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TRAVERSES #2 / L'éco-documentaire
à l'épreuve de l'anthropocène

Documentaries and environmental catastrophes: Requiem for an inhospitable world

by François Xavier Destors


Throughout the century of the Anthropocene, which is also the century of cinema, documentaries have provided echoes, alerts, testimonies about and records of the tortuous relationship between man and the environment. This article represents a search for images of the Anthropocene depicting the disfiguration of the Earth, the deregulation of nature and the chaos of humanity. It thus provides a necessarily brief and selective overview of the history of documentary films in an attempt to grasp how the genre has shaped the imaginary dimension of ecological catastrophes.

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The eco-documentary and environmental history: possible and desirable encounters and compromises. Thoughts based on the film Ozone Hole: How We Saved the Planet

by Régis Briday


A critical review of the documentary film Ozone Hole: How We Saved the Planet (2018) is the starting point for this article which has three intentions. These are firstly to show that the narrative choices of eco-documentary filmmakers are frequently in conflict with historians' methods and are actually not particularly compatible with the objective of inciting viewers to take political action; secondly to note with regret the very limited use of audiovisual archives in the field of environmental history; and finally to build bridges between ecodocumentary filmmakers and historians.

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Ozone Hole © Jamie Lockhead.jpeg

Documentaries without documents? Ecocinema and the toxic

by Karl Schoonover


If waste is by definition the material that we do not want to see and abject from our vision, then what about forms of waste which are not visible? What about hazardous materials that photography fails to register or are imperceptible to human vision? In what follows, I consider how the formal means by which these films return garbage to our gaze often fails to capture the toxic. Does the realist imperative to photographically reveal the world do more to obscure than to document humanity’s most menacing waste?

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From fiction to documentary: The toxic sublime as an aesthetic of the Anthropocene

by Alfonso Pinto


What do a detective series and an environmental documentary film have in common? The answer might surprise you. It is aesthetics, an aesthetics of the Anthropocene, which is anticipated, so to speak, in the drama production and used deliberately and extensively in the environmental documentary film. But aesthetics implies experience, that is a sensible knowledge linked to our ways of ‘experiencing’ the spatiotemporal connections that govern
our relationship to the world. The experience of the Anthropocene seems to have a very precise connotation. It is above all an experience of the sublime.

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A Call to Arms : Documentary and Climate change

by Angi Buettner


This article discusses the contribution of climate change documentary to popular culture discursive production. It argues that in order to evaluate the potential effectiveness of documentary in the communication, debate, or possibly even activism on climate change, media and cultural studies need to develop research questions and methodologies that take into account the genres, logics and imperatives of popular culture.

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Chasing Ice © James Balog.jpeg

Eco-documentaries: Cognition, Emotion and Narrative

by Ib Bondebjerg


The main argument of the article is that eco-docs like all other docs often use and benefit from a combination of rhetorical, narrative and visual strategies, and that the relation between reason and emotions play a central role in documentary film and the eco-doc. Seeing, feeling and experiencing reality is just as important as arguments and documentation.

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Megacities _ Michael Glawogger.jpeg

Food Documentaries and Green Anxieties: Actively Promoting
Environmental Literacy. A Case Study reading of Food Inc. (2008) Cowspiracy (2014) and Our Daily Bread (2005)

by Pat Brereton


This paper will explore how popular and long established environmental documentaries through their use of direct address and creative aesthetics and imaginaries foreground a range of cautionary tales that speak to the environmental importance of food production, waste, and (over)consumption. Environmental documentaries can play an important role in promoting a tipping point towards supporting a more sustainable, even organic mode of food production. But as will be demonstrated in this paper, some aesthetic and narrative strategies appear more successful than others in imagining this transformation.

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In search of lost blue: Landscapes in Jia Zhangke's documentaries

by Camilo Soares


In his latest documentary Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue, the Chinese director Jia Zhangke has again confirmed the subtlety of his writing for cinema by creating an assembly
of the lives and works of writers from different generations, the history of the People's Republic of China and an expression of landscapes. The filmmaker combines an economy of means and formal simplicity to create a dialogue with his own filmography while constructing a dialectical filmic space and an intimate temporality. This documentary thus cross-references distinct creative languages like those of cinema, literature, calligraphy and painting, basing itself on aesthetic tradition to construct a plural approach to the complexity of present-day China

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Guanzhu, A new era, Conversation with Boris Svartzman

by François-Xavier Destors


In 2004, the village of Guanzhu, located on a river island on the outskirts of Canton, was requisitioned to make way for an ‘Ecological Park’, a project that was finally replaced by a luxury urban development one. For more than seven years, Franco-Argentinian photographer Boris Svartzman has followed its residents facing the expulsion and destruction of their own traditional practices and legacies. This is the subject of his first documentary film, Guanzhu, a new era, an ode to local resistance in the face of China's hyper-urbanization.

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A Cinema of Living-ness. Images for searching, striving, making, healing, thinking, always

by Caroline Parietti & Cyprien Ponson


In Sarawak (Borneo), “the ones who live upstream” are among the first affected by deforestation. The Penan, (ex) nomadic hunters, are caught in the eye of that storm : how to
go on living when one’s entire world is being taken apart, when the landscape, which brought means and meaning to existence, literally disappears ? The film, carried by the song of those who refuse to give in, draws the lines of resistance of each one to that deadly fight. It tells of the intimate interweaving of a sweet and secret way of life with the fight which rages in the shadow of the big trees. BE’ JAM BE is a film-forest, a cry for action, a theatre of shadows told in the penan language and set within the deepest jungles of Borneo, from the midst of which the incantational song of the invisibles emerges.

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