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A Companion to Documentary Film History. Edition No. 1

  • ID: 5179028
  • Book
  • June 2021
  • 496 Pages
  • John Wiley and Sons Ltd

This volume offers a new and expanded history of the documentary form across a range of times and contexts, featuring original essays by leading historians in the field

In a contemporary media culture suffused with competing truth claims, documentary media have become one of the most significant means through which we think in depth about the past. The most rigorous collection of essays on nonfiction film and media history and historiography currently available, A Companion to Documentary Film History offers an in-depth, global examination of central historical issues and approaches in documentary, and of documentary's engagement with historical and contemporary topics, debates, and themes.

The Companion's twenty original essays by prominent nonfiction film and media historians challenge prevalent conceptions of what documentary is and was, and explore its growth, development, and function over time. The authors provide fresh insights on the mode's reception, geographies, authorship, multimedia contexts, and movements, and address documentary's many aesthetic, industrial, historiographical, and social dimensions. This authoritative volume:

  • Offers both historical specificity and conceptual flexibility in approaching nonfiction and documentary media
  • Explores documentary's multiple, complex geographic and geopolitical frameworks
  • Covers a diversity of national and historical contexts, including Revolution-era Soviet Union, post-World War Two Canada and Europe, and contemporary China
  • Establishes new connections and interpretive contexts for key individual films and film movements, using new primary sources
  • Interrogates established assumptions about documentary authorship, audiences, and documentary's historical connection to other media practices.

A Companion to Documentary Film History is an ideal text for undergraduate and graduate courses covering documentary or nonfiction film and media, an excellent supplement for courses on national or regional media histories, and an important new resource for all film and media studies scholars, particularly those in nonfiction media.

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Documentary Borders and Geographies

Theme Editor, Alice Lovejoy (U. Minnesota, alovejoy@umn.edu)


1.            Martin Johnson (Catholic University, johnsonml@cua.edu), “A Distant Local View: The Small Town Film and U.S. Cultural Diplomacy and Occupation, 1942-1952”

2.            Paul Fileri (NYU, paul.fileri@gmail.com) “The Work of Displacement in Colonial Documentary: History, Movement, and Collectivity Between the Postwar Metropole and Colonial French West Africa”

3.            Naoki Yamamoto (UC-Santa-Barbara, yamamoto@filmandmedia.ucsb.edu), “Negation of the Negation: Tracking Documentary Film Theory in Japan”

4.            Raisa Sidenova (Newcastle University, raisa.sidenova@gmail.com), “The Topographical Aesthetic in Late Stalinist Documentary Film”

Authors and Authoring Agencies

Theme Editor, James Cahill (U. Toronto, james.cahill@utoronto.ca)


1.            Zoe Druick, (Simon Fraser U, druick@sfu.ca) “Documentality: The Postwar Mental Health Film and the Database Logic of the Government Film Agency”

2.            Josh Neves (Concordia U/Brown, jwneves@gmail.com) “Unmanned Capture: Automatic Cameras and Lifeless Subjects in Contemporary Documentary”

3.            Brian Jacobson (U. of Toronto, brian.jacobson@utoronto.ca) “Corporate Authorship: French Industrial Culture and the Culture of French Industry”

4.            Alla Gadassic (Emily Carr U, alla.gadassik@gmail.com), “A Skillful Isis: Esfir Shub and the Documentarian as Caretaker”

5.            Philip Rosen (Brown, philip_rosen@brown.edu), “Now and Then: On the Documentary Regime, Vertov, and History”

Films and Film Movements

Theme Editor, Joshua Malitsky (Indiana U., jmalitsk@indiana.edu)


1.            Jane Gaines (Columbia, jmg2196@columbia.edu) “Documentary Dreams of Activism and the ‘Arab Spring’”

2.            Luca Caminati (Concordia, caminati.luca@gmail.com) “A Culture of Reality: Neorealism, Narrative Non-Fiction, and Roberto Rossellini (1930s/1960s)” and translation of Alberto Cavalcanti, “Propaganda Documentaries”

3.            Thomas Waugh (Thomas.waugh@concordia.ca) “The Romantic Becomes Dialectic?: Joris Ivens, Cold Warrior and Socialist Realist, 1946-1956”

Media Archaeologies

Theme Editor, Malte Hagener (Marburg University, hagener@uni-marburg.de)


1.            Steven Jacobs, (Ghent University, steven.jacobs@ugent.be) “A Concise History and Theory of Documentaries on the Visual Arts”

2.            Weihang Bao (UC-Berkeley, wbaoster@berkeley.edu) ”Documentary in the Age of Mass Mobility: Minzu wansui and the Epic Gesture of Ethnographic Propaganda”

3.            Oliver Gaycken (U Maryland, ogaycken@umd.edu), “Documentary Plasticity: Embryology and the Moving Image”

4.            Yvonne Zimmermann (Marburg, University, yvonne.zimmerman@uni-marburg.edu), “Hans Richter and the Filmessay: A Media Archaeological Case Study of Documentary Film History and Historiography”

Audiences and Circulation

Theme Editor, Brian Winston (Lincoln U., bwinston@lincoln.ac.uk)


1.            Greg Waller (Indiana University, gwaller@indiana.edu) “Non-Fiction Film in and out of the Moving Picture Theater: Roosevelt in Africa (1910)”

2.            Brian Winston (Lincoln U, bwinston@lincoln.ac.uk), “The Marginal Spectator”

3.            Mariano Mestman, (Universidad de Buenos Aires,marianomestman@gmail.com), “‘Every spectator is either a coward or a traitor’: Watching The Hour of the Furnaces”

4.            William Uricchio (MIT, uricchio@mit.edu), “From Media Effects to the Empathy Machine: The Nature of the Audience and the Persistence of Wishful Thinking”

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Joshua Malitsky
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