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.
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
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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.
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