Ina Bertrand reviews 'Australian Documentary: History, Practices, Genres' by Trish FitzSimons, Pat Laughren, and Dugald Williamson

Australian Documentary: History, Practices, Genres

by Trish FitzSimons, Pat Laughren, and Dugald Williamson

Cambridge University Press, $59.95 pb, 304 pp, 9780521167994

The concept of ‘documentary’ is a slippery customer. It may start with John Grierson’s ‘creative treatment of actuality’, but, like holding water in your hand, it bleeds across media from film into television and digital media, and across modes in one direction into news reporting and in the other into docudrama. Documentary’s privileged relation to the real world, in opposition to fiction, raises another conceptual problem: that of who is speaking, and by what right. The technological media at issue here are always multi-vocal, no matter how determined a claim a director may make to authorship. But, in the documentary field, human subjects can also make claims to speak for themselves, and in a digital world even the audience has some opportunity to provide one aspect of the documentary voice.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in May 2011, no. 331
Ina Bertrand

Ina Bertrand

Ina Bertrand taught media studies at La Trobe University for 25 years, and wrote and/or edited several books and many articles during that time, mainly about Australian film and television history. She has also written about the relation between media and history, and about media research methods.  For the last ten years she has regularly written book reviews for Screening the Past and occasionally for other media-related journals. Her last book was (with William D. Routt) 'The Picture That Will Live Forever': The Story of the Kelly Gang, published for the centenary of the film in 2006.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.