DOI: 10.5176/2301-3729_JMComm12.106

Authors: Vincent C.A. Crone, Floris Müller

Abstract: As the realist style is increasingly adopted in other (entertainment) formats, the powers of the documentary project to unequivocally represent ‘the truth’ about our society are waning. Yet documentary films continue to be made that apparently seek to suffuse the public sphere with narratives that promote a deeper objective understanding of complex social processes. Such projects now face potentially paralyzing criticisms of the documentary form as ‘just another opinion’ at best and a piece of political propaganda at worst. In this paper, we focus on the makers of documentaries on the controversial topics of immigration and integration and ask: What do film makers do discursively to circumvent these criticisms and regain the documentary authority that afforded the documentary film its unique prerogative to ‘claim the real’? Our analysis of 35 interviews suggests that the authority of the documentary project is supported by three conflicting discursive repertoires that deal respectively with the authenticity, artistry and social impact of the documentary. Differently positioned actors in the production process are able to construct the authenticity of the documentary film in their own preferred way. Furthermore, criticisms of the authority of the documentary voiced in one of these repertoires may be countered through the use of one of the other two.

Keywords: (post)documentary, production, repertoires, multicultural society

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