ON FILMMAKING | Documentary activism across multiple media platforms

April 8, 2021

Inez Hedges, longtime CSFilm supporter and retired Chair of Cinema Studies at Northeastern University, where she hired CSFilm director Michael Sheridan to teach, has written a review of two new books on documentary activism and new approaches to distribution. In her closing she sites CSFilm’s work as an example of both issues in action! Thanks Inez!


Documentary activism across multiple media platforms

review by Inez Hedges

Angela Aguayo, Documentary Resistance: Social Change and Participatory Media. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. 296 pp. $99 hardcover, $29.95 paperback, $19.99 e-book;

Patricia R. Zimmermannn, Documentary across Platforms: Reverse Engineering Media, Place, and Politics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2020. 268 pp. $85 hardcover, $32 paperback and e-book.

The metaphors by which critics and filmmakers have attempted to capture the moving image’s unique ability to bear witness have been many, from Dziga Vertov’s “kinoeye” to Peter Wollen’s exploration of the indexical in cinema. Any such witnessing is motivated, a notion captured by Alexandre Astruc’s “caméra stylo” (“camera as writing instrument”). The very term “cinematography,” which comes to us from the pioneering Lumière brothers, implies a kind of writing in the medium of moving images. As with any kind of writing, it is useful to consider the intentions of the makers, the audiences, and modes of circulation. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, all of these elements have been affected in important ways by the rise of new technologies of production and circulation. Both Angela Aguayo and Patricia Zimmermannn are acutely focused on these changes and offer conceptual maps for understanding the ways in which documentary has morphed into new forms.


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What was emphasized during the discussion is that it is up to those that believe in the US as a nation of immigrants, to counter the lies and misinformation that is permeating the current dialogue about new immigrants and refugees in the US. It is incumbent on all of us to speak out against xenophobia and hatred toward the newest members of our communities.


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