The Life and Nothing Else

Review of Thomas Waugh's THE RIGHT TO PLAY ONESELF in Looking Back on Documentary Film.

waugh_right cover[Translated from German]

When the filmmaker Dziga Vertov in the early 1920s with the Kinozug by Russia drove to the population within the meaning of the new rulers 'educate' wanted - this is the legend - the longer the public is not in the Lands of the emerging Soviet Union with "cinema 'be (theatrical films from the illusion factory) supplies, but in the movie "see-vodka unvarnished reality." In one village, said a collective ego to the film people: do not know "We the living. We have not seen life. We know about our farming village and the ten miles. Shows us life. "For Thomas Waugh, who is professor of film studies and interdisciplinary Sexual Science at Concordia University in Montreal, this is the primal scene of" socially engaged "documentary of the 20th Century: the penetration of the film material reality contributes to a change in social relations and structures.

In his book The Right to Play Oneself in the ten essays from the period 1975-2008 are gathered, Waugh raises a second look at the history of documentary film, with him - following on from the work of Walter Benjamin and Joris Ivens' in the 1930s - the interaction of representation and mise-en-scène in the film's practice. "Every man of today can make a claim to be filmed," Benjamin wrote in 1936 full of optimism and saw in the Soviet film, the people "as" cast members in the work process, while in Western Europe, "the legitimate right to the people of today to be Reproduziertwerden has" , the consideration being denied. The classic documentary, beginning with Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North (1922) pretended to document merely observing the events, and to preserve the semblance of authenticity, its actors, directors were always on them not to look into the camera. While traditional schools of the documentary as coined by John Grierson British Documentary Movement in the 1930s or the Cinéma Vérité / Direct Cinema-direction in the 1960s, the presence of the camera and its influence on the events disguised or denied, took advantage of the Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens the "personalization" as a strategy for using individual "actors," a historical process for the audience to be experienced. This turn to dramatization and staging was not without problems, as later developments showed in the documentary.

Read the full translated article here.

Published in: Looking Back on Documentary Film
By: Joerg Auberg