Dossier “Authorship in Documentary”

deadline for submissions: 
November 30, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Journal Esferas
contact email: 

Dossier “Authorship in Documentary”

Journal Esferas



Sérgio Dias Branco (UC)

Luísa Neves Soares (UC)


Deadline: 30 Nov. 2022

Submit here:


The notion of authorship and the very concept of author have been the subject of different conceptions and interpretations, with the first theories being related to the sphere of visual arts and literary tradition. In the field of cinema, the theorizations about authorship initiated by Alexandre Astruc in 1948 and which would boost the politique des auteurs (auteur theory, in English) of the 1950s in France, converge in the desire to attribute an authorial and artistic nature to the film, assuming a parallel with other artistic models such as painting or literature.

This line of thought had a decisive influence on cinematic creation, but the idea ofauthorship in cinema is still not consensual to this day, either because of the involvement of a group of people in the work of artistic and technical creation of a film, or because of the implicit relationship with the audience. Andrew Sarris in 1962 poses the question of who the author of a work really is and how that authorship can be “measured”. Roland Barthes in 1968 and Michel Foucault in 1969 defend a clear separation between work and author.

In the field of non-fiction cinema, the figure of the author has also been the target of different non-converging critical positions that relate the presence or absence of the director and concepts such as the subjectivity or objectivity of the produced film work as distinctive factors.

The documentary film starts from reality to interpret and represent it, placing itself in a specific field where the mediation between the world and its representation is operated through choices, more or less assumed or visible in the directing plane — a vision of the world, a point of view, a voice, as defined by Bill Nichols, with different qualities and characteristics, but which translates the author’s perspective on the world and its history.

It will then be in this negotiation between the author’s subjectivity and the world considered objective where the field of documentary cinema will reside, which privileges the presence of the author, finding different paths in typologies, styles and approaches, but converging in the author’s critical position in relation to what it records, interprets and presents to others.

But how to define this presence of the author? If in a fiction film there is total control of the situation (settings, actors, script), in documentary film much of the action takes place, in many cases and from the start, without any or little interference from the director — reality unfolds independently.

Be that as it may, we are dealing with a physical presence that can influence the action, as a catalyst for events or situations or that, in some way, can have an effect on the reactions of the filmed subject. The author’s self-inscription can operate from this presence that interacts with the surrounding world. It can also assume a conceptual and essayistic nature, as a language or space for experimentation and artistic creation in which performativity translates into the use of narration, visual and sound editing, among other film elements.

The field of authorship in documentary cinema is consequently an area where different types of approaches and perspectives on film creation converge, where mediation and the choice of director reflect political, poetic, autobiographical or essayistic positions as diverse as individuals.

Thus, this call seeks articles that critically question how the presence of an author can be striking or decisive in a film that starts from reality to represent and problematize it, and how the languages used to do so, more or less conventional, may have relevance in this positioning vis-à-vis reality.

Submitted proposals may relate to the following topics, among others:

- authorship in documentary;

- documentary in the first person;

- documentary as an art form;

- self-inscription and self-reflexivity in cinema;

- the essay-film;

- performativity and poetics in documentary;

- autobiographies, film diaries;

- narration and authorial voice;

- point of view;

- representation and power.