Autobiographical documentary – the ‘seer and the seen’

Dowmunt, Tony. 2013. Autobiographical documentary – the ‘seer and the seen’. Studies in Documentary Film, 7(3), pp. 263-277. ISSN 1750-3280 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Despite the apparent inadequacies identified by Elizabeth Bruss and others, of film as a medium for autobiography, first-person film-making has had a long history, stretching back decades. Its current growth may have been stimulated by the increasing availability of accessible digital recording technologies, but film-makers have been attracted to it for over half a century, and the issues it raises are central to the development of our ideas about documentary. This article argues that the particular circumstances of autobiographical film-making, the confrontations it engenders between the film-makers’ selves and the others that appear in their films, continually raise key questions about the (power) relationship between film-maker and subject in an always overt and often reflexive fashion. This is particularly the case when the film-maker self-shoots – is both the ‘seer and seen’, observer and observed: in self-shot autobiographical work these key questions are often clearly displayed precisely in the way that film-makers make use of their cameras.

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Media, Communications and Cultural Studies



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Date Deposited:

23 Dec 2014 11:39

Last Modified:

27 Jun 2017 14:10

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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