The Politics of American Documentary
Intelligence Work establishes a new genealogy of American social documentary, proposing a fresh critical approach to the aesthetic and political issues of nonfiction cinema and media. Jonathan Kahana argues that the use of documentary film by intellectuals, activists, government agencies, and community groups constitutes a national-public form of culture, one that challenges traditional oppositions between official and vernacular speech, between high art and popular culture, and between academic knowledge and common sense. Placing iconic images and the work of celebrated filmmakers next to overlooked and rediscovered productions, Kahana demonstrates how documentary collects and delivers the evidence of the American experience to the public sphere, where it lends force to political movements and gives substance to the social imaginary.
[A] sobering reappraisal of documentary film.
[Kahana] illuminates many documentaries that deserve to be much better known... Recommended.
the author's impressive grasp of documentary history and insightful discussion of cinematic form make Intelligence Work a significant contribution to the literature on documentary.
Kahana's approach navigates what might be called the interstices of political critique, revealing documentary's multiplicity while marking its relative successes and limits.
[Kahana provides] a much-needed survey of a century-long development in cultural history that is nonetheless tightly focused on the crucial political issue of how art enables the production of publics.
Kahana is often intensely insightful about form and style in the films he considers, such as a sophisticated analysis of sound particularly in radical documentaries of the 60s on.
List of IllustrationsAcknowledgmentsIntroduction. The Intelligence Work of Documentary: Publics, Politics, IntellectualsPart I. The Sentiment of Trust: The Documentary Front and the New Deal 1. National Fabric: Authorship, Textuality, and the Documentary Front2. Voice-Over, Allegory, and the Pastoral in New Deal DocumentaryPart II. Lyrical Tirades: New Documentary and the New Left 3. Revolutionary Sounds: Listening to Radical Documentary4. Documentary Counterpublics: Filming PrisonPart III. The Public Sphere of Suspicion: Documentary in the New Obscurity 5. The Vision Thing: Documentary, Television, and the Accidental Power of the President6. Tense Times: Documentary Aporias; Or, the Public Sphere of SuspicionNotesFilmographyIndex