Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 78 (1):43-56 (2020)
AbstractThe main accounts of the documentary in contemporary analytic aesthetics have difficulties in dealing with the distinction between documentaries and docudramas. On the one hand, the assertion-based accounts proposed by Carroll, Ponech and Plantinga cannot properly differentiate documentaries from docudramas. On the other hand, Currie’s account can do so by relying on the notion of trace but this involves an undesirable side-effect, namely, the exclusion, from the documentary, of those documentaries that do not include traces of their subjects, as for instance documentaries that resort to reenactments. Is there a way to exclude docudramas from the documentary without also excluding other films that we usually treat as documentaries? The paper affirmatively answers to this question by relying on the notion perceptual belief, that is, a belief that one can form by endorsing one's perception. Documentaries are defined as films that mandate us to form perceptual beliefs. Even if a docudrama mandates us to form beliefs, it does not mandate us to form perceptual beliefs, and thus does not count as a documentary. By contrast, a documentary that resorts to reenactments still mandates us to form perceptual beliefs and thus properly satisfies the definition proposed.
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