Docs + Social Justice: Focus on Race + Representation

A mode of representation defined by its relationship to reality, documentary has a troubled history in connection with race and racism. It is a genre that for a number of reasons is tightly bound-up with science, and developed alongside, and as evidence for, racial pseudo-science. From the motion studies of Félix-Louis Regnault to the commercial ethnography of Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North, the first documentaries were tethered to racial pseudo-science and early, racist forms of ethnography that were used to bolster and justify the colonial project. At the same time, documentary films have also long been concerned with progressive social values, and are frequently used as a way to explore or uncover the truth of a problem in hopes of spurring political action and/or changing its audience’s perceptions. In the present day, the online archive of documentary evidence of videos of young, black men being murdered by police perform a function that is completely antithetical to the racist purposes of early documentary, while at the same time functioning as evidence, as an inscription of reality that defines this genre of media-making.

Our news page has always attended to the impact SDFF films and filmmakers have had on the world. But at this pivotal time in which image-making, identity, ideas about truth and their relationships to reality are crucial, we have decided to add a page focused on the relationship between documentary media and social justice. You can find it right here, and it includes the following”

  • News related to our docs that address race and/or social justice
  • Anti-Racist Media Resources
  • Monthly Media Recommendations:
    • Film Selections, including links where available.
    • Film Columns + Media Criticism
  • Documentary Recommendations
  • Growing Reading Lists on a range of topic
  • Links to a curated list of recent criticism about racism, police violence and the media.
  • Relevant film reviews

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