Capturing freedom: direction, dramaturgy and ethics in contemporary Finnish documentary

Timo Korhonen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This article focuses on the possibility of capturing Other’s freedom in documentary film. The writer discusses the theme in contemporary Finnish documentary film. The documentary film, as all forms of capturing reality, set things to themselves. Philosophically one may say that the problem arises when the filmmakers’ actions place the Other in the position of a moral object. The moral dilemma became eminent as the lightweight filming equipment offered a fly-in-the wall strategy and the observational documentary became a powerful vein in documentary film practice. The Observational strategy often lead to situations in which the characters were put in a victim position. The writer explores these challenges in the framework of existential philosophy. He adapts the ideas of the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, the Brasilian pedagogue Paolo Freire and the ethnographic filmmaker Jean Rouch. The writer utilizes the existential maxim of treating every human being as free as a moral aim for the documentary film practitioner. The writes points out that the existentialistic maxim may offer an approach, which can be utilized to understand the ethics of the documentary filmmaking and also to find ways to create an even dialogue between the filmmakers and their characters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-168
Number of pages24
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Documentary film
  • ethics
  • existentialism
  • Finnish documentary
  • morals
  • observational documentary
  • Other


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