Continuity and change: the documentary ‘boom’

Thomas Austin

in Watching the World

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780719076893
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701775 | DOI:
Continuity and change: the documentary ‘boom’

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This chapter examines the contexts for documentary in cinemas and on television. In the period from late 2002 to early 2004, a ‘boom’ in documentary cinema was identified. Such commentaries were based initially on the commercial success of a handful of documentary features, most notably Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, the sleeper hit Winged Migration, the spelling contest film Spellbound and Errol Morris's Fog of War. Debates about the politics of speaking positions and the impossibility of standing beyond them emerged as part of the major epistemological shift associated with the post-structuralist turn in humanities and the social sciences are also discussed. It is essential that the genre of documentary should not be granted a kind of moral exceptionalism in the cultural sphere which fireproofs it against properly critical scrutiny, so obviating all criticism of the mode.

Keywords: documentary; post-structuralist turn; cultural sphere; boom; criticism

Chapter.  8647 words. 

Subjects: Film

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