American political documentaries: Structure, agency, and communication of meaning
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This dissertation advances inquiry in the area of documentary filmmaking as a cultural act of meaning-creation and recognizes the process of meaning-creation enabled by an American documentarian through the production of a political documentary. The project identifies deliberate choices that a filmmaker makes in a pre-meditated strategy to use resources of sounds and moving pictures to convey meanings in the American public sphere and highlight contentious issues that tend to polarize public opinion. Using structuration theory and textual analysis, this study examines the concepts of structure, agency, and reflexivity that enable communication of meaning through the film text as well as transformation of the documentary structure. The documentary structure enables agency of a filmmaker and the production of a documentary (the filmmaker interacting with the documentary structure) further reproduces and transforms the structure. The structure provides agency to a filmmaker to engage in a discourse on a politically charged issue in American public space and highlight his/her interpretation of the American condition and experience. Using "found material" and documentary conventions, a filmmaker constructs an argument to communicate meaning and provides "evidence" in the narrative to authenticate it. By examining American political documentaries through the prism of structuration theory, this dissertation offers interpretive insight into the deliberate process of meaning-creation actively enabled by the structure of documentary film and highlights the ongoing transformation of the documentary structure.