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Screening Reality: How Documentary Filmmakers Reimagined America

Jon Wilkman



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Bloomsbury Publishing
18 February 2020
Film, TV & Radio; Film theory & criticism; Television; History of the Americas; 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000
A towering achievement, and a volume I know I'll be consulting on a regular basis. --Leonard Maltin Authoritative, accessible, and elegantly written, Screening Reality is the history of American documentary film we have been waiting for. --Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic From Edison to IMAX, Ken Burns to virtual environments, the first comprehensive history of American documentary film and the remarkable men and women who changed the way we view the world.

Amidst claims of a new post-truth era, documentary filmmaking has experienced a golden age. Today, more documentaries are made and widely viewed than ever before, illuminating our increasingly fraught relationship with what's true in politics and culture. For most of our history, Americans have depended on motion pictures to bring the realities of the world into view. And yet the richly complex, ever-evolving relationship between nonfiction movies and American history is virtually unexplored.

Screening Reality is a widescreen view of how American truth has been discovered, defined, projected, televised, and streamed during more than one hundred years of dramatic change, through World Wars I and II, the dawn of mass media, the social and political turmoil of the sixties and seventies, and the communications revolution that led to a twenty-first century of empowered yet divided Americans.

In the telling, professional filmmaker Jon Wilkman draws on his own experience, as well as the stories of inventors, adventurers, journalists, entrepreneurs, artists, and activists who framed and filtered the world to inform, persuade, awe, and entertain. Interweaving American and motion picture history, and an inquiry into the nature of truth on screen, Screening Reality is essential and fascinating reading for anyone looking to expand an understanding of the American experience and today's truth-challenged times.
By:   Jon Wilkman
Imprint:   Bloomsbury Publishing
Dimensions:   Height: 239mm,  Width: 160mm,  Spine: 46mm
Weight:   862g
ISBN:   9781635571035
ISBN 10:   1635571030
Pages:   512
Publication Date:   18 February 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Jon Wilkman is an author and award-winning filmmaker whose work has appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, HBO and A&E. His seven-part Turner Classic Movies series, Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood, was nominated for three Emmys. His previous book, Floodpath, was an Amazon Nonfiction Book of the Year. A founding member and three-term president of the International Documentary Association, Wilkman lives in Los Angeles.

Reviews for Screening Reality: How Documentary Filmmakers Reimagined America

Enthralling . . . A valuable resource for cinephiles, this sweeping history will ignite a new enthusiasm for the form among readers less well-versed in the genre. --Publishers Weekly (starred review) A many-faceted, dynamic, andthought-provoking history of nonfiction films in America . . . With vivid profiles of diverse filmmakers and expert analysis of their work set within finelygrained social and political contexts, Wilkman addresses aspects personal, technical, aesthetic, cultural, and ethical . . . This monumental exploration reminds us that 'evidential truth' is essential to liberty and justice . . . Let the real be real; let truth ring true. ---Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review) Fantastically well researched and written, Screening Reality raises the bar for anyone who wants to write about the history of documentaries and documentarians, with invaluable insights into today's truth-challenged times. --Peter Davis, Academy Award-winning director of HEARTS AND MINDS; author of GIRL OF MY DREAMS In Screening Reality, filmmaker Jon Wilkman provides a fascinating look at the many ways documentary (and so-called documentary) cinema has shaped and distorted our vision of American history. It is a remarkably comprehensive study, tracking the course of documentary film from the actualities conjured in Thomas Edison's Black Maria to the true crime series streamed on Netflix. Wilkman commands a skill set that is perfectly suited to the task, lacing his insights with the filmmaker's understanding of the craft and the historian's respect for the facts on record. --Thomas Doherty, Professor of American Studies, Brandeis University Jon Wilkman offers an engaging, valuable history of American documentary and nonfiction media from the fresh and badly needed perspective of someone who has worked in the field-particularly Television documentary-for fifty years. Lively, enjoyable and highly informative. --Charles Musser, Professor of American Studies and Film & Media Studies at Yale University and producer/director of Errol Morris: A Lightning Sketch. Jon Wilkman's Screening Reality is both readable and informative. The entire history of documentary film in the U.S. is here, examined with efficiency and style. A truly splendid achievement. --Anthony Slide, author of New York City Vaudeville and former Resident Historian at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Floodpath attempts to rescue the disaster from obscurity . . . The author captures many heartbreaking stories of survivors . . . The effect is powerful. --The Wall Street Journal on FLOODPATH Popular knowledge of early Los Angeles's struggle for water owes much to the film Chinatown, but documentary filmmaker and writer Wilkman shows that the real story of L.A.'s water is as fascinating -- and devastating -- as the fictionalized version. --Publishers Weekly on FLOODPATH

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