ApproximationDocumentary, History and Staging Reality

Archives of Record and Collage

Documentaries as archival collage are archetypal approximations.

Emile de Antonio and Adam Curtis

Emile de Antonio coined the term ‘collage junk’ to describe his archive-based documentaries which examined and critiqued the history and politics of the US in the 60s and 70s, although the juxtaposition of fragments of archive from different sources has been a staple technique of political documentary since Esfir Shub’s The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (1927). After de Antonio came Rafferty, Rafferty and Loader’s The Atomic Cafe (1982) and more recently Adam Curtis’s modern collage documentaries. Very much the successor to de Antonio, Curtis, in brilliant and provocative series and films such as The Power of Nightmares (2004), *The Trap (2007) and It Felt Like a Kiss (2011), fixates on the links between US post-war hist*ory, terrorism and ‘9/11’.


Archival collages are now all the rage. The truncated history of Iran given at the outset of Ben Affleck’s award winning Argo (2012) is a fiction feature film example, but think also of the hugely successful documentary feature Senna (Asif Kapadia, 2010) made up exclusively of extracts of archive set to voice-over interviews.



Stella Bruzzi FBA

Stella Bruzzi

Stella Bruzzi is Professor of Film and Television Studies at the University of Warwick and was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 2013. She was Head of Department 2006–2008 and Chair of the Faculty of Arts at Warwick 2008–2011. She lives in Oxford with her husband and two children.


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