Monash Film and Screen Studies’ Associate Professor Belinda Smaill has produced a book, Regarding Life: Animals and the Documentary Moving Image, which has been published by SUNY Press.
Associate Prof Smaill contends that the narrative and aesthetic qualities of the documentary genre enable new understandings of animals and animal/human relationships.
As indicated by the success of such films as March of the Penguins and Food, Inc., the documentary has become the preeminent format for rendering animals and nature onscreen.
In Regarding Life, Belinda Smaill brings together examples from a broad array of moving image contexts, including wildlife film and television, advocacy documentary, avant-garde nonfiction, and new media to identify a new documentary terrain in which the representation of animals in the wild and in industrial settings is becoming markedly more complex and increasingly more involved with pivotal ecological debates over species loss, food production, and science.
While attending to some of the most discussed documentaries of the last two decades, including Grizzly Man; Food, Inc.; Sweetgrass; Our Daily Bread; and Darwin’s Nightmare, the book also draws on lesser-known film examples, and is one of the first to bring film studies understandings to new media such as YouTube.
The result is a study that melds film studies and animal studies to explore how documentary films render both humans and animals, and to what political ends.
Emeritus Professor David Desser, author of American Jewish Filmmakers, said Associate Prof Smaill’s book was “a brilliant, cogent, and timely look at the intersection of animals, the environment, food, and the people who enjoy and consume them”.
“This is the most solid book on film I have read in quite a while, and it will be taken up with much enthusiasm by documentary scholars, animal-rights activists, eco-warriors, and a broad public that is interested in one or another—or all—of the subjects covered here,” Professor Desser said.
Belinda Smaill is Associate Professor in Film and Screen Studies at Monash University in Australia. She is the author of The Documentary: Politics, Emotion, Culture and the coauthor (with Olivia Khoo and Audrey Yue) of Transnational Australian Cinema: Ethics in the Asian Diasporas.
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