What Is Non-Fiction Cinema? On the Very Idea of Motion Picture Communication

By Trevor Ponech | Go to book overview

sentation and communication. We already have a fair knowledge of how people communicate non-fictionally using language. So how is it that motion pictures can be used constatively by people to pass on ideas and (mis)information to one another? What follows is a model for one possible response to this question. It is essentially tentative and ultimately only partial. It promises not so much to resolve the puzzles at hand as to announce a new topic of research: the role of agency, rationality, and practical reasoning in non-fictional cinematic communication.


Notes
1.
The sorts of motion pictures I have in mind may be live transmissions as well as works recorded on film, video, CD-ROM, or some other medium. They can be of any appreciable length, on any topic. As far as I am presently concerned, unedited and unviewed convenience store surveillance camera footage, an animated TV commercial for allergy medication, and some of the poetic works of Chris Marker can all have one thing in common: their status as non-fiction. Notice that I am not at all fussy about whether or not the motion picture in question consists entirely or mostly of photographically produced, instead of digital or hand drawn, images. I should also note that from time to time I will use the term "documentary" as a substitute for "non-fiction motion picture." I am aware that documentary can be, and in some discursive contexts should be, reserved to refer to a specific sub-category of non-fiction. But here I wish to take advantage of its popular use as a synonym for non-fictional cinematic representation in general.
2.
See John Graham, There Are No Simple Solutions: Wiseman on Filmmaking and Viewing," in Frederick Wiseman, ed. Thomas Atkins ( New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976), 36.
3.
Quoted in G. Roy Levin, "Wiseman", in Documentary Explorations: 15 Interviews with Filmmakers, ed. G. Roy Levin ( New York: Doubleday, 1971), 318.
4.
Noël Carroll, Mystifying Movies: Fads and Fallacies in Contemporary Film Theory ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 234.

-7-

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