1st Edition

Documentary, Performance and Risk

By James Lyons Copyright 2020
    206 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    206 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Documentary, Performance and Risk explores how some of the most significant recent American feature documentaries use performance to dramatically animate major categories of risk.

    The fact that these documentaries do rely on such performance is revealing both in terms of trends in American feature documentary, and in relation to the currency of ideas about risk in contemporary Western societies. The book takes a detailed look at the performance of risk and demonstrates the rewards of close critical attention to formal composition and performance. Covering An Inconvenient Truth, Super Size Me, Capitalism: A Love Story and Jackass: The Movie, it explores how these high-profile films offer up compelling narratives and images of individuals ‘acting on risk’. The films seek to both confront and control the contours of their environments in ways that reveal much about how a particular set of beliefs about risk and the individual have come to inform our lives.

    This wide-ranging analysis of feature documentary is ideal for scholars and postgraduate students studying documentary film, film and media studies.


    Chapter One: Theorising documentary, performance, and risk.

    Chapter Two: ‘Mr. Earth’: embodying environmental risk in An Inconvenient Truth.

    Chapter Three: ‘The Risk of Obesity’: Super Size Me and the performance of biopedagogy.

    Chapter Four: ‘Skin in the Game’: financial risk and Capitalism: A Love Story.

    Chapter Five: ‘Warning: this film contains nuts’: Jackass and the performance of everyday risk.



    James Lyons is Associate Professor of Film Studies at the University of Exeter, UK. He is the author of Selling Seattle (2004) and Miami Vice (2010) and co-editor of Quality Popular Television (2003), Multimedia Histories: From the Magic Lantern to the Internet (2007), and The Rise of the American Comics Artist: Creators and Contexts (2010). He also co-designed and co-produced the documentary The Risk Taker's Survival Guide (2014), which won the Ramillas Interactive Award at Sheffield International Doc/Fest.