The central question in this book is how and why many French documentary films in the past twenty years counter the common caricature of documentary as a dry form of expository cinema and instead take the viewer inside an experience of space and place. The introduction first presents the overall argument, that the films in the book demonstrate a variety of approaches to the production of viewer experience. They invite viewers, assumed to be embodied and active, to “feel” space, as if they were near the filmed subjects, through a perceptual process that integrates mind and body. This suggestion that the viewer feel a co-presence in the film space implies a repositioning that is both esthetic and political and opens the potential for equality and interrelationship among viewer, filmmaker, and the subjects in the film. The first part of the introduction defines the concepts and presuppositions that underpin the argument, identifies the theoretical currents on which they draw, and explains how they are used throughout the book. The second part explains the rationale for the interdisciplinary approach at work in the chapters, as well as for film selection and chapter organization.
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