Utopia and Reality

Cover «Utopia and Reality»

Since publication of Thomas More‘s Utopia more than five hundred years ago, there has been a steady stream of literary works that depict a better world; positive utopias in film, however, have been scarce. There is a consensus that utopias in the Morean tradition are not suited to fiction film, and research has accordingly focused on dystopias. Starting from the insight that utopias are always a critical reaction to the deficits of the present, Utopia and Reality takes a different approach by looking into the under-researched area of propaganda and documentary films for depictions of better worlds. This volume brings together researchers from two fields that have so far seen little exchange – documentary studies and utopian scholarship – and covers a wide range of films from Soviet avant-garde to propaganda videos for the terror organisation ISIS, from political-activist to ecofeminist and interactive documentaries.

Table of Content

Andrea Reiter and Simon Spiegel
«Introduction: Utopian Realities»

Lyman Tower Sargent and Simon Spiegel
«Reality and Utopia: A Conversation with Lyman Tower Sargent»

Part 1: Tracing Utopia

Susanna Layh
«Utopia Revisited: Reading Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera in the Light of the Utopian Tradition«

Peter Seyferth
«Neither Fact Nor Fiction: Made in Secret as a Utopian Education in Desire»

Simon Spiegel
«The Utopia of the Caliphate: Reading ISIS Propaganda Videos as Utopian Texts»

Part 2: Alternative Documentary Politics

Matthew Holtmeier
«Living and Dying with Water: Indigenous Histories and Critical Bioregionalism in The Pearl Button»

Andrea Reiter
«Prospectivity in Political Documentaries»

Chelsea Wessels
«Practicing Hope: Ecofeminism, Documentary and Community Engagement»

Part 3: New Forms of Documentary Activism

Daniel Schwartz, Klearjos Eduardo Papanicolaou, Alfredo Brillembourg, Hubert Klumpner
«Trans-Utopia: Documenting Real and Imagined Cities»

Dale Hudson
«Post-Utopian Interventions by Students: Interactive Documentary and Micro-Revolutions»

Jane M. Gaines
«Documentary Dreams of Activism and the Arab Spring»


Simon Spiegel, Andrea Reiter, Marcy Goldberg (Hg.): Utopia and Reality. Documentary, Activism and Imagined Worlds
University of Wales Press: Cardiff 2020.
304 Seiten
Hardback: 9781786835246, eBook: 9781786835260, eBook: 9781786835277, eBook: 9781786835253

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«A welcome consideration of the utopian dimension of cinema, which goes beyond the usual description of fiction films that depict alternative societies (good and bad) to explore the utopian possibilities of documentary film.»
– Emeritus Professor Peter Fitting, University of Toronto
«I admit if I had not misunderstood what this book was about, I probably would not have read it, but this thoughtful well-researched anthology about Utopian films was very good.»
– Science-Fiction-Autor und Blogger David Agranoff auf seinem Blog
«Consisting of nine chapters, and the interview with Sargent, Utopia and Reality’s range of subject matter is impressive. […] I found rich and original insights about the political potential of documentary cinema, particularly in contemporary forms that fall outside of the short and feature-film contexts.»
– Troy Michael Bordun in Science Fiction Studies
«In a discourse that commonly centers around literature, the book mobilizes nonfiction film and highlights its fictional modalities, opening a potentially exciting field for utopian as well as sf studies. Finally, it both problematizes and reinstates the Moresque tradition as a universalized frame of reference, and its appropriation of genre-dispersing concepts like trans- or post-utopias gestures towards greater plurality.»
– Johanna Mehl in Extrapolation