Exit With Uncertainty: Documentary Film and Experiencing Not Knowing

By Lyell Davies

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An oft-identified pleasure to be drawn from the documentary is that films of this type offer the viewer an opportunity to learn about an aspect of the historical world. Bill Nichols describes this as the attraction of “epistephilia,” a promise that “Knowledge can be ours, its acquisition will afford us pleasure”.[i] Along similar lines, Brian Winston argues that the documentary is popularly valued as a means by which the viewer can judicially examine and develop conclusions regarding the nature of real occurrences, since films of this type are thought to belong within a lineage that encompasses oral interrogation as a feature of a trial or cross-examination, while its mechanically generated images ally it with “pictorial representation as a mode of scientific evidence”.[ii] Often seen as a vehicle for the investigation of pressing contemporary issues, the documentary is also commonly thought to operate as a form of journalistic reportage. Indeed, the beginnings of documentary filmmaking in the 1920s coincide with the assertive promotion of objectivity in journalism as a means to bring social science-like rigor to news reporting through the elevation of objective facts over subjective opinion.[iii] In light of these common ways of considering the documentary, this type of filmmaking is often placed in binary opposition to fiction filmmaking, an approach that “is predicated on the existence of a fact/fiction dichotomy, with documentary on one side, and drama on the other”.[iv]

In truth, in both concept and practice, documentary filmmaking is heterogeneous and “mobilizes no finite inventory of techniques, addresses no set number of issues, and adopts no completely known taxonomy of forms, styles, or modes”.[v] But in the popular imagination, as in the taxonomy of documentaries that are most commonly studied by film scholars, serious-minded documentaries that serve a journalistic, educational, democracy-fostering, justice-advancing, or nation-building function are often presented as the clearest illustration of what documentaries can and should be. To think of the documentary only in terms of films that fit these criteria, or to focus on the connection between documentary viewing and epistephilia, is to ignore that audiences routinely derive other pleasures from documentaries. Indeed, there is a vast catalogue of documentaries that show no sign that they are intended to encourage the sober act of epistephilia on the part of the viewer, whether these be exploitation documentaries, emotion-laden propaganda films, or any of the other types of documentary that have found receptive audiences but are largely overlooked and treated as ‘unwelcome’ in both popular and scholarly thinking about the documentary.

In the present, we can ponder what is it that draws viewers to current high-profile documentaries which, rather than delivering certitude about their truthfulness, withhold from the viewer an ability to know whether or not what they see onscreen is an accurate representation of actual historical events or not. Some of these documentaries, such as Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012) and Radiant City (Gary Burns and Jim Brown, 2006), keep the viewer in a state of uncertainty regarding their truthfulness for much of their screen time, before delivering some form of ‘reveal’ within the film text or through other channels soon after the film’s release, thereby making it clear to the viewer where their truthfulness begins and ends. For instance, the hybrid documentary Radiant City mixes a series of interviews with real urban planning experts with an entirely staged depiction of the day-to-day life of a fictitious suburban family. From early in the film, there are elements that lead the viewer to wonder about the veracity of the family depicted onscreen, but it is not until close to the film’s end that it is conclusively revealed that the Moss family is being performed by actors, albeit ones who draw on their own suburban lives for their onscreen performance. In a similar fashion, viewers of Stories We Tell can see from the film’s end credits that the home movie footage that prominently features in the film is not authentic footage of director Sarah Polley’s family, but instead has been staged for the film with the scenes performed by actors.

