Britta Hartmann

Britta Hartmann studied journalism and German philology at the Free University Berlin. Between 1993 and 2001 she worked as researcher and lecturer at the Konrad Wolf Film University of Babelsberg. She also taught courses at the University of Leipzig, the University of Zurich, Vienna University and the ZeLIG School for Documentary and New Media in Bolzano. She worked as visiting professor for communication at the Berlin University of the Arts. In 2008, she gained her PhD from Utrecht University with a study on text pragmatics and cognitive dramaturgy of film beginnings. In addition, she published numerous essays on film theory and analysis and served as co-editor and editor of “Montage AV. Zeitschrift für Theorie und Geschichte audiovisueller Kommunikation” (Montage AV. Journal for Theory and History of Audiovisual Communication). Since 2009 she has been a researcher in the Babelsberg research group “History of the German Documentary Film, 1945-2005”. In the winter term of 2011/12, she was Hartmann visiting scholar for Theory of Film and Media at Vienna University and since the winter term of 2012/13, she is a stand-in professor at Bonn University.

In the Mode of Doubt: Documentary Reconstruction and Examination of the Circumstantial Evidence

The documentary promise essentially rests on testimony, on statements about reality, and on the cogency of images and sounds. Witnesses, however, may err or rather pursue their own agendas, just as images may support false statements. The supposed mirrors of reality don’t in fact reflect reality. This lecture on the mode of doubt will draw the attention to films which question testimony, and which – similar to a forensic investigation – use reconstructive methods in order to retrace and verify facts. Major attention is payed to details, nuances, which are consistently and insistently examined from different perspectives the way they would be in a court case based on circumstantial evidence. That way versions of reality are created and their probability is put to the test. In addition to forms aiming at clarity and evidence, others rather explore the space of possibility in a tentative way. My talk will draw an arc from Errol Morris’ cutting-edge documentary film The Thin Blue Line (1988) to Philip Scheffner’s Revision (2012) and the installation- and video project The Murder of Halit Yosgat (2017), realized by the London research agency Forensic Architecture, a systematic in-depth analysis of the assassination of the owner of a family-run internet café in Kassel, Germany, by members of the NSU (National Socialist Underground): a skeptical, revisionist re-enactment of the preceding re-enactments of the testimonial given by an undercover agent.