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Film / Autobiography / American Culture


The Autobiographical Documentary in America
Jim Lane

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography

The autobiographical documentary in America from the 1960s to the present

The autobiographical documentary in America from the 1960s to the present
Since the late 1960s, American film and video makers of all genres have been fascinated with themes of self and identity. Though the documentary form is most often used to capture the lives of others, Jim Lane turns his lens on those media makers who document their own lives and identities. He looks at the ways in which autobiographical documentaries
including Roger and Me, Sherman's March, and Silverlake Liferaise weighty questions about American cultural life. What is the role of women in society? What does it mean to die from AIDS? How do race and class play out in our personal lives? What does it mean to be a member of a family? Examining the history, diversity, and theoretical underpinnings of this increasingly popular documentary form, Lane tracks a fundamental transformation of notions of both autobiography and documentary.

"The autobiographical documentary is one of the most significant paths taken by American filmmakers in recent years, and Jim Lane is the ideal person to take on this important subject. A scrupulous film historian with a sophisticated grasp of the theoretical issues raised and addressed by autobiographical documentary films, he is also a gifted filmmaker personally committed to the movement he is studying. He writes with singular authority about films whose aspiration, and achievement, is to be at once subjective and objective."William Rothman, University of Miami, author of The "I" of the Camera

"Analysis of some of the most interesting documentary work of the past three decades. A must-read for anyone studying or making documentary."Julia Lesage, University of Oregon, co-editor of Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media

"Such fine and sustained work on the documentary film as autobiography is way overdue. Exploring the convergences of autobiography and film theory, Jim Lane makes a major contribution to the whole field of autobiographical studies, demonstrating in the process what significant work autobiography does in the history and culture of our time."Susanna Egan, Mirror Talk: Genres of Crisis in Contemporary Autobiography

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography
William L. Andrews, Series Editor

Jim Lane is executive director of the Emerson College, Los Angeles Center. A filmmaker since 1982, his documentaries include Long Time No See, Women of Prague, Background Action, I Am Not an Anthropologist, and East Meets West.

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April 2002

376 pp.     
12 b/w film stills    
6 x 9

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