Other documentaries, such as Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, 2010) and The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012), offer no such clarity. As with the films mentioned above, Exit Through the Gift Shop withholds from the viewer certainty as to where truth and fiction within it begins or ends, but it offers no final reveal regarding the truthfulness or fakeness of what is seen onscreen. As a film critic pondered in a review of Exit Through the Gift Shop, “Riddle? Yes. Enigma? Sure. Documentary?”[vi] Another commentator writing on the same film immediately prior to the Academy Awards noted, “Exit Through the Gift Shop is undoubtedly the most buzzed-about film in the documentary feature category. But the uncomfortable question persists: Is  it real?”[vii] The U.S. film critic Roger Ebert went to the heart of the matter when he wrote , “The widespread speculation that Exit Through the Gift Shop is a hoax only adds to its fascination”.[viii] In a similar manner, the documentary Catfish (Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, 2010) has been the source of widespread speculation regarding its veracity, and at minimum appears to contain a number of scenes that have been re-staged if not entirely fabricated. In this instance, the directors emphatically argue that the film is not staged, although their assessment may be informed more by the practice of reality television creation than the standards of rigorous nonfiction media production.

Nichols argues that viewers can respond to documentary films in numerous ways, “from curiosity and fascination to pity and charity, from poetic appreciation to anger or rage, from scientific scrutiny to inflamed hysteria,” but these varied responses “all function as modes of engagement with representations of the historical world”.[ix] With films such as Exit Through the Gift Shop and The Act of Killing, something else happens: the viewer is never certain of the veracity of the film they view, or how or whether it relates to the historical world. This indicates that the attraction of these films is not based in epistephilia, but instead derives from an experience of ‘distanzo’, a feeling of wavering doubt or uncertainty, and a state of ‘not knowing for certain’ whether a film can be adequately described as a documentary or not.

There is a robust body of literature examining the various heterogeneous styles adopted by documentary filmmakers, past and present. These range from studies examining works that mimic, are inspired by, or appropriate the conventions of the documentary, such as mockumentaries,[x] docudramas,[xi] documentary style reality television shows,[xii] and self-reflexive or category-defying films that seek to educate the viewer about the operation of the documentary by blurring fact and fiction.[xiii] In this literature it is acknowledged that viewers are drawn to these various types of film by the promise of a variety of experiences. Thus, Alexandra Juhasz argues that fake documentaries are experienced as “a documentary with a twist”, with the ‘twist’ likely to be a key source of pleasure for the viewer.[xiv] But in general, in scholarly literature, the reception of documentary film by actual audiences, and the pleasures that viewers derive from the experience remains unevenly and in many ways inadequately explored. For instance, while useful insight into documentary viewership is provided by scholars who have examined audience reception and cinema,[xv] the important conclusions revealed by sociology and psychology-based media effects literature have not been comprehensively applied to a study of the documentary, or indeed to the cinema in general.[xvi] Countering this omission is not the goal of my study, but in a related way I do seek to both disrupt the common tendency of connecting documentary viewership primarily to pleasures associated with epistephilia, and to propose that the field of documentary film studies can benefit from drawing on media and communication theories developed in the fields of sociology and psychology.  With this end in mind, in this study I argue that contrary to common expectations for the documentary, for the viewer a powerful feature of documentary film viewership can be entering into a state of ‘not knowing’, as seen in the instances of Exit Through the Gift Shop and The Act of Killing.

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP

Following a premiere at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in 2010, Exit Through the Gift Shop was well received by critics and garnered a nomination for an Academy Award in the documentary category. With regard to its formal organization and syntax, Exit Through the Gift Shop is constructed along familiar lines. It depicts a chronology of events in the life in its central character Thierry Guetta, from his introduction to the world of street art and first meetings with leading artists in that arena, to his emergence as an artist in his own right as Mr. Brainwash. The use of point of view shots and a narration by Guetta establishes that this sequence of events is presented from Guetta’s perspective, and the film employs familiar performative elements of the type found in documentaries that are autobiography-rooted such as Blue Vinyl (Judith Helfand and Daniel B. Gold, 2002) and The Brainwashing of My Dad (Jen Senko, 2015), or that  incorporate a significant element of personal disclosure on the part of the filmmaker, such as Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (Kurt Kuenne, 2008) or Stories We Tell. Thus, Exit Through the Gift Shop is in style and syntax similar to other contemporary documentary works, thereby leading us to wonder if Banksy has appropriated familiar features of recently made films to covertly construct a fake documentary .

