Radical Documentary and Global Crises
Militant Evidence in the Digital Age
Published by: Indiana University Press
When independent filmmakers, activists, and amateurs document the struggle for rights, representation, and revolution, they instrumentalize images by advocating for a particular outcome. Ryan Watson calls this "militant evidence."
In Radical Documentary and Global Crises, Watson centers the discussion on extreme conflict, such as the Iraq War, the occupation of Palestine, the war in Syria, mass incarceration in the United States, and child soldier conscription in the Congo. Under these conditions, artists and activists aspire to document, archive, witness, and testify. The result is a set of practices that turn documentary media toward a commitment to feature and privilege the media made by the people living through the terror. This footage is then combined with new digitally archived images, stories, and testimonials to impact specific social and political situations.
Radical Documentary and Global Crises re-orients definitions of what a documentary is, how it functions, how it circulates, and how its effect is measured, arguing that militant evidence has the power to expose, to amass, and to adjudicate.
Introduction: Radical Documentary, Global Crises, and Militant Evidence
1. Digital Active Witnesses and the Limits of Visible Evidence
2. Prisons, Palestine, and Interactive Documentary
3. Amateur Counter-Archives in Iraq
4. Syria and Abounaddara
Conclusion: Militant Evidence and the Future of Radical Documentary
"This notion of instrumentalizing images [in Radical Documentary and Global Crises] is highly original, as it situates the question of documentary at the fulcrum of conflict, people, place, and justice, rather than simply on the level of artistic complexity."~Patricia R. Zimmermann, author of Documentary Across Platforms
"Technicist hype aside, there is a new agenda emerging in documentary film studies and it is grounded in digital's most significant affordance—its accessibility. And nowhere does this development more profoundly resonate than on the radical non-fiction film tradition. Radical Documentary and Global Crises connects a number of current carefully distinguished deployments of documentary media in the service of social activism with a century of engagé filmmaking going back to Vertov, Shub, and Ivens, through the Leagues and Collectives to WITNESS and this global sample of 'militant evidence.' Ryan Watson is to be thanked for providing so clear a signpost to this crucial agenda item."~Brian Winston, University of Lincoln
"Ryan Watson's book is a compelling study of documentary filmmaking from below. Historically informed and theoretically sophisticated, his analysis connects exciting new initiatives from around the world with a long history of radical filmmaking to arrive at a surprisingly hopeful assessment of the role of radical documentary filmmaking in the future."~Nadia Yaqub, author of Palestinian Cinema in the Days of Revolution
"Radical Documentary and Global Crisis feels both like a much-needed acknowledgment of the significant work so many activist filmmakers have put forth in the modern age and at the same time, a call for more activist, "radical" filmmaking in the coming years as generations will continue to have more and more access to potentially liberating force of documentary film."~Michael T. Barry Jr., Activist History Review
"Addressing ongoing contradictions of the digital age, Radical Documentary and Global Crises explores the productive mobilization of an often-overwhelming proliferation of digital evidence; how traumatic imagery can generate political fervor rather than anaesthetize affect; and how to mobilize against a rash of human rights abuses that cannot be readily – or equitably – perceived globally. And like any good radical documentary, Watson's book lights a fire in the belly of its reader. Radical Documentary and Global Crises will be of interest to scholars of documentary film, activist media, nontheatrical media, new media, and global media cultures, as well as journalists, lawyers, policy-makers, and anyone concerned with the political potential of cellphone cameras."~Madison Brown, Northwestern University, Studies in Documentary Film