The Documentarist and His Poor: On Radical Otherness and the Exuberance of the Have-Nots

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Abstract

This article re-evaluates the stance of a documentary filmmaker as the one who gives voices, as well as certain gestures of social documentary such as ‘speaking for’ or ‘promoting equality’ – specifically in relation to marginalized experiences subjugated in the context of hegemony. French philosopher Jacques Rancière’s radical notions of equality and emancipation as something which is not given (by giving voices, spaces or equality to the not-haves) but is the given, is the inspiration for this article. According to Rançiere, in relation to the societal and political sphere as an arena of dissensus, an ongoing negotiation of belonging and non-belonging, equality is a point of departure rather than an aim. What are the ramifications of the notion of ‘radical emancipation’ for our ethical stance as documentary filmmakers? How does this notion challenge the tendencies such as the victim motif, agenda of change, as well as the didactic or instrumental quality of the genre which is still deeply embedded in the practice of social documentary? How does it unveil the benevolence of the gestures of giving voices or affect our ethical stance and relation to social actors, the Others, whose life experience is the material for the films we make?

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Original languageEnglish
JournalPost Script: Essays in Film and the Humanities
Volume36
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

ID: 14903292