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Uncovering the Archive: (Auto)biographical Documentaries and the “Moment of Discovery”


Uncovering the Archive: (Auto)biographical Documentaries and the “Moment of Discovery”

Stewart-Lee, Jess Gai-Yuen (2023) Uncovering the Archive: (Auto)biographical Documentaries and the “Moment of Discovery”. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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With the proliferation of digital archives as fixtures in our daily lives, the study of physical archives and their contents becomes more important than ever. Archives now function as sites for determining historical context and narratives, with formal archival institutions often acting as the foundations for ideas of nation-building. However, I argue that it is the informal archives—whether communal, familial, personal, or otherwise—which should be central to our analysis of physical archives and their place between the pages of history.
These informal archives necessarily question the role of the formal archive in narrativizing dominant histories with one of the key sites of debate occurring within the documentary genre, and specifically documentaries by diasporic filmmakers. In many such films, there is a crucial “moment of discovery,” wherein the found archival object marks the filmmaker as part of an alternative history that troubles the ingrained historical record. This “moment” marks the disruptions that the stories by diasporic people have upon traditions of proliferating alternative histories to counter dominant narratives and storytelling. The works which I will be exploring as examples of this filmic tradition are Random Acts of Legacy (2018), Retour (2017), and Shirkers (2018). All three of these films draw on this “moment of discovery” to build outwards, overlaying new interpretations of history onto these archival objects. I seek to understand what can be learned from these alternative histories.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Stewart-Lee, Jess Gai-Yuen
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Film Studies
Date:15 June 2023
Thesis Supervisor(s):Chew, May
Keywords:Archives, Counter-archives, Diaspora, Film Studies, Documentary, Chinese Identity, Discovery, History, Haptics, Speculation, Loss, Memory, Moment of Discovery
ID Code:992616
Deposited By: Jess Stewart-Lee
Deposited On:15 Nov 2023 17:50
Last Modified:15 Nov 2023 17:50


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