This was the belief of many commentators and critics who wrote about Exit Through the Gift Shop in the mainstream press or blogosphere. In The Los Angeles Times, investigative reporter Jason Felch argues that the film should be treated with suspicion since it “is anchored by two of the least reliable narrators in memory: Banksy, the anonymous British street artist; and Thierry Guetta, an eccentric French émigré to Los Angeles whose obsessive filming happens to capture the world of high-concept graffiti”.[xvii] In a report that casts doubt on the film’s truthfulness, Felch focuses not on what is seen in the film but instead on examining public records to establish whether or not Guetta is actually a real person. It is unusual to see a documentary film subject examined in this way, but Felch reports that “The details of Guetta’s unlikely biography are broadly supported by a review of public records,” from his arrival in LA in the early 1980s and registration of a Social Security number, to his launching of a vintage clothes shop.[xviii] But Felch cautions, the evidence of Guetta’s biography does not prove “whether his latest incarnation, Mr. Brainwash, is sincere”.[xix]

Writing for the magazine Fast Company, Alissa Walker is unequivocal in arguing that the film is a hoax by Banksy, and offers a range of evidence in support of this conclusion. She states that Mr. Brainwash’s show, which dominates the latter half of Exit Through the Gift Shop, “was an intricate prank being pulled on all of us by Banksy… with [Shepard] Fairey as his accomplice,” with the film taking “that prank one step further”.[xx] Walker argues that Banksy and Fairey convinced Guetta to pose as a “budding graffiti artist wannabe so he and Fairey could ‘direct’ him in real life—manufacturing a brand new persona that both celebrates and criticizes the over-commercialization of street art”.[xxi] In support of this theory she argues that viewers never actually see Guetta create any art.  The artwork itself seems to be manufactured by Banksy’s and Fairey’s artmaking teams, and Mr. Brainwash’s show is produced by individuals with past involvement in producing Banksy show or supporting Fairey’s arts and culture magazine Swindle.[xxii] Turning to the film’s narrative, Walker argues that the events seen onscreen are far-fetched: the central premise of Guetta’s relationship with Banksy and Fairey is that the artists were grateful to have someone videotape their nighttime street art activities, but “neither artist has ever had a problem attracting would-be documentarians,” and there’s “plenty of footage (even in the movie) of Banksy’s own people documenting him working on walls in the West Bank, before he ever met Guetta”.[xxiii] Capping off these fabrications, Walker argues that viewers of the film are “spoonfed bizarre, effusive comments… about how famous Mr. Brainwash is, how his career has totally eclipsed that of Banksy and Fairey”, and Banksy himself is behind these “tongue-in-cheek” comments.[xxiv]

The mystery of the film’s credibility as documentary was sustained by Banksy’s predictably idiosyncratic behavior when the film was exhibited at film festivals. During the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, the artist did not appear for the usual round of press conferences, screenings, or receptions, but his artwork appeared on storefront walls in the town. At the Berlin International Film Festival, the filmmaker cancelled a news conference for the film at short notice, instead presenting a prepared statement by videotape, in which his appearance and voice are disguised in the same way as they are in the film.[xxv] Banksy states that the events seen in the film are not a fabrication, and that the real surprise of the film’s far-fetched storyline is “because every bit of it’s true”.[xxvi] The producer of Exit Through the Gift Shop, Jaimie D’Cruz, affirms Banksy’s statement that neither the film nor Guetta’s career are a fabrication, stating “We wouldn’t be able to create something as extraordinary as the rise of Thierry Guetta … We didn’t have the intent, we didn’t have the inclination to do that, to… stage a prank on the world”.[xxvii] However, these comments by Banksy and others connected to the film have not quelled speculation that the film is a hoax. After all, as Felch argues, Banksy’s claims are “coming from an unidentifiable artist whose work includes titles such as ‘I can’t believe you morons actually buy this …’”.[xxviii]

