Documentary: Witness and Self-Revelation (Paperback) book cover


Witness and Self-Revelation

By John Ellis

© 2012 – Routledge

184 pages | 5 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780415574198
pub: 2011-07-20
Hardback: 9780415574181
pub: 2011-07-20
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pub: 2011-07-29
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Digital technologies have transformed documentary for both filmmakers and audiences.

Documentary: Witness and Self-Revelation takes an audience-centred approach to documentary, arguing that everyday experiences of what it feels like to film and to be filmed have developed a new sophistication and skepticism in today’s viewers. The book argues that documentary has developed a new third phase of its century long history: films now tend to document the encounters between filmers and the filmed. But what do we really know about those encounters?

The author’s extensive experience of documentary production practice also enables him to examine technological changes in detail. Innovations in technology can seem to offer greater realism but can at the same time frustrate attempts to achieve it. John Ellis therefore proposes the idea of ‘Slow Film’ as an antidote to the problems of increasing speed brought about by easy digital editing.

This book is ideal for students studying film, media studies and visual culture.


"Documentary: Witness and Self-Revelation is one of the best accounts of the documentary process I've ever read: accurate, wise, perceptive and very readable." –Roger Graef, CEO, Films of Record

"Although the author focuses on documentary filmmaking in the UK, the information he provides will prove relevant for anyone studying the genre, making this volume an excellent supplementary resource. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty." –A. F. Winstead, Our Lady of the Lake University

"Recommended. Noting the media sophistication of contemporary audiences, the author deconstructs what makes viewers skeptical of what they see in documentary films by pointing out the major technological developments in film that enable anyone with a cell phone to make, edit, and distribute films online…Although the author focuses on documentary filmmaking in the UK, the information he provides will prove relevant for anyone studying the genre, making this volume an excellent supplementary resource."CHOICE, A.F. Winstead, Our Lady of the Lake University

Table of Contents

Introduction Chapter 1. From Reconstruction to Observation: A History of Documentary 1895-1995 Chapter 2. New Attitudes to Documentary Chapter 3. The Changing Technologies of Documentary Filmmaking Chapter 4. Performance and Self-revelation Chapter 5. Documentary Filming as Personal Interaction Chapter 6. Editing, Narratice and Separation Chapter 7. The Changing Technologies of Documentary Editing Chapter 8. Slow Film Chapter 9. The Eventual Viewer Chapter 10. Ambivalent Feelings about Photography and Recording Chapter 11. Witness and Watching Chapter 12. Ethics, Interpretation and the New Viewer Conclusion

About the Author

John Ellis is Professor of Media Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London and formerly a TV documentary producer. He is chair of the British Universities’ Film and Video Council (BUFVC) and past vice-chair of both the subject association MeCCSA and the producers' organisation PACT. He has served as a member of the last two RAE panels. He is author of several books including TV FAQ (2007), Seeing Things (2000) and Visible Fictions (1982), and he published extensively in Screen, Media Culture and Society and other major journals. His work has been highly influential on the development of media and television studies in the UK, USA and Europe.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / Film & Video
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies