Psychoanalysis and Ethics in Documentary Film  book cover
2nd Edition

Psychoanalysis and Ethics in Documentary Film

  • Available for pre-order on May 19, 2023. Item will ship after June 9, 2023
ISBN 9781032335544
June 9, 2023 Forthcoming by Routledge
312 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations

FREE Standard Shipping
USD $48.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

This distinctively interdisciplinary book draws upon psychoanalytic theory to explore how expectations, desires and fears of documentary subjects and filmmakers are engaged, and the ethical issues that can arise as a result.

Original and accessible, the second edition of this ground-breaking book addresses the four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis and documentary film, reviews documentary film practice as a field, provides a personal account of the author’s relationship with a subject of her own work, and presents a thorough interrogation of the ethics of documentary. The updated text includes a new introduction by the author and an additional chapter ‘Stories We Tell’ by Sarah Polley, centered on ethics and the role of the filmmaker in relation to her participants.

Psychoanalysis and Ethics in Documentary Film has already been used widely and is crucial reading for film studies scholars, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists and psychotherapeutically engaged professionals, as well as filmmakers, culture studies students and anyone interested in the process of documentary-making and contemporary culture.

Table of Contents

Introduction  1. Cinema and Psychoanalysis: A Brief Overview  2. Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis and Documentary Film  3. Documentary Film: A Discourse of Desire  4. Documentary as Interpellation  5. The Conman and I: A Study in Transference  6. The Ethics of Documentary  7. The Ethics - What Ethics?  8. The Horror of the Doppelganger  9. Filmmaker as Deceiver in Stories We Tell  10. Final Concluding Remarks

View More



Agnieszka Piotrowska, PhD, is an award-winning BBC trained filmmaker and a theorist. She is a Reader in Film at SODA, Manchester School of Art, and a Visiting Professor in Film and Cultural Studies at the University of Gdansk, Poland. She is a Former Head of the School for Film, Media, and the performing Arts at the University for the Creative Arts.


'First published in 2014, Psychoanalysis and Ethics in Documentary Film continues to be a key text for documentary studies and more widely for film studies, as well as media and cultural studies, through its sustained and wide-ranging study of the ethical in film practice. Drawing on the work of Butler, Lévinas, Badiou, Žižek, and Freud, but in particular the work of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, Piotrowski explores her central concern of the ethical in documentary film practice, focussing on the interview as an emotional and ethical encounter between filmmaker and interviewee/participant. She develops philosophical and psychoanalytical analyses that are made vivid through her discussion of her own professional filmmaking experience and her examination of a wide range of other films, and now in this second edition, examining a number of new films. The book provides a highly compelling argument for film makers, and for all of those involved in representational practice, to attend to ethics in their work. Its analyses and arguments provide an engaging study that remains centrally relevant in exploring and redefining key debates, taking forward our understanding of film, subjectivity and research. The highly thoughtful and illuminating analyses will be of interest to film scholars, psychoanalysts and those working in the broader field of cultural studies.'

Elizabeth Cowie, Professor of Film Studies, University of Kent, UK

'It is the considerable contribution of Piotrowska to have understood just how much can be at stake for any filmmaker/subject encounter in the documentary field. After all, lives are being narrated, bodies represented, trust gained and confidences shared. In this fascinating volume, Piotrowska dares to suggest that this scenario and the depths of the soul and psyche it touches are not so far afield from that which obtains in the analytic setting: the unconscious desires define the encounter. Here she evokes the Lacanian construct – le sujet supposé savoir – the subject supposed to know… It is Piotrowska’s bold claim that such a love may also ensue between the filmmaker and her subject. In the most dramatic section of this book, Piotrowska in fact takes us through one such encounter via her film about a conman. A filmmaker’s production diary is transformed into a case study exploring the shared intimacies, emotional revelations and false promises of a love affair – or analysis – gone awry. Particularly given the role that disparities of age, gender and power play in this relationship (Piotrowska is the younger female who wields the camera), it is as though Dora and Freud are writing as collaborators who occasionally shift places on the couch. It is a dizzying display, juicy of course but also deeply insightful for what it has to tell us about the psychic dynamics potential to any documentary production… I leave you with Agnieszka Piotrowska’s radical and compelling account believing that it has introduced something new, important and no doubt controversial to the documentary studies arena.'

Michael Renov, Professor of Critical Studies and Documentary, University of Southern California, USA