This exposition is a semi-dialogical inquiry into the potential of the methods and poetics of estrangement in documentary and political cinema, where we focus on the representation of the “neoliberal condition” in present-day society. We reflect on and rethink ideas that stem from various theories and strategies of emancipatory practices in cinema and literature. Here we acknowledge the tensions between conventions in for example social documentary, political cinema, and different conceptions of realism versus the idea of estrangement as an artistic strategy. The struggle to emancipate spectatorship from the passivity and uncritical temptations promoted by the spectacles of the hegemonic culture industries has been a central concern in theoretical debates and artistic praxis that involves estrangement as a technique. How do Jacques Rancière’s notions on emancipation and radical equality challenge Brechtian ideas and methods of estrangement? What are actually the relevant means of estrangement in contemporary documentary art?


Susanna Helke is an associate professor and the director of the Critical Cinema Lab at the Department of Film, Television and Scenography at Aalto University, Finland. She is an award-winning filmmaker and artist-theorist whose films (e.g., Sin 1995; White Sky 1998; The Idle Ones 2001; Playground, 2010; American Vagabond, 2013) have been screened and awarded in major international documentary and other film festivals as well as retrospectives.

Alejandro Pedregal, Lecturer, University-Wide Art Studies, Aalto University, Finland. Pedregal is a filmmaker and writer. His works engage with political, social and ecological scenes and conflicts in which specificity, critical thought and epistemology appear as seminal drivers of their aesthetic and formal proposals. His texts often combine history, politics and culture with narrative techniques and testimonial strategies.

Exposition keywords: estrangement, emancipation, documentary film, social documentary, political film, poetics of ruptures, testimonio, third cinema

Language: English

visit exposition

Visit the exposition in the database Research Catalogue.