The Cinematic Boundaries of the Believable

By Mauro Sassi.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The Belgian fiction movie “C’est arrivé près de chez vous” pretends to be (and looks like) a documentary about Ben, a serial killer; one of the consequences of this stylistic choice is that the movie asks the spectator to believe that the murders on screen could actually be real ones, involving real people in the outside world. Can a spectator believe such a cinematic statement? In other words, can a fiction movie really look like a documentary and present itself as a non-fiction movie? And on the other side, can a non-fiction movie show outrageous realities and be believed? What are the cinematic boundaries of the believable? Starting from Alexandra Juhasz’s definition of fake documentaries and from Allan Casebier’s phenomenology of film, I consider how fake documentaries pose some questions about the spectator’s perception of a reality through the cinematic medium and how they shake the norms that constitute our horizons, forcing us to enjoy a different perspective on a topic.

Keywords: Documentary, Film Phenomenology, Cognitivism, Man Bites Dog, Fake documentaries

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.173-180. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 919.227KB).

Mauro Sassi

PhD Candidate/Lecturer, Department of Italian Studies, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

I worked as a story editor and adjunct Professor of TV scriptwriting in Italy before coming to Canada in 2007. I’m currently a Ph.D. candidate at McGill University and my research field is contemporary documentary. I published on TV scriptwriting and I was chair of a Master course on story editing and scriptwriting at the University of Turin, Italy. I co-founded the “Affabula Readings” program, a no profit initiative that still supports and promotes young Italian scriptwriters, through a magazine publication and professional consulting.