Blurred Figures of Speech: Considering the Speaking Subject in Documentary Media

The Liverpool Screen School Research Seminar is an interdisciplinary series of talks that explore the content, operation and impact of the media; the role of culture and identity in shaping public policy; and research methods in creative disciplines.

Almost regardless of what type of documentary we are watching, we are likely to encounter numerous sequences of people talking: interviews, conversations, monologues, arguments, and testimonies. This highly under-researched field has often been referred to simply as 'talking heads documentaries'. This project resituates the speaking subject from peripheral to central by considering it through both a theoretical and historical prism, resulting in a conceptual study of what it means to listen to, and watch, people talking in documentaries. This talk will offer an introduction to a few concurrent but closely related discussions that allows us to re-think the speaking subject in documentary media. I will focus on three topics: the speaking subject in acute affect (the crying, screaming, angry, or in other ways upset speaking subject); the anonymous interview (when the face, figure, and/or voice has been altered to protect the speaking subject’s identity), and the role of the voice of the speaking subject (speech acts, the pre-recorded voice, 'the grain of the voice', and ventriloquism). In my talk, I will be referencing a wide range of films, from documentary to art installations.

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