Art, Architecture and Visual Culture
There are any number of fiction and non-fiction texts which challenge, articulate or reinterpret many of the central tensions within the documentary form. Of the non-fiction texts, the most significant have perhaps been reflexive documentaries. This book is primarily intended to introduce ideas about mock-documentary to students and academics working within media and documentary studies. It examines those fictional texts which to varying degrees 'look' (and sound) like documentaries. This group of texts have been labelled using a variety of terms; 'faux documentary', 'pseudo-documentary', 'mocumentary', 'cinéma vérité with a wink', 'cinéma un-vérité', 'black comedy presented as in-your-face documentary', 'spoof documentary' and 'quasi-documentary'. The book includes some discussion of the tensions within the genre, in particular where different codes and conventions appeal to competing, often contradictory, cultural understandings of how 'reality' can be represented. It looks to outline the nature of the more recent expansion of textual concerns and representational strategies employed by documentary filmmakers. Mock-documentary represents only one instance of a continuum of fictional texts which are characterised by a blurring of the line between fact and fiction. The book compares these contrasting screen forms, concentrating especially on the nature of the distinctive relationships which they each construct towards the documentary genre. It introduces a schema of three 'degrees' of mock-documentary, in part reflecting the diversity in the nature and extent of these texts' appropriation of documentary aesthetics. A speculative genealogy for the mock-documentary as a distinctive screen form is outlined.
As part of Mexico's ongoing Revolution, 'the ideological vision of society and culture offered/accepted by the State,' the cultural reelaboration of Mexicanness also involved a cultural redefinition of gender. This chapter discusses Emilio Fernandez's Enamorada deals with the Revolution's renegotiation of gender identity. It argues that Fernandez's and the Revolution's explicit gender discourses of 'lo macho' and female submission are often undermined by the melodramatic mise-en-scène and borrowings from the Hollywood screwball comedy. The chapter attempts to read against a blurring between the accepted model of Revolutionary masculinity and a hypermasculine filmmaker if either actually exists. It explores the eliding of Fernández's high voice in biographical auteurist accounts suggests a repression of 'other,' less 'virile' readings of his work. The chapter shows there is room for other readings of Enamorada than Mexican cultural nationalism and the basic Fernández mythology allow for - i.e., in this case a feminist reading.
This chapter questions the reproduction of motifs of cultural nationalism in relation to the production of the hembra (female), an exaggeratedly submissive and abnegated female identity, and femininity in conventional readings of Salón México, Las abandonadas and Víctimas del pecado. It looks at how melodrama offers a space for subversive pleasure within an otherwise restrictive moral context that challenges gender ideology as it relates to racial identity. The chapter seeks to destabilize the rigid melodramatic, social, racial and gender paradigms upon which readings of the three films are based. It attempts to show how the unacceptable 'other' (the liberated sexuality of the lone female dancer) is not necessarily the opposite but in fact an integral part of the image of the nation. The three films are less morally dichotomous in their representation of Mexican women and the struggle for modernity in the 1940s than much of conventional scholarship allows for.
From 1943 until 1950, Emilio Fernández was regarded as one of the foremost purveyors of 'Mexicanness,' as one of the most important filmmakers of the Mexican film industry. This chapter highlights some of the key concepts presented in the subsequent chapters of the book. The book explores the contradictions of post-Revolutionary representation as manifested in Fernández' canonical 1940s films: María Candelaria, Víctimas del pecado, Las abandonadas, La perla, Enamorada, Río Escondido, Maclovia and Salón Mexico. It examines transnational influences that shaped Fernández' work. The book acknowledges how the events of the Mexican revolution impacted on the country's film industry and the ideological development of nationalism. It takes note of current tendencies in film studies and postcolonial theory to look for the excesses, instabilities and incoherencies in texts, which challenge such totalizing projects of hegemony or cultural reification as 'cultural nationalism' or ' mexicanidad.'
