Thinking Documentary Film

Documentary films appeal to philosophical thinking in a particularly challenging way for they do not constitute artworks in a traditional sense, that is, as constructions entirely created by an artist subject. Rather, they combine a specific claim for truthfulness and for adequacy with the artistic intervention of the filmmaker. Therefore, documentary films are, by their very constitution, an expression of the “quarrel between poetry and philosophy”, the former being associated with art, invention, subjectivity and the senses, the latter being related to the search for truth, as described by Plato (see LaRocca, 2017). The inherent tension caused by the coexistence of those conflicting moments is sometimes concealed (as in many mainstream productions), sometimes emphasized and productively transformed into a tool for critique (as in many subversive artistic productions). In any case, they incite us to reflect on the complex relations between objective facts and their subjective mediation and to problematize the production of (ethical, political and truth) values through media, while concomitantly confronting us with the problem of finding an adequate artistic form for disclosing a truth content of empirical reality. This working group aims at investigating how documentary formats produce, contest, subvert and question political, epistemological and aesthetic values on multifold levels.

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