Anthology Film Archives


April 21 – May 20

The ethical dimension of documentary filmmaking (and to some degree, of cinema as a whole) is a topic that has inspired endless debate and critical discussion. However well-intentioned, all non-fiction films call into play a constellation of fraught phenomena: power dynamics between the director and their subjects, the threat (if not the inevitability) of exploitation and misrepresentation, the danger of fostering the illusion of objectivity. This debate has fueled countless books, articles, and academic conferences, but one relatively unacknowledged manifestation is the way that filmmakers themselves have at times attempted to weave these issues into the fabric of their films.

This series showcases works (non-fiction or hybrid) that foreground the ethical questions and power dynamics that pervade the practice of non-fiction filmmaking, and that demonstrate a very particular way of confronting them. In the works gathered here, the filmmakers have taken the radical step of involving their subjects in the filmmaking process, by giving them the opportunity to watch footage from the film and then incorporating their responses – sometimes indirectly, but more often quite literally – into the works’ final form. In effect, these films create a kind of feedback loop: the subjects respond to the film, which takes further shape in response to their reactions, and so on.

The series brings together works from the mid-1960s to the present day, and from filmmakers including Lizzie Borden, Sara Gómez, William Greaves, Darcy Lange, Helga Reidemeister, and many others. And as a special sidebar, we’ll be focusing on the filmmaker for whom, perhaps more than any other, the strategy of documentary feedback was central: Jean Rouch.

Very special thanks to Brian Belovarac (Janus Films); Lizzie Borden; Rebecca Cleman, Tyler Maxin, and Karl McCool (Electronic Arts Intermix); Anke Hahn (Deutsche Kinemathek); Darcy Lange, Jr.; Susan Lord; Marc Mauceri (First Run Features); Carel Rowe; Mercedes Vicente; and Abby Wratten (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision).

We hope to present a follow-up series later in the summer that focuses on a more literal form of feedback: film and video works that make use of the technique of audio and visual feedback loops.

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