Documentary practice as radical process in challenging dominant media and state narratives

FERO, Kenneth (2018). Documentary practice as radical process in challenging dominant media and state narratives. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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This critical appraisal of the submitted work outlines my position within radical documentary film making from Britain’s Black Legacy (1991) to Burn (2014). Exploring the works in relation to the political concerns during the periods of the time of practice, the notion of an uncompromising ‘documentary of force’ develops throughout the portfolio. Moving from broadcast interventions, thorough Third Cinema practices and explorations of ‘poetic testimonies’ the works use a hybrid of documentarist modes determined by the context of the time. A praxis develops using documentary film to utilise strategies of political, cultural, and cinematic interventions to build on latent militancy and challenge dominant media and state narratives on the core issues of race, class and state violence. In defining a ‘documentary of force’ it posits a form of resistance using film as a tool to force debate and political change, as demanded by the films participants. The approach taken is an explicitly partisan form of filmmaking where the maker jointly instigates direct actions, collaborating with the film participants, and the Gramscian notion of the organic intellectual is explored through these contributors. The importance of the embedded film activist is made clear in a methodology of trust, built over 23 years of collaborations. The praxis seeks to move the issues of concern in the films from the peripheral to the central. The attempts by the state to supress the work, to make it compliant, is a structural process and the marginalisation of the work in the portfolio, the negotiations with broadcasters and elements of the state, and the film makers confrontational approach, are all examined. The contribution of the work to the documentary field is documented across a range of outputs, citations and articles. Its effectiveness to implement policy change, as well as its impact on broadcast documentaries, is also explored. Page 3 “Defiance is resistance, and resistance is the beginning of being.” Mahmoud Darwish The power of factual film to inspire action and agitate for radical change has developed hand in hand with social struggles and mass movements for several decades. The portfolio presented is posited as a praxis of a ‘documentary of force’, outlining its contribution to documentary filmmaking. Documentary is the fusion of art and reality, and the balance between the two varies within documentary modes and their hybrids. On examining the portfolio of work, including the ground-breaking, controversial films, After the Storm (1992), Justice Denied (1994), and Injustice (2001), complex questions of subjectivity, censorship and ethics emerge. This work attempts to challenge conventional documentary through the radical position of the filmmaker. Throughout the body of work, the coherent approach is ‘documentary practice as a radical process in challenging the dominant media and state narratives’. The portfolio largely focuses on the representation of political struggles for justice in the UK. Explorations of resistance, race and class from a community perspective are documented over three decades, employing a ‘documentary of force’ research method. It is a praxis summed up by the Dziga- Vertov Group: ‘The problem is not to make political films but to make films politically’.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Shaw, Becky [0000-0001-6835-6044]
Additional Information: Director of Studies: Dr Becky Shaw
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Justine Gavin
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2018 11:55
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:01

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