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STEREOTYPES AND ETHICS IN DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING

presentation by Oana Ivan, PhD

Friday, 10.09.2021, 10:00h, Room "Changes"

Social media has been invaded in the past years with what is called now a world phenomenon of “fake news” and dramatic distortion of the “truth”. But what about documentary film?


This is a visual anthropology presentation of a very brief history of documentary filmmaking, discussing some ideas that have been present ever since the first moving pictures and still shape the visual productions up to this day.

Subjectivity and objectivity: whose “truth” is presented in the film and how? In the early 1920s, the local people were mostly presented by the Western European filmmakers as “savages and exotic”. How they are seen today? What changed over the past decades?

Ethics: ever since the dawn of filmmaking, it has been obvious that “having a camera”=”having the power” of representation. How do we use this power? Besides complying with general rules of ethics, how can we film “the other” without turning their lives upside down and triggering unintended, but possibly harmful consequences?

By means of examples from the history of documentary filmmaking, this presentation invites the audience to an open discussion on subjectivity, cultural and visual stereotypes and professional ethics.

OANA IVAN is assistant professor at “Documentary filmmaking” master program at Faculty of Theatre and Film, Babes-Bolyai, Cluj Napoca. She teaches classes of anthropology and visual anthropology, while she collaborates on various projects with National Geographic, World Bank and academic institutions.

Oana Ivan made a documentary film about the fishermen’s life in the Danube Delta, participating to their daily activities and filming their lives over a period of 7 years. “Vieti intre ape” (Lives among Waters) 2016

The poster for the documentary film “Les mangeurs d’homme” (The man eaters) by Andre-Paul Antoine and Robert Lugeon (1930): the first ethnographic film hoax

Oana Ivan fishing with the locals of Danube Delta, while filming for her documentary

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