DOI: 10.1111/johs.12454 ISSN: 2832-5796

Docudrama and the Agential Child: Treading a Path Between Melodrama and National Geographic

Karen Wells


This paper describes the making of a documentary film about children's learning cultures in West Africa to show that it is possible to escape the melodramatic gaze through deploying specific shooting, editorial and screening choices that represent children as active, knowledgeable subjects situated in a specific cultural milieu. It also discusses the legacy of ethnographic film, especially in relation to Africa, which in its aim at cultural translation presumes a non‐local spectator and deploys what has been called an entomological gaze; glossed here as ‘national geographic’ and proposes that key to disavowing that legacy is making film for African audiences.

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