This introduction presents an overview of key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book defines 'factual discourse' - the set of assumptions and expectations which form the basis of the documentary genre. It outlines the nature of the more recent expansion of textual concerns and representational strategies employed by documentary filmmakers. The book compares the contrasting screen forms, and focuses on the nature of the distinctive relationships which filmmakers construct towards the documentary genre. It identifies the characteristics of mock-documentary as a screen form, and shows the strategy used for distinguishing between the variety of texts which can be defined as mock-documentary. The book also outlines a speculative genealogy for the mock-documentary as a distinctive screen form, suggesting various textual precedents within American and British cinematic and television traditions which have made this form acceptable for both filmmakers and audiences.
This chapter looks at how classical Mexican cinema has been studied. It begins with a history of cinema in Mexico up to and including the 1940s, including the advent of sound cinema. The chapter examines the state's relationship to popular culture (and particularly cinema) in Mexico in the 1940s in terms of a consolidation of the post-Revolutionary nationalist project. It challenges the film scholarship, local nontextual perspectives, which characterize Mexican cinema as 'underdeveloped' and suggests a means of reading against an approach that continually reasserts subalternity in the face of the colonizing culture (Hollywood). After a survey of US studies of classical Mexican cinema which diverge from Mexican analyses by making space for the 'other' through genre and textual analyses, it concludes by outlining how a textual approach might provide an account of Emilio Fernández' oeuvre as contradictory, non homogeneous and evident of a fissured cultural nationalism.
This chapter, through Emilio Fernández' Río Escondido, questions a key element within the post-Revolution redefinition of Mexico: necessary consonance of Fernández' films with conservative, Government ideology. Specifically, it explores the tensions between Government discourses of progress and modernity and Río Escondido's representation of Mexico. At the same time, the chapter takes issue with the idea that this film (along with all Fernández's films) represents an 'antimodernist utopia' antithetical to progress and modernity, and suggests instead that it is firmly rooted in the contemporary moment (and problems) of its production. Although, Río Escondido seemingly furthers the State's claim to be Revolutionary by figuring a revolutionary struggle and victory, the chapter finds that the very revolutionary actions the film celebrates are simultaneously disavowed as part of Mexico's contemporary reality.
This chapter examines some of the recent transformations of the documentary genre and explores the ways in which documentary has responded to these various challenges. These transformations have resulted in a range of new representational strategies that have consciously opened up spaces between the entities of 'fact' and 'fiction'. Big-budget feature-length documentary has shown that it can draw large audiences to cinemas - one only has to look at the success of Hoop Dreams (1994), When We Were Kings (1996), and Crumb (1994) for evidence of the cinematic form's popularity. Documentary, like science, has sought to maintain a claim to be able to access and reveal the truth about the social world. One of the consequences of the critique of 'truth' and 'reality' has been the blurring of traditional boundaries between documentary and drama, and between fact and fiction.
This chapter suggests possible 'precursors' of the mock-documentary form. It outlines a number of the significant strands within cinematic and television media, in the United States and Britain in particular, which have fostered the creation and continued growth of the mock-documentary form. Dr Strangelove might appear to be an obscure choice to include within this list of genealogical precursors for mock-documentary, but we include it here because it features elements of style and rhetoric which reappear within the mock-documentary form. Orson Welles appears within the list of genealogical precursors not only for his 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds but for this film, which does not sit easily in the categories of either documentary or fiction film. Steven Spielberg has offered significant additions to the development of the cinematic tradition.
Chapter 4 provides an extensive case study of BBC English Regions Drama, based at BBC Pebble Mill in Birmingham, from its foundation in 1971 to the early 1980s. This chapter explores the model of regional drama production offered by this regional BBC department, under the influential leadership of David Rose, and the extent of its achievement, examining in detail the plays, series and serials produced over a ten year period, including the Second City Firsts series of half-hour dramas, plays by regional writers such as Peter Terson, Alan Plater, David Rudkin and Willy Russell, and series such as Philip Martin’s Gangsters, Michael Abbensetts’ Empire Road, and Alan Bleasdale’s Boys from the Blackstuff.