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Showing posts from May, 2017

New Venture: Festival Documentary blog

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I want to announce that I've compiled my blog writing and ongoing work on contemporary documentary at a new website, titled simply The Festival Documentary. I expect this to serve as an online companion to my book project of the same title. I will continue to cross-post content here at Category D.

By "festival documentary," I mean a distinct style of documentary geared toward film festival exhibition. The more I watch documentaries that play on the festival circuit, the more I am convinced that they comprise distinct genres, from the poetic and observational to the character-driven documentary. These genres labels are still not widely used among documentary scholars, and I hope to make the case for their utility.

The website will feature blog of reflections on contemporary documentaries, a filmography of films I've watched for the project, and a collection of relevant reviews. Currently, the filmography is a work in progress, which I will continue to flesh out, but u…

Making the Case for Socially Conscious Doc

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cross-posted to Festival Film blog

Cameraperson
Kirsten Johnson, 2016
USA

Genre: Essay film
102m | on DVD, Blu-Ray, and VOD

There’s a lot one can say about Cameraperson. The two posts I might be initially inclined to write are one dealing with the Bazinian real of the documentary shot and one dealing with the craft of documentary cinematography (Cameraperson as an intervention in both the auteur bias of criticism and the elision of documentary from industry cinematographic trade discourse.) Both of these would be very much with the grain of the film.

But another motif occurred to me watching the film. So many of the films that Kirsten Johnson worked on belong to a traditional of observational-style socially conscious documentary. I’ve seen few of them. That’s my own failing, to be clear, and one of the strengths of Cameraperson is that it excites me to begin tracking down some of Johnson’s films to watch in their entirety.

I suspect I’m not alone. I think it’s fair to say that this str…

Prestige Cinematography, 1950s style

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I'm pleased to note that I have an essay in the newly published volume, Projecting the World: Representing the "Foreign" in Classical Hollywood, now out from Wayne State University Press. Thanks to editors Anna Cooper and Russell Meeuf for including me and for their editorial guidance as I revised what was initially an outcast from my book into a stand-alone article. And I'm eager to read the other essays in the book, all exploring the still underexamined transnational dimensions of Hollywood in the studio years.

My essay reads Kramer's On the Beach and Preminger's Bonjour Tristesse as comparable cosmopolitan texts offering a "Europeanized" spin on prestige film aesthetics.

My project initially started as I came across pressbooks in my research of Stanley Kramer. I'd initially looked at Kramer's work as a social problem film auteur, and On the Beach fit that mold, in part, but it also seemed to foreground an international cosmopolitanism in …