Reenactment Reconsidered: Staged Realities and Nonfiction Fantasies

11:45 AM, Wednesday 26 Sep 2018 (1 hour 30 minutes)
Film critic Richard Brody of The New Yorker once called reenactments “the bane and the curse of the modern documentary film” while reviewing Andrew Jarecki’s “The Jinx.” Errol Morris famously proved a man’s innocence with The Thin Blue Line– which featured austerely staged recreations– then was snubbed by the Oscars. “Reenactment” has become a dirty word to some, a crutch for others and still one of the most hotly debated devices in documentary. The use of recreations goes back to the early days of nonfiction film, when Robert Flaherty asked an Inuk man named Allakariallak to play the titular hero of the first ever doc-blockbuster Nanook of the North. Filmmakers from Shirley Clarke to Werner Herzog to Michael Moore have since reveled in the possibilities of documentary dramatization. Today “traditional” reenactments are a dime a dozen, but a generation of aesthetically adventurous filmmakers have turned to new methods of staging, use of metaphor and performance to create radical pathways for understanding in their films. Interventions into reality that were once considered taboo are now a staple of some of the best films. How does the use of staged scenes illuminate the paradoxical core of documentary filmmaking? How is acting and performance connected to notions of authenticity? What does Sandi Tan’s use of lost movie scenes in Shirkers have to do with Yance Ford’s innovative reliance on performance art in Strong Island? Robert Greene, whose own work (including his new film Bisbee ’17) has attacked the porous boundaries between observational filmmaking and reenactment, will lead a discussion on staged realities and nonfiction fantasies with some of the most daring documentary directors working today.

Sponsored by A&E Films
Jonathan B. Murray Center for Documentary Journalism
Shirkers LLC

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