Realer Than Reel: Global Directions in Documentary

Realer Than Reel: Global Directions in Documentary

Realer Than Reel: Global Directions in Documentary

Realer Than Reel: Global Directions in Documentary

Synopsis

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 Reel offers 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.

Excerpt

We often hear that we are living in a post-documentary age. This is a time when audiovisual truths and the ways we perceive them are fundamentally transformed by new types of cultural mediation and reflexivity. For the most part these claims are made with reference to particular presentation styles, modes of address, and actuality claims in particular texts from particular countries, mostly in Europe and North America.

In this book I want to make a similar claim, though somewhat differently. That is, I want to consider how documentary has changed, but not just with reference to texts, and certainly not just with reference to texts from particular places or cultures. Realer Than Reel: Global Directions in Documentary is a study of the transnational political economy of documentary and its impact on production, viewers, and documentary discourses. My particular interest is in the way places and public issues are meaningfully represented in export-oriented projects and what this tells us about documentary and global culture generally.

Readers will note that I am concerned with documentary in the broadest sense and particularly with documentaries that are often seen as “cross-overs” or even bastardizations. This approach is deliberate. I devote much of my attention here to reality shows, nature programs, and the like partly because they are seen by so many people in so many places, but also because as “limit cases” they help shed light on the issues I am concerned with. I reject fixed, exclusivist definitions of the . . .

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