Documentary Film: A Primer provides a succinct introduction to the nature of the documentary, drawing on examples from the work of Robert Flaherty, Dziga Vertov, Leni Riefenstahl, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Spalding Gray, Cindy Sherman, Susan Sontag, and others. The documentaries discussed cover a range of subjects including the Russian Revolution, the Holocaust, and the worlds of fashion and sports. This incisive foray into the essentials of documentary is then buttressed by an in depth discussion of the career of Jill Craigie, a British director/writer who brought to the cinema an uncompromising socialist and feminist perspective during the Second World War. How Craigie got her films produced by a major studio, and why her work could not be replicated in postwar Britain, reveal not only the way documentaries are made but also why they remain a controversial and problematic genre. A selection of Rollyson's reviews of contemporary documentaries provides a model for discussing the genre. Students and fans of documentaries will find his list of classic documentaries on VHS and DVD and his excerpts from other critics of the genre of special interest.
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December 14, 2004
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