Animated documentary: identification, emotion, affect

Dr. Paul Ward’s project examined the ways in which animated documentaries engage their viewers, exploring the moral and ethical registers at play in how feelings and alliances are mobilised in nonfiction.

He cited how Murray Smith distinguishes between audience alignment and allegiance when viewing fictional characters and scenes.

But there are clearly different moral and ethical registers at play in how such feelings and alliances are mobilised in nonfiction.

Paul explored how once we start talking about how films make us feel, alongside how they try and persuade us to root for particular (real) people, or find their specific arguments convincing, we are also in the realm of rhetoric.

He outlined how a further problem arises if we are watching something whilst knowing that elements of it are not real, that is, that there are certain obvious fabrications or constructions involved.

Various philosophers have discussed the ‘paradox of fiction’ – that viewers will respond emotionally and authentically to something or someone they know does not exist – but animated documentary is a special case of a ‘paradox of nonfiction’: an expressive act, directly connected to real events and people, but peculiarly attenuated by its constructedness.

Paul explored how central to a deeper understanding of animated documentary is an interrogation of how the emotional ‘charge’ of viewing something we know to be real-yet-fabricated is underpinned by a series of paradoxes that are built on belief, emotion and affect.

You can read more about Paul’s work here.