BASEES Annual Conference 2022

Animating the Real: Documentary Pedagogy and Experiment in the former Yugoslavia

Fri8  Apr04:20pm(20 mins)


Meghanne Barker


This presentation, based on fieldwork in Croatia and Serbia, investigates apparent tension between the need to assert documentary as a distinct genre while also justifying intervention, manipulation, staging, and even lying. Why do documentary filmmakers/teachers insist on maintaining a distinction between documentary and fiction as essential, yet complicated? How does this relate to the historical play between documentary and experimental film in the region? I examine a masterclass on documentary film in Serbia and the discussions that unfolded there and contextualize it within the history of Yugoslav film, where we can find consistent intermingling of fiction and documentary as a hallmark of experimentation. I argue that one can value indexicality as mediating the real and represented, but without requiring a slavish adherence to realism. This aligns with the expansive understanding documentarians in my field site had regarding the real and represented, in which truths are animated through diverse and surprising means. Documentary film offers a productive ambivalence between the real and the represented. Exploiting uncertainty surrounding this relationship acts as a marker of creativity in fiction and nonfiction film in the former Yugoslavia.