figure of lack doubled by a masking of that lack. The found image doubles the historical real as both truth and fiction, at once document of history and unreliable evidence of history” (Russell 252).
- “Whether the sources of images are ‘documentary’ or ‘fictional’ texts, found images are always documents of the profilmic, historical bodies. Decontextualization is the means by which the archive offers up history as a nonnarrative series of bodies and events” (Russell 258).
- “The Other haunts found-footage filmmaking in the form of ghosts, lingering just ‘below’ or outside the images of people drawn from long-forgotten narratives’” (Russell 271).
- What are some of the traditional hallmarks of cinéma vérité (and its relative, direct cinema)? Discuss a modern film or TV show where these tactics show up and how this affects your perception of authenticity.
Ethnography and colonialism have influenced many early documentaries, and their influence is still evident in some modern films. The film “Salt of the Earth” by Brazilian photojournalist Sebastiao Salgado plays into these impulses because regarding ethnography, Salgado spent four decades documenting groups of people in lesser-known areas of central Europe, Africa, and South America, and his results are compelling. Besides sharing the captivating nature footage, he captures the pain and suffering of these groups of people, some of which are rooted in colonialism’s impacts, such as war and economic dependence.
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