Moving pictures are often thought of as having a unique ability to uncover reality, because their basis in photography offers a mechanical record of the world rather than a creation dependent on the hand of the artist. Indeed, the very first films were documents of moments from everyday life, while the development of the fiction film and of film technology have been determined by the intention to give a convincing impression of the appearance of real life. Realist movements, from documentary to Dogme 95, have frequently set themselves up as radical alternatives to mainstream cinema, criticising them as illusions or fantasies.
Furthermore, all films, even – or especially – those which seem most real, require organisation for us to make sense of the events recorded, and realism is itself a way of producing narrative, rhetoric and persuasion.
This module will seek to introduce you to some of the principal realist and documentary movements, asking how the simple aim to ‘show things as they really are’ has resulted in a range of creative and wildly different cinematic forms. It will consider the issue as one of film aesthetics, and will trace its development historically, ranging from early cinema to reality TV, and as a global question of film movements. It will discuss the different political purposes of realist and documentary cinemas, their relationship to industrial questions and state institutions, and ask how their social aims produce different artistic and formal outcomes, each of which expresses an idea about how cinema functions as a way of knowing the world and of changing it – or of keeping it as it is.
FILM1020 or FILM1001 or FILM2006