Utopia and Reality

Documentary, Activism and Imagined Worlds

Editor(s) Simon Spiegel,Andrea Reiter,Marcy Goldberg

Language: English

Genre(s): Media, Film and Theatre

Series: New Dimensions in Science Fiction

  • February 2020 · 304 pages ·216x138mm

  • · Hardback - 9781786835246
  • · eBook - pdf - 9781786835253
  • · eBook - epub - 9781786835260

About The Book

Since publication of Thomas More‘s Utopia more than five hundred years ago, there has been a steady stream of literary works that depict a better world; positive utopias in film, however, have been scarce. There is a consensus that utopias in the Morean tradition are not suited to fiction film, and research has accordingly focused on dystopias. Starting from the insight that utopias are always a critical reaction to the deficits of the present, Utopia and Reality takes a different approach by looking into the under-researched area of propaganda and documentary films for depictions of better worlds. This volume brings together researchers from two fields that have so far seen little exchange – documentary studies and utopian scholarship – and covers a wide range of films from Soviet avant-garde to propaganda videos for the terror organisation ISIS, from political-activist to ecofeminist and interactive documentaries.


‘A welcome consideration of the utopian dimension of cinema, which goes beyond the usual description of fiction films that depict alternative societies (good and bad) to explore the utopian possibilities of documentary film.’
-Emeritus Professor Peter Fitting, University of Toronto


Table of Contents
List of Illustrations

Andrea Reiter and Simon Spiegel
Introduction: Utopian Realities

Lyman Tower Sargent and Simon Spiegel
Reality and Utopia: A Conversation with Lyman Tower Sargent

Part 1: Tracing Utopia

Susanna Layh
Utopia Revisited: Reading Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera in the Light of the Utopian Tradition

Peter Seyferth
Neither Fact Nor Fiction: Made in Secret as a Utopian Education in Desire

Simon Spiegel
The Utopia of the Caliphate: Reading ISIS Propaganda Videos as Utopian Texts

Part 2: Alternative Documentary Politics

Matthew Holtmeier
Living and Dying with Water: Indigenous Histories and Critical Bioregionalism in The Pearl Button

Andrea Reiter
Prospectivity in Political Documentaries

Chelsea Wessels
Practicing Hope: Ecofeminism, Documentary and Community Engagement

Part 3: New Forms of Documentary Activism

Daniel Schwartz, Klearjos Eduardo Papanicolaou, Alfredo Brillembourg, Hubert Klumpner
Trans-Utopia: Documenting Real and Imagined Cities

Dale Hudson
Post-Utopian Interventions by Students: Interactive Documentary and Micro-Revolutions

Jane M. Gaines
Documentary Dreams of Activism and the Arab Spring

List of Illustrations

About the Editor(s)

Author(s): Simon Spiegel

Simon Spiegel is a research associate at the Department of Film Studies of the University of Zurich, and Privatdozent at the University of Bayreuth.

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Author(s): Andrea Reiter

Andrea Reiter is a film scholar and documentary filmmaker. She has a doctorate in film studies from the University of Zurich.

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Author(s): Marcy Goldberg

Marcy Goldberg is a film historian, university lecturer, editor and translator.

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