There is no need here to establish whether the film is a hoax or not, or to identify which features of the narrative could be fake. The key issue is that speculation about the film’s status as a documentary is an integral feature of its reception, both in the public discussion of the film through various media channels, as well as when one is actually viewing it. This indicates that a feature of the viewing pleasure delivered by Exit Through the Gift Shop is not the acquisition of knowledge, but rather the uncertainties the film proposes. Uncertainty can be defined as a condition where there is insufficient information as to whether an event has occurred or will occur, thereby denying the individual the ability to know how to respond to pre-existing conditions or to be able to predict what is to come in the future.[xxix] Psychologists Timothy D. Wilson, David B. Centerbar, Deborah A. Kermer, and Daniel T. Gilbert argue that uncertainty is widely viewed pejoratively, and “Most synonyms of the word uncertainty have decidedly unpleasant connotations, such as doubt and insecurity”.[xxx] Uncertainty, they argue, is a potential source of “debilitating anxieties,” and therefore we seek to eradicate it by gathering facts, forming opinions, and generating theories “in an attempt to transform the unknown into the known—to make the world a bit less puzzling and more predictable by reducing… uncertainty about it”.[xxxi]

 

As one among our society’s “discourses of sobriety”,[xxxii] the documentary often serves as a tool for the rationalization and spread of fact-based knowledge and social or political ideas and norms, all processes that offer explanations and frameworks that can make our lives more predictable. Unlike fiction films, which present novel stories and therefore invite continuous speculation on the part of the viewer as to what will happen next or how the narrative will end, the documentary commonly operates as a closing-off of uncertainty as rational explanations are delivered over the course of their progress. Thus, the documentary can serve as a communication medium that provides order and makes the world more predictable, and like other actions that displace uncertainty, “the cost is that a predictable world sometimes seems less delicious, less exciting, less poignant”.[xxxiii] Indeed, Wilson, Centerbar, Kermer, and Gilbert proffer the term “pleasure paradox” to highlight how events that are predictable in their outcome “evoke less intense emotions than unpredictable events, which means that the reduction of uncertainty can entail the reduction of pleasure”.[xxxiv] An interesting feature of the research conducted by these psychologists is that their conclusions are based on studies involving film viewership. In one such study, a sampling of “participants watched a pleasurable movie based on a true story and were then provided with two possible accounts of what happened to the main character after the movie was made. Participants who remained in this state of uncertainty were in a good mood for significantly longer than participants who were told either that the first or second account was true.”[xxxv] This led the researchers to conclude, “If people understood the pleasure paradox, they might make conscious decisions about how to manage their emotions… People might opt to remain uncertain about pleasurable events by, for example, not watching the last few minutes of a movie that they know will have a happy ending”.[xxxvi]

The pleasure associated with uncertainty is well known in relation to the fiction film, where the plot twists of thrillers or detective stories  bring to the fore this experience. But pleasures of this kind get less attention with regard to the study of the documentary, despite the presence of detective story-like investigative documentaries or drama-laden documentaries that withhold knowledge of how they will end until their final moments. With regard to Exit Through the Gift Shop we can further add that the film’s pleasingly upbeat tenor, humor, and rebellious spirit is amplified for the audience by post-screening feelings of uncertainty as to the nature of what has been viewed. In psychology, the “uncertainty intensification hypothesis”, proposes that uncertainty makes unpleasant events more unpleasant than they would be if uncertainty were not present.[xxxvii] While this hypothesis is commonly accepted, Yoav Bar-Anan, Timothy D. Wilson and Daniel T. Gilbert argue that uncertainty can also make “pleasant events more pleasant”.[xxxviii] Here it is likely that the pleasure associated with viewing Guetta’s idiosyncratic antics and Banksy’s beguiling trickery in Exit Through the Gift Shop is amplified by the uncertainty of not knowing where truth or fiction begins or ends in the film.

