Avant-Doc: Intersections of Documentary and Avant-Garde Cinema


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Scott MacDonald explores the cinematic territory between the traditional categories of "documentary" and "avant-garde" film, through candid, in-depth conversations with filmmakers whose work has challenged these categories. Arranged in an imaginative chronology and written to be accessible to any film-interested reader, the interviews in Avant-Doc chart half a century of thinking by inventive filmmakers such as Robert Gardner, Ed Pincus, Alfred Guzzetti, Ross McElwee, Leonard Retel Helmrich, Michael Glawogger, Susana de Sousa Dias, Jonathan Caouette, Pawel Wojtasik, and Todd Haynes. Recent breakthroughs by Amie Siegel, Jane Gillooly, Jennifer Proctor, Betzy Bromberg, and Godfrey Reggio are discussed; and considerable attention is paid to Harvard's innovative Sensory Ethnography Lab, producer of Sweetgrass, Leviathan, and Manakamana. A rare interview with pioneering scholar Annette Michelson begins Avant-Doc's meta-conversation.


"A compelling achievement, Avant-Doc diagrams a new fluid geography of cinema, where traditional categories such as "experimental," "documentary," and "fiction" dissolve. The insightful, probing conversations assembled so deftly here vaporize fixed cinematic modes. These filmmakers describe cinema as a living organism, pulsating in networks of politics, arts, philosophies, teachers, literature, communities, technologies, and aesthetics." --Patricia R. Zimmermann, author of States of Emergency: Documentaries, Wars, Democracy

"Scott MacDonald's groundbreaking and seminal new volume, Avant-Doc, illuminates correspondences between avant-garde cinema and documentary through a series of compelling interviews with major independent filmmakers and noted scholar Annette Michelson. This intimate and probing follow-up to MacDonald's Critical Cinema series creates a lively and deeply personal oral history. Avant-Doc broadens our understanding of connections between avant-garde and documentary film, while providing a rich treasure trove of research material that current and future scholars will find invaluable." --J.J. Murphy, author of The Black Hole of the Camera: The Films of Andy Warhol 

About the Author

Scott MacDonald teaches film history at Hamilton College and Harvard University. He is the author of several books, most recently, American Ethnographic Film and Personal Documentary.

Table of Contents:
- Introduction
- Annette Michelson
- Robert Gardner
- Ed Pincus (and Jane Pincus, Lucia Small)
- Alfred Guzzetti
- Ross McElwee
- Nina Davenport
- Leonard Retel Helmrich
- Jonathan Caouette
- Pawel Wojtasik
- Michael Glawogger
- Susana de Sousa Dias
- Alexander Olch (on The Windmill Movie)
- Amie Siegel (on DDR/DDR)
- Arthur and Jennifer Smith (on Ice Bears of the Beaufort)
- Betzy Bromberg (on Voluptuous Sleep)
- Jen Proctor (on A Movie by Jen Proctor)
- Jane Gillooly (on Suitcase of Love and Shame)
- Godfrey Reggio (on Visitors)
- Todd Haynes
- Sensory Ethnography
- Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor (on In and Out of Africa and Sweetgrass)
- Lucien Castaing-Taylor (on his installation work and on Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab)
- Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel (on Leviathan)
- Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez (on Manakamana)
- Filmographies
- Bibliographies

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