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Since Robert Flaherty's landmark film Nanook of the North (1922) arguments have raged over whether or not film records of people and traditions can ever be "authentic." And yet never before has a single volume combined documentary, ethnographic, and folkloristic filmmaking to explore this controversy.

What happens when we turn the camera on ourselves? This question has long plagued documentary filmmakers concerned with issues of reflexivity, subject participation, and self-consciousness. Documenting Ourselves includes interviews with filmmakers Les Blank, Pat Ferrero, Jorge Preloran, Bill Ferris, and others, who discuss the ways their own productions and subjects have influenced them. Sharon Sherman examines the history of documentary films and discusses current theiroeis and techniques of folklore and fieldwork.

But Sharon Sherman does not limit herself to the problems faced by filmmakers today. She examines the history of documentary films, tracing them from their origins as a means of capturing human motion through the emergence of various film styles. She also discusses current theories and techniques of folklore and fieldwork, concluding that advances in video technology have made the camcorder an essential tool that has the potential to redefine the nature of the documentary itself.

Sharon R. Sherman, director of the folklore program and professor of English at the University of Oregon, is an accomplished filmmaker with more than twenty years of experience in the field and in teaching film and folklore.

"Sherman's fine book traces the documentary tradition and is a major contribution to our appreciation of how film and video deepens our understanding of the human experience."—Bill Ferris, Director, Center for the Study of Southern Culture

"A brilliant study of a new documentary genre. . . . This book has three effects on the reader: one craves seeing the films she discusses; one finds it impossible to teach a documentary film course again without a representation of folkloric film; and one feels more optimistic about technology."—Choice

"A vision of modern folklore studies on film which is collaborative, engaged and which celebrates the local, even as it documents and participates."—Times Literary Supplement

"Throughout the book there are thoughtful, insightful observations about the epistemological, social, and moral dimensions of making films about culture, and it is worth reading for those and for the interviews."—Western Folklore

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Documentary films, Folklore and films, Folklore and movies


Film and Media Studies

Documenting Ourselves: Film, Video, and Culture
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