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Essays on cinema, anthropology and documentary filmmaking

The looking machine calls for the redemption of documentary cinema, exploring the potential and promise of the genre at a time when it appears under increasing threat from reality television, historical re-enactments, designer packaging and corporate authorship. The book consists of a set of essays, each focused on a particular theme derived from the author’s own experience as a filmmaker. It provides a practice-based, critical perspective on the history of documentary, how films evoke space, time and physical sensations, questions of aesthetics, and the intellectual and emotional relationships between filmmakers and their subjects. It is especially concerned with the potential of film to broaden the base of human knowledge, distinct from its expression in written texts. Among its underlying concerns are the political and ethical implications of how films are actually made, and the constraints that may prevent filmmakers from honestly showing what they have seen. While defending the importance of the documentary idea, MacDougall urges us to consider how the form can become a ‘cinema of consciousness’ that more accurately represents the sensory and everyday aspects of human life. Building on his experience bridging anthropology and cinema, he argues that this means resisting the inherent ethnocentrism of both our own society and the societies we film.

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Human symbols, doubled identities
Paul Carter

gap in time and the distance from which the master had come with a new erotic valency, the love of truth. And while this role goes unrecognised, its benefit at least is clear: when, halfway through the feast, Socrates belatedly joins the symposiasts, Agathon invites him to sit next to him so that he may touch him and ‘have the benefit of that wise thought which came into your mind in the portico and is now in your possession’. 11 Among the symposiasts is the writer of comedies, Aristophanes, whose theory of

in Translations, an autoethnography
Liene Ozoliņa

would sometimes tell his audience an entire joke in Russian and then go on to translate it for me (my Russian was mediocre, being of a younger generation and having grown up in an ethnic-Latvian town in the northern part of the country). On numerous occasions I heard him deliver quotes to his audiences from Kidnapping, Caucasian Style (Kavkazskaya plennitsa) – a 1960s Russian comedy that was wildly famous across the Soviet Union. Explaining the capitalist economy, he would tie in funny examples on Soviet kolkhozs, shortages and queues for sausage. Anete, the

in Politics of waiting
David MacDougall

carried a step further by Michelangelo Antonioni in Il Grido (1957) (figure 4.3) and such later films as L’Avventura (1960) and Il Deserto Rosso (1964). The importance of environment in childhood comes through clearly in two early domestic comedies of Yasujiro Ozu. In I Was Born, But… (1932) a conventional household in a new suburb is the setting of a revolt by two boys against the social climbing of their father, who has shamed them by his fawning behaviour towards his boss (figure 4.4). The very ordinariness of the house signals the narrowness of their father

in The looking machine
Kathryn Cassidy

reflect on the shame of such activities, but to place them in broader political and economic contexts, which transfer the shame to the body politic. At the same time, the use of existing comedic narrative forms of storytelling, particularly anecdotes, helps to alleviate the shame of admitting the activities within the context of the local society, where such performances would usually lead the traders to be the subject of stigmatisation, as they go well beyond the boundaries of what are considered to be appropriate interlocutions between men and women. Therefore

in Migrating borders and moving times