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American Documentary Film

Projecting the Nation

Jeffrey Geiger

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Richard Wall Memorial Award 2012 - Finalist

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1. Novelties, Spectacles, and the Documentary Impulse - Case Studies: Blacksmithing Scene (1893), Buffalo Dance (1894), and Mess Call (1896)
2. Virtual Travels and the Tourist Gaze - Case Study: Nanook of the North (1922)
3. Serious Play: Documentary and the Early Avant-garde - Case Study: Manhatta (1921)
4. Activism and Advocacy: The Depression Era - Case Study: The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936)
5. Idea-Weapons: Documentary Propaganda - Case Study: The Memphis Belle (1944)
6. 'Uncontrolled' Situations: Direct Cinema - Case Study: Grey Gardens (1975)
7. Relative Truths: Documentary and Postmodernity - Case Study: Tongues Untied (1989)
8. Media Wars: Documentary Dispersion - Case Study: Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

About the Author

Jeffrey Geiger is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex, where he founded the Centre for Film Studies in 2001. Books include Facing the Pacific: Polynesia and the U.S. Imperial Imagination (2007), American Documentary Film: Projecting the Nation (2011), the co-edited Film Analysis: A Norton Reader (expanded edition 2013), and Cinematicity in Media History. His essays have appeared in many books, and journals such as Film International, Third Text, African American Review, Cinema Journal, and PMLA.


In American Documentary Film, Jeffrey Geiger examines the role of documentary film in mobilizing, promoting, and even suppressing central myths of U.S. national identity. His brilliant close readings illuminate the relationship between the rhetorical, technical and stylistic elements of specific films and a broader set of contexts and concerns. Rigorous yet accessible, this elegantly-written book will be of great value to the general reader and the specialist alike, and it will transform the way we consider the history, theory, and practice of documentary filmmaking.
- Valerie Smith, Princeton University
This well-researched volume provides a solid survey of the documentary tradition in the US... Highly recommended.
- K. S. Nolley, Williamette University, Choice

This is nothing less than a tremendous achievement... and the new benchmark in concise appreciation of American documentary film history.

- Ian Scott, University of Manchester , H-Nationalism