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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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Why Documentary Filmmakers Keep Trying to Change the World, or Why People Changing the World Keep Making Documentaries (1984)

Why Documentary Filmmakers Keep Trying to Change the World, or Why People Changing the World Keep Making Documentaries (1984)

Chapter:
(p.1) 1 Why Documentary Filmmakers Keep Trying to Change the World, or Why People Changing the World Keep Making Documentaries (1984)
Source:
The Right to Play Oneself
Author(s):

Thomas Waugh

Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
DOI:10.5749/minnesota/9780816645862.003.0001

This chapter introduces the works of Soviet film director Dziga Vertov, a pioneer in early cinema whose works influenced the cinéma vérité style of documentary filmmaking. Ever since Vertov first entered the Soviet newsreel initiative, Leftist activists have continuously used the documentary medium to challenge the inherited structures of social domination. The chapter looks into how these documentary films speak to specific publics to bring about political goals. They occupy virtually all the gradations possible on the left side of the political spectrum, from the social democratic through the Marxist-Leninist to the Left-libertarian. Documentary relies no less than any other filmic genre on its own systems of codes, conventions, and cultural assumptions and mediations. An obvious corollary of this insight is that a documentary does not subscribe to the aesthetic prescriptions of what has come to be known as “political modernism.”.

Keywords:   Dziga Vertov, cinéma vérité, documentary filmmaking, Soviet newsreel initiative, Leftist activists, Marxist-Leninist, Left-libertarian, cultural assumptions, political modernism

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