Review: Screening Reality: How Documentary Filmmakers Reimagined America

Screening Reality: How Documentary Filmmakers Reimagined America Screening Reality: How Documentary Filmmakers Reimagined America by Jon Wilkman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wilkman provides a fascinating look at the role of film in re-presenting reality. The book doesn't focus on the news but rather the realm of documentaries captured video of important events (e.g. Kennedy assassination), reality television as a genre, and ephemeral content since the birth of film.  What's striking about this book is that the average reader might not realize just how much nonfiction video exists and how much they have been exposed to over the years, but by the end of the book, they'll see a much richer web of such content throughout their viewing engagements.  It's a fascinating and thorough piece of work that brings readers up to the election and few years or so of the Trump presidency; making an argument of sorts, directly and indirectly, that our fascination with film and our inability to come to a clear consensus about how it should be used (when driven by personal, professional, and capital interests), has resulted in a dwindling of sorts of video to capture reality and more often, plays a significant role in distorting a reality of consensus.  Given how the few years after the book have played out politically, it feels pretty spot on.  Yet, the book offers more than just a historical analysis of documentary videos.  It highlights a range of key works, significant genres, and major figures that can prove fascinating to learn about and extend one's "to watch" list extensively.  Even more compelling, Wilkman has done his due diligence in research finding innumerable interconnections and useful comparisons as he brings readers through this century-long history.  The end result is readers have a firm understanding of the history, the challenges of the industry, and a sense of the impact of the industry on everyday people.

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