Guilt-based filmmaking: moral failings, muddled activism, and the “dogumentary” Get a Life

Hjort, Mette (2018) Guilt-based filmmaking: moral failings, muddled activism, and the “dogumentary” Get a Life. Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, 10 (2). pp. 6-14. ISSN 2000-4214

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Guilt-based filmmaking: moral failings, muddled activism, and the “dogumentary” Get a Life
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To date consideration of negative emotions in the context of cinema has been largely limited
to the issue of why spectators would be drawn to films that target psychological responses
such as fear and disgust. The aim here is to consider the phenomenon of negative emotion as
a motivating factor in the context of, not spectatorship, but film production. The focus is on
documentary filmmaking with a strong ethnographic dimension, the camera being used to
record the circumstances and culture of an ethnic group to which the filmmaker does not
belong. Get a Life by Michael Klint (in collaboration with Claus Bie) is presented as an instance
of guilt-based filmmaking, the filmmaker having repeatedly foregrounded his own guilt as a
decisive factor in the film’s making. A so-called “dogumentary” film based on filmmaker Lars
von Trier’s “Documentarist Code,” Get a Life is shown to rely on moral notions that are
consistent with the future-oriented and redemptive aspects of the phenomenon of guilt.
The filmmaker’s rhetoric foregrounds the idea of “making a difference” for the Nigerian
victims of a devastating flesh-eating disease (noma) and further purports to challenge the
norms underwriting TV reporting on the “Third World.” Analysis of Get a Life, however, reveals
it to be a failed work on moral grounds. The filmmakers’ self-importance, deficient selfunderstandings,
and self-deceptions regarding the bases for their putative actions on behalf
of others are identified as especially problematic. The relevant failings warrant attention at a
time when filmmakers from privileged cultures increasingly pursue performative-style documentary
filmmaking, fueled by purportedly moral intentions, in a variety of contexts in the
Global South.

Keywords:Guilt-based filmmaking;, narcissism, noma, manifestos, rules
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Film)
ID Code:49660
Deposited On:07 Jun 2022 12:44

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