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Within and beyond reality (Online)

Covering contemporary UK film, French new wave, post-revolution Iranian cinema, and more, this short course explores the interstices between fact and fiction, questioning truth and our positioning towards it.

“Within and beyond reality”: forms of representations challenging the documentary/fiction divide

By blending fact and fiction, some films draw on the stylistic traditions of both documentary and fiction films in various ways, at one time distancing its spectators from objective truth while on the other shedding a light on a kind of intensified reality. If the history of documentaries as a film genre is a history of addressing the question of what constitutes the representation of social reality and the fictional narrative film is an attempt to create an imaginative conception of what is called reality, recent contemporary examples have been challenging this divide in multiple ways, pushing the boundaries of the two genres to the extreme and merging one into the other. Nevertheless, far from being just a contemporary phenomenon, the blurring of these forms—documentary and fictional narrative—is a creative and interpretive challenge that filmmakers have been concerned with since the early days of cinema.

According to classic works like Walton’s Mimesis as Make-Believe (1990) and Currie’s The Nature of Fiction (1990), fiction essentially involves imagining whereas nonfiction essentially involves believing. However, more recent works like Friend’s Fiction as a Genre (2012) and Matravers’ Fiction and Narrative (2014) have challenged this conception of the fiction/nonfiction divide, opening a debate both in the community of academics and practitioners. This course would like to explore the interstices between the two, exploring a metaphorical truth, one that resonates without relying solely on empirical representation, opening serious questions about truth and our positioning towards it.

Session 1

Working with real people in 1950s post war Italian cinema and new waves (Vittorio de Sica, Pierpaolo Pasolini, Roberto Rossellini, Liliana Cavani, Cecilia Mangini, Leonardo di Costanzo, Pietro Marcello, Alice Rohrwacher)

Session 2

Mirrors of reality in 1960s French new wave (Chris Marker, Agnes Varda, Jean Luc Godard)

Session 3

Challenging the audience’s role in 1990s post-revolution Iranian cinema (Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Mahmalbaf, Samira Mahmalbaf, Jafar Panahi)

Session 4

Playing with reality in 2000s post communist Romania (Radu Jude, Christi Puiu, Adina Pintilie, Cristian Mungiu)

Session 5

Expanding time and space in contemporary Latin American cinema (Lucretia Martel, Dominga Sotomayor, Carlos Reygadas, Camilo Restrepo)

Session 6

Within and beyond reality in contemporary UK (Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Penny Woolcock, Clio Barnard, Andrea Arnold, Steve McQueen)

Session 7

New Waves between anthropology and art  (Joshua Oppenheimer, Ulrich Seildl, Salomé Lamas)

Image credit: Still from The Arbor by Clio Barnard, 2010.


1x Universal Credit bursary place is available for this course. Please see our bursary policy here.

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Ludovica Fales


Filmmaker and artist Ludovica Fales has been making independent documentary and experimental films since 2007, following on a BA-MA in Philosophy in Rome and Berlin. After an MA in Documentary Direction at the NFTS in 2011, she travelled around the Mediterranean area, across the Balkans and in the Middle East, making films and working closely and collaboratively with vulnerable communities around the world and using filmmaking as a conflict resolution tool.

Her award winning feature film "The Real Social Network", "Letters from Palestine", "Fear and Desire" etc...were screened in festivals around the world . With experience as an AP on projects for Al Jazeera and BBC, she worked collaboratively with various artists and filmmakers, as well as with European Cultural Foundation and Basis of Aktuelle Kunst on a film portrait about Forensic Architecture.

She collaborated with Frames of Representation festival at ICA in London, and programmed for IsReal, Quadrangle, Salinadocfest festivals. With her international collective, Kitchen Sink Collective, she organised mobile cinema events in the Uk and collaborated with festivals such as Sheffield doc/fest.

Her International PhD in Audiovisual Studies led her to researching in the field of interactive documentaries, digital platforms, VR projects and wearable technologies. She started lecturing in documentary practice and theory, experimental and interactive film and video and she now teaches at UCL in London. Her dual posture as filmmaker and academic, led her to take an interest in the exploration of memory and personal and collective, including the use of archival material and new media.

In the last two years, she has been engaging in a process of collaborative workshops with a group of Roma teenagers in Italy, which resulted in a series of improvisation workshops for the production of her first hybrid documentary- fiction film "Lala".