CineLab • International Seminar

Contemporary Documentary and its critical and political horizons

Intensive Seminars #2: Dork Zabunyan

How does documentary creation position itself in relation to the flood of images circulating on the internet and on social media? How does it appropriate these often anonymous images whose heterogeneity is obvious and some of which pass the media threshold, finding themselves in the mainstream information system? We will try to answer these questions by focusing first on the context of the Arab uprisings of 2011, events that were among the most documented in history by those who were the nameless protagonists. We will also study the stereotypical representations of these struggles that may have characterized their media treatment. At the same time, we will examine the powers of documentary in the face of an overflow of images, one of whose paradoxical features is its monotony: indeed, hyper-visibility does not prevent the repetition of the same typology of images. These powers will be analyzed in their critical dimensions, since the documentary is confronted with a new political communication, even with a State propaganda whose filmmakers try to dismantle the strategies. We will take a few examples from contemporary history (Silvio Berlusconi, Donald Trump) as well as less recent (Nicolae Ceaucescu). In the era of the so-called “post-truth” era, it is more important than ever to return to what Gilles Deleuze called the “powers of the false” of cinema, powers of interval and difference against all forms of consensus that force our gaze and orient our thinking.

This event will take place within the scope of the activities of the research group Thinking Documentary Film, funded by national funds through FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia under the project UIDB/00183/2020, and the research project PhilDoc – Philosophy and Documentary Film. Mediating the Real, both coordinated by Stefanie Baumann (CineLab/IFILNOVA).


Dork Zabunyan is professor in film studies at Paris 8 University. He is the co-author of Foucault at the Movies (with Patrice Maniglier, Columbia University Press, 2018). He has also written The Insistence of Struggle — Images, Uprisings, Counter-Revolutions (IF Publications, 2019), and has recently published Fictions de Trump – Exercices du pouvoir et puissances des images (Le Point du Jour, 2020). He has also edited Politiques de la distraction (with Paul Sztulman, Les Presses du réel/ArTeC, 2021).