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Watching the World$
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Thomas Austin

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780719076893

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719076893.001.0001

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Seeing, feeling, knowing: Etre et avoir

Seeing, feeling, knowing: Etre et avoir

(p.34) 2 Seeing, feeling, knowing: Etre et avoir
Watching the World

Thomas Austin

Manchester University Press

This chapter draws on research among British arthouse cinemagoers watching the French documentary hit Etre et avoir, which recounts a year in a tiny rural school. Given chronic problems in the French education system, along with radical social changes taking place in rural France, the film was often taken as emblematic of wider issues beyond the particular school in question. The research material is suggestive of some viewing strategies and modes of response to documentary in general, and to this film in particular. The primary vectors of inquiry were cinemagoers' operative generic assumptions about documentary and their perspectives on issues of veracity and the so-called crisis over trust and the essential truth claims of the mode. The study also explores distinctions made between notions of the ‘authentic’ and the ‘inauthentic’, the ‘honest’ and the ‘contrived’, and between ideas of documentary and reality television as good and bad objects respectively. The focus on this film in particular has also enabled an examination of less-debated subjects such as middle-class taste and Francophilia, which proved crucial to its appeal for the sample under discussion.

Keywords:   Etre et avoir, British arthouse cinemagoers, French education system, social changes, documentary

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