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April 1991


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Christopher Amirault <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 5 Apr 91 08:02:45 CST
<[log in to unmask]>; from "Cassandra VanBuren" at Apr 1, 91 1:14 pm
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Thanks to everyone who submitted documentary ideas.  And, although someone
else touched on it, I wanted to say something about Cassandra's comment.
> Why not move away from tired tradition (like HARLAN COUNTY, SALESMAN, etc)
> and look through "alternative" catalogues like Women Make Movies, Third
> World Newsreel, etc?  These catalogues feature documentaries by filmmakers
> on the cutting edge of cultural critique.  I say on the cutting edge,
> because who can better see through cultural conventions than the
> disenfranchised?
First of all, I'd be interested to know exactly what shorter documentaries
"on the cutting edge" are particularly interesting to people.  While I'd
like to be able to spend a great deal of time watching dozens of films
mailed to me at great expense, I lack time and money to do that.  Any
specific suggestions would be appreciated.
Second, I happen to think that films by Wiseman, the Mayles brothers,
and the rest of the "tired tradition" actually are good places to start
with students who are in an introductory _composition_ class.  I'm not
talking here about an intro _film_ class.  I need films that operate
within a context to which these students, who are not very culturally or
politically sensitive, have some exposure.  Also, the critiques of Kopple
and Wiseman and the like provide glimpses beneath the smooth surface of
the US spectacle of economic and cultural commodification.  While I'm
sure that in some ways these films are "tired" to students of documentary,
they will be less tired, I think, to students who have had no exposure to
studies of film or documentary at all.
This is not to say that other films can't do the same thing; in fact, I'd
love to hear what other films people think are operating in such a way.
But blanket condemnations and recommendations don't really help me.
This is actually something that I hope we can avoid.  This list seems
to support a wide variety of teachers and students of film, tv,
communications, composition, theory, etc. etc., people who work in
different contexts and have different needs.  I hope that we can keep
that in mind as we get into theory fights and canon arguments; one
person's ceiling is another person's floor, as Paul Simon almost said.
Feelin' pedagogically populist,
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