'I Speak about Myself to You' – Renegotiating the Voice of Documentary through Animation Aesthetics
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AbstractDocumentary practice has long been encumbered with journalistic and pseudo-scientific expectations; the gathering of evidence, the balancing of material and the objective presentation of accurate and informative data. Overwhelmingly, documentary audiences are encouraged to believe in an objective reality and, by extension, to anticipate fidelity to it. Filmmakers' aesthetic choices are selected and organised to persuade the viewer that the resulting voice of the documentary is an honest, rational and sensible point of view. This paper will explore the documentary filmmaker's detachment from an obligation to deliver objective truth by applying the visual, aural and temporal distortions of animation to interrogate conventional notions of knowledge, reliability and authority. By taking a collaborative approach to the research project, the paper will explore the inherent transformative, non-representational and illusory nature of animation in relation to the construction of authorial voice for documentary. Drawing on the theory and practice of filmmakers Aleksandr Sokurov and Alexander Kluge, the paper will assess to what extent truth can be derived from expressionistic aesthetic components as readily as they can from the narration of factual information and photographic reality; can animation in documentary assimilate fiction into fact and synthesise truth and fantasy? Further, the paper will argue that the didactic voice of traditional, expository documentary encourages passive observation while animation can provoke a more poetic interpretation of the films' diegesis; how can the authenticity of documentary material be legitimised by foregrounding authorial mediation rather than attempting to camouflage subjectivity? The introduction of animation aesthetics into documentary realism offers the filmmaker a wider choice of expressive tools to define, extend and affirm their own personal voice. This paper will offer a practical assessment of these issues, offering new approaches for filmmakers to explore the epistemological resonance of their craft, and to extend the formal and thematic parameters that determine documentary's status as nonfiction testimony.
CitationBevan, G and Bosward, M (2011) ‘'I Speak about Myself to You' – Renegotiating the Voice of Documentary through Animation Aesthetics’, paper presented to The Higher Education Academy conference Animating Realities: Animation, Documentary and the Moving Image, Edinburgh, 23 June 2011
PublisherThe Higher Education Academy
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