Macquarie University
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Tricks of the trade: an examination of the confluences between documentary and deception, inspired by the symbiotic relationship between filmmaker and con artist in Forbidden lie$

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posted on 2022-03-28, 22:22 authored by Anna Broinowski
This doctoral thesis combines Anna Broinowski's dramatised documentary feature, Forbidden lie$ (2007), with a scholarly exegesis examining the confluences between documentary filmmaking and deception. This critical writing has been inspired by the symbiotic relationship between "honest" filmmaker and "dishonest" subject in Broinowski's film. The written component, Tricks of the trade, presents a detailed examination of the ways in which the nonfiction "real" has been constructed and consumed over cinema's one hundred and twenty year history. In the process, parallels are revealed between the techniques used by documentary filmmakers and the techniques used by magicians, forgers, propagandists, con artists and other professional dissemblers, to deceive, seduce, entertain, persuade and "trick" their audiences or "marks". Tricks of the trade advances two propositions: 1, that deception is as necessary to documentary as it is to fiction; and, 2, despite this, documentary remains a valid and important art form. Documentary's ability to successfully engage audiences in the future, it is suggested, depends in part upon the acknowledgement (rather than concealment) of its deceptive techniques.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Part One. Documentary deception from 1895 to1988 : a (secret) history. Chapter 1. Defining the documentary "truth claim" -- Chapter 2. Early cinema : illusion and spectacle -- Chapter 3. "Honest" manipulators : Flaherty to Vertov -- Chapter 4. Deceptive "truth-tellers" : the Padillas to Riefenstahl -- Chapter 5. Revealers and concealers : Jean Rouch to Spinal Tap -- Part Two. Documentary deception from 1988 to 2015 : an (honest) account. Chapter 6. Persuasion, subversion and fakery in the modern documentary -- Chapter 7. The déjà vu Effect : spectator, subject, and the filmmaker-deceiver -- Chapter 8. Forbidden lie$ and the post-9/11 truth claim -- Conclusion.


Bibliography: pages 156-177 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

John Potts


Copyright Anna Broinowski 2015. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (177 pages)

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