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Indian Documentary Film and Filmmakers

Independence in Practice

Shweta Kishore

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Examines independent documentary film production in India within a political context

Independent documentary is enjoying a resurgence in post-reform India. But in contemporary cinema and media cultures, where ‘independent’ operates as an industry genre or critical category, how do we understand the significance of this mode of cultural production?

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List of Illustrations



1. Histories and Cultures: Space, Filmmaker, Text, Spectator

Public Space and Democratic Instruments

An Involved Filmmaker

Text, Representation and Reflexivity

Spectator and Horizontal Communication

2. Method and Meaning

Filmmakers, Histories, Concerns, Aesthetics

Artisanal Production

Documentary as Signifying Practice

3. Documentary Financing and Production

NGOS and Useful Media

Institutionally Managed Practice

Self-Managed Practice

A Tactics of Practice; Decapitalisation and De-economisation

4. Documentary Circulation and Exhibition

The Regulated Public Domain

From Information to Emotion

Between Participant and Audience

A Tactics of Circulation: An Involved Publics and Decentering Copyright

5. People and Documentary

The Represented and Institutional Subject

Artist, Meanings, Obligation

Speaking with the Subject

Independent: Interdependent and Negotiated Consent Practice



Works Cited

About the Author

Shweta Kishore lectures in Film and Media at RMIT University in Ho Chi Minh City, and leads creative research collaborations with contemporary Vietnamese women artists. She gained a PhD from Monash university and is also a documentary practitioner. Her interests include how film studies, gender and social theory intersect in writing, and making and curating independent documentary film as a mode of critical and political practice.


A fine contribution to our understanding of social-issue and activist documentary cinema and its lively incarnation in India since 1987. Rigorous and resourceful, Kishore’s labour of love ranges from the work of five exemplary artists to their theoretical and political context. With the growing circulation of independent Indian nonfiction voices and images, practising independence becomes increasingly urgent.

- Professor Thomas Waugh, Concordia University

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