Soul of the Documentary

Hongisto, Ilona (2015): Soul of the Documentary: Framing, Expression, EthicsAmsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

In Soul of the Documentary, Ilona Hongisto stirs current thinking about documentary cinema by suggesting that the work of documentary films is not reducible to representing what already exists. By close-reading a diverse body of films – from The Last Bolshevik to Grey Gardens – Hongisto shows how documentary cinema intervenes in the real by framing it and creatively contributes to its perpetual unfolding. The emphasis on framing brings new urgency to the documentary tradition and its objectives, and provokes significant novel possibilities for thinking about the documentary’s ethical and political potentials in the contemporary world.

“Documentary does not simply document what is; it presses reality to reveal what is to come. This thrillingly original and well-argued book brings a shot of energy to studies of documentary cinema, film theory, and the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. Ilona Hongisto shows that documentary cinema is an active space of becoming, whose power lies not in indexicality but in capture, the selection of certain aspects of the real to actualize. Her analysis of the aesthetics of the documentary frame, which captures and expresses according to the distinct operations of imagination, fabulation, and affection, will inspire scholars and filmmakers alike.” — Laura U. Marks, School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University

“With this book, Hongisto breaks new ground. She introduces a fresh vocabulary to explore our experience of documentary reality as a becoming, a transit zone between what is and what is not yet. There is a deep purpose here: to reconsider how we engage with and understand documentary film, and perhaps cinema itself.” — Bill Nichols, author of Introduction to Documentary and a regular consultant with filmmakers

Reviews:
Film-Philosophy
(22:1, 2018) by Laurel Ahnert
Apparatus (no 9, 2019) by Natalia Klimova

 

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