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States of Emergency: Documentaries, Wars, Democracies

Patricia R. Zimmermann
Volume: 7
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    States of Emergency
    Book Description:

    Today’s political, technological, and aesthetic landscapes are rife with landmines. In this embattled milieu, leftist filmmakers and conservatives struggle for control of the national imaginary. Amid unprecedented mergers and consolidations, political conservatives have launched major attacks against the National Endowment for the Arts, the Public Broadcasting System, state arts councils, and other sponsors of oppositional programming. Meanwhile, developing technologies like satellites and the Internet have not only altered and globalized communication but also offer untapped possibilities for reconstructing democracies. All of these events signal a radical transformation in how we will view the world in the decades to come. In States of Emergency, Patricia R. Zimmermann describes the shifting terrains socially engaged documentary artists and experimental filmmakers encounter in the aftermath of these changes. Public space has been chiseled away and politically conscious documentaries forced to go underground. Viewing an array of subjects (including the wars in Bosnia, Chiapas, and the Persian Gulf; Japanese internment during World War II; homelessness; race; and reproductive rights) through technologies ranging from high-end video, camcorders, cable access, digital imaging systems, and media piracy, Zimmermann creates an explosive montage of colliding ideas and events. In combative terms, she charts the intricately layered relationships between independent documentary, power, money, and culture, and also analyzes how media artists use new technologies and radical media practices to undermine cuts in support and conservative backlash. States of Emergency anchors documentary into a social and historical context that shows the complex connections among audiences, filmmakers, funders, and subjects in the fascinating and fraught milieu in which they coexist. Zimmermann passionately and convincingly argues that the survival of democracies and public spaces is inextricably fueled by the robust endurance of documentary and other insurgent forms of communication.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8750-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. States of Emergency: An Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxiv)

    We are poised on a crumbling, frightening precipice as we edge into the enigmatic morphing media landscapes of the twenty-first century. Whether stationed in the academy or outside of it in nonprofit media sectors, we have been defunded and delegitimated. We urgently need a new world image order. We need to think differently about independent documentary. Independent documentary is in danger of losing its oppositional edge to disturb the universe as all of its supports and infrastructures deteriorate. Shedding its older forms of argument and its allegiances to maintaining nation-states, documentary has the potential to shift the new world image...

  5. WARS

    • 1 The War on Documentary
      (pp. 3-50)

      By the 1990s, the siege on documentary intensified. Religious right and conservative policy groups such as the Christian Coalition, Accuracy in Media, the American Family Association, the Christian Action Network, the Heritage Foundation, and the Center for the Study of Popular Culture created a force field to reduce independent documentary into an even more marginal practice. The cumulative effect of these conservative tidal waves was to weaken the foundations and wash out the multiple layers of public infrastructures, universities, and art institutions that support and champion noncommercial media.

      The cutting off of public funding created a form of ideological and...

    • 2 Mobile Battlegrounds in the Air
      (pp. 51-86)

      World War II, Korea, Vietnam, El Salvador, Angola, Panama, the Gulf War, Rwanda, Somalia, Bosnia: these are some of the wars that have molded modernity and the twentieth century through images and imaginaries. Wars also rage within our nation: AIDS, antihomosexual campaigns, racism, the Los Angeles rebellion, homelessness. These wars are real and unreal, bloodless and bloody, fought in the air and on the ground, fought both here and there, in hearts and minds, in battlegrounds and in psychic imaginaries, inside and outside nations.

      Wars always depend on both real and imagined projections, fantasies of white male power and nationalistic...

    • 3 Ground Wars and the Real of Bodies
      (pp. 87-116)

      The official imaging of war travels through multiple altitudes. Its power is derived from its agility to move between and occupy different spaces, in the air and on the ground and all places in between. However, official documentaries nearly always deny the ground and bodies (or fictionalize them) because they are too anchored in the aerial, disembodied fantasy of nationalism. Therefore, an insurgent documentary practice must retake the ground, reposition bodies, deploy multiple technological formats, and engage in reconnaissance in order to devise new offensive positions.

      If bombs and images are bursting in air, what is happening on the ground,...


    • 4 Female Body Ambushes
      (pp. 119-153)

      Technologies, discourses, and the imaginary of reproduction have ambushed the female body. Anita Hill, Murphy Brown, the Republican Party’s attempt to deify family values, Zoë Baird, and the shooting of Dr. David Gunn at a Florida abortion clinic in March 1993 are all sites of newly fashioned feminist battlegrounds. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1993 decision inBray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic,upholding the right of Operation Rescue to block entrances to abortion clinics, signaled a sharp retreat for women’s reproductive rights and legitimated the antiabortion movement’s strategy of direct assault and annihilation of women’s bodies and right to choose.¹...

    • 5 Pirates of the New World Image Orders
      (pp. 154-198)

      In the gloomy cloud of intensive transnational media conglomeration, aggressive privatization of all public resources, and catastrophic arts defunding, hope for independent documentary beckons, a shred of blue on the stormy horizon. Although endangered and precarious, independent documentary can redirect tactics to widen the cracks for different kinds of democracies. Always the outlaw, independent documentary must mutate into something dexterously ingenious to change the new world orders of the new millennium. It can remake itself as a pirate. Independent documentary can surf and raid the global image flows to build new constructions and new spaces to counter the transnationalization of...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 199-216)
  8. Index
    (pp. 217-230)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-231)