What we call ‘documentary’ emerged in the 1920s and 1930s in response to a perceived crisis of liberal democracy, as a mode of factual representation which empowers citizens to participate in the political process. As the last months have shown, the willingness or unwillingness of citizens to comply with policy makers have crucial effects.
How does documentary respond to what has been widely diagnosed as the current crisis of democracy? What could be an adequate reaction in forms, themes and modes of production, to the return to nationalism and other forms of political tribalism in the face of global migration? In what ways does documentary shape our perceptions of the consequences of globalization, from climate change, health crisis, to the transformation of the economy? And how can documentary in theory and practice contribute to defend the spaces and modes of deliberation necessary for the life of democracy?
Visible Evidence, the international conference on documentary film and media, now in its 27th installment, will be hosted by the Institute for Theatre, Film and Media Studies (TFM) at Goethe University, Frankfurt in collaboration with Künstlerhaus Mousonturm and DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum. Designed as a public event in collaboration with the city’s leading cultural institutions, the conference makes a conscious nod towards documentary history as an instrument of public opinion. The notion of crisis, a thread weaved through the history of documentary, and in light of current affairs seems ever more pertinent, calls for new political, formal and social possibilities that consolidate and expand documentary’s role as a space for representation and democratic deliberation. These new possibilities are explored in a dialogue between theory and practice.