In and out of this world: Digital video and the aesthetics of realism in the new hybrid documentary

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Digital technology, often perceived as complicating evidential claims about documentary representations, has been playing a significant role lately in formulating new aesthetic grounds for the long-lasting hybridity formed between fact and fiction in the genre. It has been doing so by cultivating a style of constructed camcorder realism, utilizing the technology’s immediacy and intimacy predicated upon the digital look in its various connotations of authenticity and credibility. This article discusses the ways by which digital cinematography contributes to the challenging interplay between reality and fiction in the new hybrid documentary form. Focusing on several unclassifiable blends of document and story shot on digital video (DV) and other hand-held cameras – Michael Winterbottom’s In This World (2002), Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten (2002), and Hany Abu-Assad’s Ford Transit (2002) – it accounts for how technologically oriented aesthetic variations become signifiers of an artificial generic distinction, and raise questions and concerns about the manufacturing of truth in documentaries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-45
Number of pages13
JournalStudies in Documentary Film
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Digital video
  • Hybrid documentary
  • Indexicality
  • Realism
  • Technology
  • Truth


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