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Once hailed as a radical breakthrough in documentary and ethnographic filmmaking, observational cinema has been criticized for a supposedly detached camera that objectifies and dehumanizes the subjects of its gaze. Anna Grimshaw and Amanda Ravetz provide the first critical history and in-depth appraisal of this movement, examining key works, filmmakers, and theorists, from André Bazin and the Italian neorealists, to American documentary films of the 1960s, to extended discussions of the ethnographic films of Herb Di Gioia, David Hancock, and David MacDougall. The authors make a new case for the importance of observational work in an emerging experimental anthropology, arguing that this medium exemplifies a nontextual anthropology that is both analytically rigorous and epistemologically challenging.
1 What Is Observational Cinema? 3
2 Social Observers: Robert Drew, Albert and David Maysles, Frederick Wiseman 24
3 Observational Cinema in the Making: The Work of Herb Di Gioia and David Hancock 53
4 Observational Cinema on the Move: The Work of David MacDougall 79
5 Rethinking Observational Cinema 113
6 Toward an Experimental Anthropology 137