Hiding the Camera in Miguel Littin’s Acta general de Chile

  • David William Foster


One of the two abiding themes of documentary film theory, in its characterization as sociohistorical testimony in form and in function, centers on the question of the intrusive camera.1 Although the experience of social subjects with the presence of a camera in their lives varies widely, it is customarily assumed that one will perform one’s life differently in conformance with the degree to which a camera is there to record it. That is, the presence of the camera, not to mention the support personnel and other technical apparatuses accompanying the camera, will serve to make individuals conscious enough of themselves, their bodies, their interactions such that their being in the world, which is what the camera may have wanted to capture in the first place, is purportedly denaturalized and rendered unauthen-tic. To whatever degree there is a belief that so-called real people behave in so-called real ways as they move through life and to whatever degree a documentary may wish to capture such supposed real behavior, the production of a documentary grounded in this belief will want to proceed on to capture the individuals in such a way that they are not conscious of being recorded: this is often called the “fly on the wall” approach to documentary production. To be sure, much newsreel footage is produced in this fashion, and narrative filmmaking is almost universally grounded in the convention that the universe it portrays is not aware of the fact that it exists for the camera’s viewing, and through the camera, for our viewing.


Military Coup Constitutional Democracy Water Cannon Latin American Politics Latin American Literary 
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Works Cited

  1. Acta general de Chile. Dir. Miguel Littin. Chile/Cuba. Dur. 240 min. RTVE, 1986. Film.Google Scholar
  2. Actas de Marusia. Dir. Miguel Littin. Mexico. Dur. 110 min. CONACINE, 1976. Film.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Louise Detwiler and Janis Breckenridge 2012

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  • David William Foster

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