Studies in Film

Currently, the term “found footage” is perhaps most commonly understood as a sub-genre of the horror film – one that relies on supposedly “true” lost-and-found footage of hauntings, possessions, and other monstrosities to structure their nightmarish narratives (The Blair Witch Project; Paranormal Activity; Unfriended). By playing with audience expectations of authenticity and illusion, found footage horror encourages us to believe that the recovered and reassembled documentary, news, and/or home video footage we are seeing is “real” – making it all the more terrifying. While this seminar is indeed interested in examining the found footage horror genre formally and historically, it also uses it as a jumping off point to explore “found footage” for all its other linked and divergent possibilities. Missing, incomplete, damaged, destroyed, salvaged, remixed, recycled, and re-contextualized film and video structure and inform our moving image world; it is in these gaps, bits, pieces, collages, archives, and ephemera that this seminar takes interest. Over the course of the semester, this class will engage with the aesthetic, ideological, political, and historical implications of the following “lost and found footage”: documentaries and newsreels; early silent and Hollywood cinema; experimental and avant-garde films that make use of found footage; unreleased films; home movies; industrial and educational films; fictional found footage and “mockumentary;” underground and censored footage; and surveillance, webcam, and body-cam footage. In doing so, this seminar will address issues of film theory; cinematic heritage and preservation; film circulation and curation; physical and digital archives; re-appropriation; ownership and privacy; and of course realism and authenticity.