"Reflexivity in Iberian Documentary Film" by Samuel Amago
Thu, April 17, 2014 • 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM • BEN 2.104
In his influential Introduction to Documentary (2001), Bill Nichols outlines six documentary modes of representation “that function something like sub-genres of the documentary film genre itself: poetic, expository, participatory, observational, reflexive, performative” (99). These categories are useful starting points for classification, but from the beginning documentary film has always mixed modes of address, styles and forms. Indeed, the genre’s beginnings lie in the efforts of its first practitioners to explore the limits of the cinema itself, as they worked to discover “new possibilities and untried forms” (Nichols 82). Early filmmakers’ experimentation with cinematic techniques accordingly “blurred boundaries between fiction and non-fiction, documenting reality and experimenting with form, showing and telling, narrative and rhetoric” (Nichols 83).
This talk will analyze how contemporary Iberian documentary filmmakers have continued this tradition, melding modes of representation in order to critique, observe or otherwise erode traditional boundaries between reality and fiction, showing and telling, narrative and testimony, realism and formalism in their films. The lecture will analyze three works emerging from three different corners of Iberia that in one way or another question the “rhetorics of authenticity” upon which traditional documentary films have relied: from Catalonia, Todos vós sodes capitáns (Oliver Laxe, 2010), a poetic film about globalism and social issues that also problematizes the ability of European cameras to document the social reality of non-European Others; from Portugal, Aquele Querido Mês de Agosto (Miguel Gomes, 2008), an observational film about Portuguese regional identities that also contains within itself a parallel narrative about the making of a “fictional” film-within-the-film; and, emerging from and engaging parodically with a variety of Castilian cultural traditions, Cámara lúcida (Carlos Cañeque, 2013), a reflexive, participatory postmodern documentary exploring the uncertain boundaries between reality and fiction, tradition and innovation, audiovisual and literary culture in contemporary Spain.
Samuel Amago is Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is co-editor of the volume, Unearthing Franco-s Legacy: Mass Graves and the Recuperation of Historical Memory in Spain, an interdisciplinary volume dedicated to the analysis of the ongoing ramifications of Franco’s repression and how the country’s violent past continues to manifest itself in the present. His first book, True Lies: Narrative Self-Consciousness in the Contemporary Spanish Novel, is a comprehensive study of the evolving functions of narrative self-consciousness in contemporary Spain, with chapters on Rosa Montero, Nuria Amat, Javier Cercas, Juan José Millás, Javier Marías, and Carlos Cañeque. His current research project is on trash and cinema in democratic Spain.