UNCERTAINTY AS DISCOMFORT

In counterpoint to the uncertainty generated by Exit Through the Gift Shop is the experience of viewing the controversial award-winning documentary The Act of Killing, a film that orchestrates feelings of uncertainty on the part of the viewer towards a very different outcome. In The Act of Killing, perpetrators of Indonesia’s 1965-66 mass killings of ethnic Chinese and others identified as communist sympathizers describe their actions and recreate for the camera a series of vignettes depicting how they carried out the killings. These unlikely documentary subjects offer little more than an occasional nod to doubt or remorse for the killings they carried out, crimes for which they still have impunity, since they are supported by Indonesia’s present-day paramilitary organizations and political leadership. The film’s most prominent character, Anwar Congo, a repellant but charismatic petty criminal who became the leader of the most powerful death squad in Northern Sumatra, is thought to have personally killed hundreds of people. Writing on The Act of Killing for The Guardian, Nick Fraser states, “I don’t feel we want to be doing this. It feels wrong and it certainly looks wrong to me. Something has gone missing here. How badly do we want to hear from these people, after all? Wouldn’t it be better if we were told something about the individuals whose lives they took?”[xxxix] He adds, the film does not “enhance our knowledge of the 1960s Indonesian killings… I feel that no one should be asked to sit through repeated demonstrations of the art of garrotting. Instead of an investigation, or indeed a genuine recreation, we’ve ended somewhere else—in a high-minded snuff movie”.[xl]

In The Act of Killing, the viewer is denied a distanced viewing position from which the actions and testimony of those seen onscreen can be kept at arm’s length and judged with neat certainty. The film seems not to occupy any moral or judicial high ground, and instead the killers themselves, in some instances with glee, appear to direct the film as they reenact the murders they committed. On The Act of Killing, Nichols writes: “Here is a film that confounds the mind,” creating a state of “befuddlement” as “a clear distinction between fictional and documentary representation fails to materialize, followed by our mind-boggling astonishment at the casual embrace of the killers and their paramilitary cohort by the current government”.[xli] This experience is heightened since  “Oppenheimer chooses not to clearly indicate where reenactment, fantasy, and social reality diverge”.[xlii] The perplexing experience of viewing The Act of Killing bears similarity to viewing Luis Buñuel’s surrealism-inspired ethnographic documentary Las Hurdes (1933). Depicting conditions in the impoverished Las Hurdes region of northern Spain, Buñuel’s film shocks the viewer “because its antihumanism allows no position from which to judge; there appears to be no ethical perspective within the film… no comfortable subject position”.[xliii] When challenged over whether The Act of Killing should be thought of as a documentary, documentary maker Errol Morris—who served as one of the film’s executive producers—responded, “Of course it’s a documentary… Documentary is not about form, a set of rules that are either followed or not, it’s an investigation into the nature of the real world, into what people thought and why they thought what they thought”.[xliv] Filmmaker Werner Herzog, another of the film’s executive directors, argues that without the inclusion of the scenes scripted by the death squad members “you would end up with a self-righteous, mediocre film you would see on television”.[xlv]

While the onscreen film text of The Act of Killing withholds much from the viewer, it is likely that many viewers will go to other sources for information about a film, either before or after watching it, and in this way some of their befuddlement will be allayed. On the film’s website, director Oppenheimer reveals the intent of his filmmaking in Indonesia, including describing his involvement in an earlier film, The Globalization Tapes (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2003), which was made with the participation of Indonesian workers’ organizations and presents the experience of those who suffered at the hands of the death squad members seen in The Act of Killing. Thus, as Nichols observes, the film’s web-based materials “provide the moral and political orientation the film withholds. It is as if Oppenheimer knows full well what we want and need to know but withholds it to thrust us into a more visceral, perturbed state of reception”.[xlvi] Indeed, the information presented through these other channels does not fully resolve for the viewer where truth or fiction lie in The Act of Killing, since the authenticity or significance of some scenes, such as the one that appears to depict Congo physically retching as he reflects on the murders he committed, is still not elucidated for the viewer. Nor do these extra-textual materials inoculate the viewer from being positioned as a partial accomplice to the present-day filmmaking of the death squad members, as they engage in staging and memorializing their past actions for the camera and viewer.

