Lists with This Book. Mock-documentary and the Subversion of Factuality. Jane RoscoeCraig Hight. Building a mock-documentary schema 5. This book offers the first major study of mock-documentary. As previous writers have pointed out, with increasing challenges to the realist, empiricist model of modernity, faith in the camera as a scientific instrument, and the image as scientific evidence, is undermined.
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Manchester: Manchester University Press. In this book they set out to produce a theory of mock-documentary and in the process productively traverse a range of developments in recent documentary theory. Indeed, in setting the context for its development, they provide much that is of value to readers who may not have a specific interest in mock-documentary. In particular I have recommended the first two chapters to students seeking an introduction to contemporary debates in documentary theory.
For the authors a mock-documentary is a fictional film or television text which mimics the visual and aural conventions of the documentary in order to challenge the very foundations and privileged status of the documentary form.
Any attempt to construct and theorise a new form needs to make distinctions between that form and others which might appear to be similar, to analyse the contextual factors which have supported the emergence of the form, including the tracing of a genealogy, and to analyse key examples.
In this comprehensive discussion Roscoe and Hight do all of these things. However, as they point out, indexicality can be faked. They begin their argument by establishing what they mean by factual discourse, its assumptions and expectations and the tensions in what they call the genre of documentary. One of the problems with referring to documentary as a genre is the inherent tendency to generalise and to homogenise, a danger evident in the otherwise valuable discussion of the conventions of documentary.
As previous writers have pointed out, with increasing challenges to the realist, empiricist model of modernity, faith in the camera as a scientific instrument, and the image as scientific evidence, is undermined. While the authors point to the challenge from post-modern theorists such as Lyotard and Baudrillard to the foundational discourses of documentary, they also recognise the role of television in shifts in documentary practice and reception: the development of new, often hybrid, forms and of new audience positions.
What they do provide is a popularisation of factual discourse and a valuing of non-expert discourses no doubt in less reflexive and critical ways. Like Bill Nichols the authors apply a tripartite approach to documentary based on analysis of production, texts and audience consumption, also applying this to their discussion of mock-documentary. Chapters four, six, seven, and eight set out to establish and then detail a mock-documentary schema based on the three degrees of parody, critique and hoax, and deconstruction.
The three key issues in this discussion revolve around the intentions of the filmmaker, the range of textual strategies deployed and the role being constructed for the audience by the text. The analyses of individual texts exhibit obvious enthusiasm on the part of the authors, making those sections of the book an easy and enjoyable read, which will be an important issue with students who may use the book.
As the authors recognise, there is still a need for more systematic research into audience reception of mock-documentary. Whether or not this will occur depends, at least partly, on the future of mock-documentary, and whether or not it turns out to have been a fleeting phenomenon or one which continues to develop. Whatever turns out to be the case, this analysis of the form provides a useful discussion of the critique and subversion of factuality provided by mock-documentary which, in itself, is a positive contribution to the developing theorisation of documentary, especially as, in this case, it is presented in a manner accessible to readers with little or no background in documentary theory.
He was a past editor and production manager of Screening the Past.
Faking it : mock-documentary and the subversion of factuality