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Documentary Discussions

Non-fiction literacy in a post-truth era

Documentary Discussions creates spaces and opportunities for documentary screenings and conversations. In bringing these discussions to wider audiences, it promotes cultural literacy around non-fiction media.

Understanding what documentary is and what it does has never been more important. In an era of fake news, inflammatory clickbait, conspiracy theories, and politicians dismissing the mainstream media, perceptions of ‘truth’ are increasingly blurred. At the same time, documentary programming like Making a Murderer is taken as evidence, its viewers turned armchair detective, scouring footage for clues and advocating for the innocence (or guilt) of the accused.

Against this backdrop, the project addresses a series of questions including: 

  • What makes a documentary a documentary? Does it include experimentation or hoaxes?
  • What can documentary do?
  • Who are the people who make this happen?

Led by Dr Leshu Torchin, it includes a series of collaborations:

  • The DocSalon at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. This annual event brings together festival programmers, filmmakers, and commissioning editors, on topics such as ‘Documentary in the Age of Fake News’.
  • Docs@TheByre: Celebrating the Cinematic Documentary. Set at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews, this programme brings documentaries to an underserved rural community. The line-up of films emphasises documentary’s creative and cinematic sides, while discussions with the filmmakers take the audience behind the scenes, to learn about the processes of making a story from real life.
  • Popular media: contributions on what a documentary is and does have contributed to popular conversations about documentary, with pieces translated and republished in a Japanese culture magazine, by HuffPost, and by other documentary film festivals as conversation starters such as the Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival and Symposium.