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Realer Than Reel

Realer Than Reel

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  • Book Info
    Realer Than Reel
    Book Description:

    Television and globalization have transformed the traditional documentary almost beyond recognition, converting what was once a film genre devoted to public service and education into a popular televisual commodity with productions ranging from serious public affairs programming to TV "reality" shows and "docusoaps."Realer Than Reeloffers a state-of-the-art overview of international documentary programming that investigates the possibilities documentary offers for local and public representation in a global age, as well as what actually constitutes documentary in a time of increasing digitalization and manipulation of visual media.

    David Hogarth focuses on public affairs, nature, and reality shows from around the world, drawing upon industry data, producer interviews, analyses of selected documentary programs, and firsthand observations of market sites. He looks at how documentary has become a transnational product through exports, co-ventures, and festival contacts; how local and regional "place" is represented in global documentary, especially by producers such as Discovery Networks International and the National Geographic Channel; how documentary addresses the needs of its viewers as citizens through public service broadcasting; and how documentary is challenging accepted conventions of factuality, sense, and taste. The concluding chapter considers the future of both documentary as a genre and television as a global factual medium, asking whether TV will continue to "document" the world in any meaningful sense of the term.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79613-3
    Subjects: Film Studies, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    By many accounts, these are either the best or worst of times for documentary and ultimately for its chief medium, global television. For the editors atTelevision Business International,the world is being swept by a wave of “documania”—by an unprecedented volume and velocity of real-life images that inform viewers about world affairs as never before.¹ For veteran director Albert Maysles, on the other hand, global television is suffering from a glut of “McDocumentaries”—standardized factual products offering few aesthetic surprises and no political punch, serving to fill “500 factual channels with nothing on.”² This book assesses documentary as...

  5. TWO Documentary in a Global Market
    (pp. 19-40)

    Is documentary moving in a global direction? This is a difficult question to answer for both empirical and conceptual reasons. To begin with, statistics concerning documentary often come in the form of proprietary research, which can be both inaccessible and unreliable. Further, data can be both overly general and overly specific: general because it concerns not just documentaries but factual programming (which can include anything from news to cooking shows); specific because it focuses on domestic markets, making transnational comparisons difficult. On top of all this, documentary is defined differently in various countries, making an accurate gauge of global production...

  6. THREE Global Documentary and Place
    (pp. 41-61)

    How will places be represented in global documentaries? Will they be portrayed as bordered locations in amore connected world? Will they be documented in culturally unique ways? And will they stand out as distinct entities in a global marketplace of signs? These are important questions for our understanding of documentary, television, and culture in general. After all, both public broadcasting systems and their defining genres tend to be judged for their representation of citizen-viewers in the actual conditions in which they live. In some respects, documentaries, documentary media, and documentary cultures stand or fall on their representations of place.


  7. FOUR Global Documentary and Public Issues
    (pp. 62-91)

    Will global documentaries tackle public issues? That is, will they serve as a forum for free, equal, and more or less sensible discussions about the world? Or will they help us connect—viscerally or otherwise—with subjects beyond their own borders?

    There are reasons to be both hopeful and pessimistic. For optimists, as we shall see, global documentaries might allow for investigations of collective issues—investigations that are diverse, passionate, and comprehensive, amounting to something like a “public sphere” in a digital age. For pessimists, on the other hand, global documentaries serve as a cautionary tale regarding mediated public debate:...

  8. FIVE Global Documentary and Meaning
    (pp. 92-121)

    Will global documentaries help us make sense of the world? That is, beyond representing places and public issues, will they continue to mean anything at all in a postnational age? Will they report on events in at least a minimally coherent and objective way? Or will they move at a speed, and in a fashion, that prevents any significance from being attached to them?

    These are open questions, cultural theory notwithstanding. Concerns about the meaning of global television have been provocative but mostly abstract, based on rather sweeping cultural analyses. Chris Rojek wonders whether “images of home and abroad, the...

  9. SIX Digital Documentary
    (pp. 122-136)

    In this book, I have argued that documentary has taken a global direction that requires us to rethink it as a genre. I have stressed three overall trends in this regard. First, documentary is no longer a national cinematic form produced first and foremost by the nation-state and its cultural institutions. Second, documentary is no longer a public service genre dedicated to the representation of places and public issues for more or less captive audiences. And finally, documentary is no longer an epistemologically secure project, the truth and meaning of which depend upon special indexical ties to the world. Clearly...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 137-170)
  11. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 171-178)
  12. Index
    (pp. 179-186)