The Act of Killing blasts apart our expectation of the social documentary, a practice of filmmaking that commonly leans towards the circulation of earnest depictions of social problems, while employing voice-over commentary or the testimony of sober-minded experts in order to maintain a clear stance of moral probity. Writing in the 1920s on the need for objective news reporting, Walter Lippman argued that journalists should be “patient and fearless men of science who have labored to see what the world really is,” while possessing “a keen understanding of the quantitative importance of particular facts”.[xlvii] Belief in the importance of objectivity was an effort to encourage the masses to make decisions based on factual evidence, rather than be swayed by the whims of subjective opinion, and to strengthen democracy by countering the threat posed to it by propaganda.[xlviii] Similar social science-inflected positivist thinking underwrites our expectations for documentary filmmaking, where, as objective reporters on real events, documentarians are expected to deliver clear-cut truths, particularly those that seem likely to lead to social progress. In contrast to these expectations, Oppenheimer seems to abandon his responsibilities as a director by allowing murderers to use the documentary put before us for their own propaganda purposes as they seek to reaffirm in the present that their past actions were admirable and justified.

From the viewer’s perspective the experience of viewing The Act of Killing is a disorienting and distressing one, and the film “confounds the mind and unnerves the body; it throws our sense of certainty into question”.[xlix] In contrast to the prolonged pleasure that is sustained by the uncertainty generated by viewing Exit Through the Gift Shop, the uncertainty that accompanies viewing The Act of Killing promotes feelings of discomfort. By withholding from the viewer certainty with regard to the veracity of what is seen onscreen, as well as assurance that the viewer and the film’s director occupy a moral high ground vis-à-vis the murderous subjects, Oppenheimer harnesses uncertainty to make his film indigestible for the viewer. The uncertainty that the viewer experiences when viewing The Act of Killing, to again employ the “uncertainty intensification hypothesis”, makes unpleasant events more unpleasant than they would be without uncertainty.[l] Indeed there are signs that this indigestibility is a source of the film’s strength as a politically committed documentary, and since its release the film has successfully added momentum to demands inside and beyond Indonesia that the bloodbath of the 1960s be recognized and justice delivered for its victims, including an acknowledgement that the killings took place with de facto approval from the U.S. government.[li]

CONCLUSION

Films that create uncertainty for the viewer are not a new turn in documentary filmmaking and there are many examples of “experimental documentary made by graduates of art schools or university-based film or visual anthropology programs… in service of a theoretically savvy poststructuralist or postcolonial critique”,[lii] or in order to “educate viewers about the uncertain links among objectivity, knowledge, and power”.[liii] But the theatrical distribution of Exit Through the Gift Shop and The Act of Killing, as well as the widespread circulation of these two films through video-on-demand services and on DVD, illustrates a mainstreaming of work that brings to the fore issues of this kind, with the added dimension that neither or these two films ultimately offers a clear-cut lesson about the nature of documentary or the representation of reality. Rather, both remain open and unconcluded. These films underscore that the documentary can deliver to viewers a range of pleasures, or as The Act of Killing illustrates, powerful displeasures. Recognizing this invites us to further explore documentary film beyond the canon as it has commonly been presented in histories and scholarship,[liv] and to direct attention to documentaries that disrupt the idea that the dominant area of documentary film production has been serious and high-minded works that are linked to erudite acts of epistephilia. In addition, drawing attention to the varied experiences that viewers can draw from documentaries allows us to reevaluate the operation of what we can loosely term ‘serious documentaries’, those social documentaries that are commonly seen as archetypal to all documentary making, so as to consider the array of pleasures these films actually deliver for audiences, including pleasures that were not intended or expected by their makers.

