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The Right to Play OneselfLooking Back on Documentary Film$
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Thomas Waugh

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780816645862

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816645862.001.0001

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Acting to Play Oneself

Acting to Play Oneself

Performance in Documentary (1990)

(p.71) 4 Acting to Play Oneself
The Right to Play Oneself

Thomas Waugh

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter discusses the presence of performance within the documentary film tradition. According to filmmaker Joris Ivens, there were two basic ingredients that made up classical documentary—the self-expression of documentary subjects in collaboration with the filmmaker/director’s views. Back then, most directors relied principally on a naturalistic, representational performance style borrowed from fiction, which some varied from time to time with presentational elements analogous to the conventions of still photography and radio. The chapter highlights the distinction between representational and presentational performance, which can be useful for looking diachronically at documentary history. The difference between representation and presentation is not that one uses performance and the other does not, but that the former disavows and hides the performance components through such conventions as not looking at the camera, whereas the latter openly acknowledges and exploits the performance components.

Keywords:   documentary film tradition, Joris Ivens, documentary subjects, filmmaker, director, classical documentary, representational, presentational, performance components

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