David MacDougall
Search for other papers by David MacDougall in
Current site
Google Scholar
Observation in the cinema
in The looking machine
Abstract only
Log-in for full text

In this chapter the author notes that, for some people, ‘observation’ connotes an attitude of surveillance. Despite this, the term is a useful summation of the original documentary idea, which was to show viewers as accurately as possible what the filmmaker had seen. ‘Observational cinema’ emerged as one of several closely related documentary approaches of the 1960s, with close ties to anthropology. Unlike other forms, it placed the filmmaker at the centre of the film as an investigator of on-going events, a position shared with the viewer. This approach was encouraged by the introduction of new, light-weight cameras and sound recorders and was inspired partly by Italian Neorealism and partly by live television. While often perceived as aspiring to detachment and scientific objectivity, it was in fact a highly authored form, involving a close relationship between filmmaker and subject, and representing the limited point of view of the individual observer. The author argues that while the long camera take is often regarded as the primary characteristic of observational cinema, its true marker is a commitment to the sustained witnessing of specific events. A further consequence of observational filmmaking is that it has stimulated reflection on what it means to observe.

  • Collapse
  • Expand

The looking machine

Essays on cinema, anthropology and documentary filmmaking


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 26 26 1
Full Text Views 0 0 0
PDF Downloads 0 0 0