Notes

[i] Bill Nichols, Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991), 205.

[ii] Brian Winston, Claiming the Real: The Documentary Film Revisited (London: British Film Institute, 1995), 127.

[iii] Richard Streckfuss, “Objectivity in Journalism: A Search and a Reassessment”, Journalism Quarterly (1990) 67:4, 975.

[iv] Jane Roscoe and Craig High, Faking It: Mock-documentary and the Subversion of Factuality (Manchester & New York: University of Manchester Press, 2001), 7.

[v] Nichols, Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary,12.

[vi] Melena Ryzik, “Riddle? Yes. Enigma? Sure. Documentary?” The New York Times, 14 April 2010. Available online: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/movies/14banksy.html (accessed 25 September 2017).

[vii] Jason Felch, “Getting at the truth of ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’”. The Los Angeles Times, 11 February 2011. Available online: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/22/entertainment/la-et-oscar-exit-20110222 (accessed 25 September 2017).

[viii] Roger Ebert, “Exit Through the Gift Shop”. RogerEbert.com, 28 April 2010. Available online: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/exit-through-the-gift-shop-2010 (accessed 25 September 2010).

[ix] Bill Nichols, Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary, 178.

[x] Jane Roscoe and Craig High, Faking It: Mock-documentary and the Subversion of Factuality, 2001.

[xi] Paget, Derek, No Other Way to Tell It: Dramadoc/Docudrama on Television. Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press, 1998.

[xii] Mark Andrejevic, Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched. Lanham, Boulder, New York, Toronto, Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2004.

Jon Dovey, Freakshow: First Person Media and Factual Television. London: Pluto Press, 2000.

Brenton, Sam, and Reuben Cohen, Shooting People: Adventures in Reality TV. London & New York: Verso, 2003.

[xiii] Alexandra Juhasz, and Jesse Lerner, “Introduction: Phony Definitions and Troubling Taxonomies of the Fake Documentary”. In F is for Phony: Fake Documentary and Truth’s Undoing, edited by Alexandra Juhasz and Jesse Lerner. London and Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006, 1-38.

Bill Nichols, Blurred Boundaries: Questions of Meaning in Contemporary Culture. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994.

[xiv] Ibid 8.

[xv] Janet Staiger, Perverse Spectators: The Practices of Film Reception. New York & London: New York University Press, 2000.

[xvi] Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann (Edit), Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research. Mahwah, New Jersey & London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002.

Hadley Cantril, The Invasion From Mars: A Study in the Psychology of Panic. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947.

Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz, Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History. Cambridge, Mass. & London, England: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Lazarsfeld, Paul F. and Robert K. Merton, “Mass Communication, Popular Taste, and Organized Action”. In Mass Culture: The Popular Arts in America, edited by Bernard Rosenberg & David Manning White. Glencoe: The Press and Falcon’s Wing Press, 1957, 457-473.

[xvii] Jason Felch, “Getting at the truth of ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’”. The Los Angeles Times, 11 February 2011. Available online: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/22/entertainment/la-et-oscar-exit-20110222 (accessed 25 September 2017).

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Alissa Walker, “Here’s Why the Banksy Movie Is a Banksy Prank”. Fast Company, 15 April 2010. Available online: https://www.fastcompany.com/1616365/heres-why-banksy-movie-banksy-prank (accessed 7 October 2017).

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid.

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] Melena Ryzik, “Riddle? Yes. Enigma? Sure. Documentary?” The New York Times, 14 April 2010. Available online: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/movies/14banksy.html (accessed 25 September 2017).

[xxvi] Shelley Leopold, “Banksy Revealed?” LA Weekly, 8 April 2010. Available online: http://www.laweekly.com/arts/banksy-revealed-2164479 (accessed 7 October 2017).

[xxvii] Talk of the Nation, “Banksy’s ‘Exit’ Reveals Street Art Secrets … Sort Of”. National Public Radio, 22 February 2011. Radio broadcast transcript. Available online: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/22/133966402/banksys-exit-reveals-street-art-world-sort-of (accessed 7 October 2017).

[xxviii] Jason Felch, “Getting at the truth of ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’”.

[xxix] F. H. Knight, Risk, uncertainty, and profit. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1921.

[xxx] Timothy D. Wilson, David B. Centerbar, Deborah A. Kermer, and Daniel T. Gilbert, “The Pleasures of Uncertainty: Prolonging Positive Moods in Ways People Do Not Anticipate”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 88:1, 2005, 5.

[xxxi] Ibid, 5.

[xxxii] Bill Nichols, Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary.

[xxxiii] Timothy D. Wilson, David B. Centerbar, Deborah A. Kermer, and Daniel T. Gilbert, “The Pleasures of Uncertainty: Prolonging Positive Moods in Ways People Do Not Anticipate”, 5.

[xxxiv] Ibid, 5.

[xxxv] Yoav Bar-Anan, Timothy D. Wilson and Daniel T. Gilbert, “The Feeling of Uncertainty Intensifies Affective Reactions”. Emotion 9(1), 2009, 123.

[xxxvi] Timothy D. Wilson, David B. Centerbar, Deborah A. Kermer, and Daniel T. Gilbert, “The Pleasures of Uncertainty: Prolonging Positive Moods in Ways People Do Not Anticipate”, 7.

[xxxvii] Yoav Bar-Anan, Timothy D. Wilson and Daniel T. Gilbert, “The Feeling of Uncertainty Intensifies Affective Reactions”, 123.

[xxxviii] Ibid, 123.

[xxxix] Nick Fraser, “The Act of Killing: don’t give an Oscar to this snuff movie”. The Guardian, 22 February 2014. Available online: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/23/act-of-killing-dont-give-oscar-snuff-movie-indonesia (accessed 7 October 2017).

[xl] Ibid.

[xli] Bill Nichols, “Irony, Cruelty, Evil (and a Wink) in The Act of Killing”. Film Quarterly, 67:2, 2013, 25.

[xlii] Ibid, 25.

[xliii] Catherine Russell, “Surrealist Ethnography: Las Hurdes and the Documentary Unconscious”. In F is for Phony: Fake Documentary and Truth’s Undoing, edited by Alexandra Juhasz and Jesse Lerner. London and Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006, 112.

[xliv] Larry Rohter, “A Movie’s Killers Are All Too Real”. The New York Times, 12 July 2013. Available online: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/movies/the-act-of-killing-and-indonesian-death-squads.html (accessed 7 October 2017).

[xlv] Ibid.

[xlvi] Bill Nichols, “Irony, Cruelty, Evil (and a Wink) in The Act of Killing”, 29.

[xlvii] Richard Streckfuss, “Objectivity in Journalism: A Search and a Reassessment”, 978.

[xlviii] Ibid, 975.

[xlix] Bill Nichols, “Irony, Cruelty, Evil (and a Wink) in The Act of Killing”, 28.

[l] Yoav Bar-Anan, Timothy D. Wilson and Daniel T. Gilbert, “The Feeling of Uncertainty Intensifies Affective Reactions”, 123.

[li] Hannah Beech, “U.S. Stood by as Indonesia Killed a Half-Million People, Papers Show”. The New York Times, 18 October 2017. Available online: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/18/world/asia/indonesia-cables-communist-massacres.html (accessed 18 October 2017).

[lii] Alexandra Juhasz and Jesse Lerner, “Introduction: Phony Definitions and Troubling Taxonomies of the Fake Documentary”, 21.

[liii] Ibid, 12.

[liv] Erik Barnouw, Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974.

Jack C. Ellis and Betsy A. McLane. A New History of Documentary Film. New York & London: Continuum, 2005.

Notes on Contributor:

Lyell Davies teaches cinema and media studies at The City University of New York. His research explores documentary cinema and communication rights activism, and his documentaries have aired on US public television and screened at film festivals around the world.

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