Steven Ungar

Cinema & Comparative Literature
University of Iowa

Dr. Steven Ungar is professor of Cinema & Comparative Literature, with secondary appointments in French and International Studies.  His work at the Obermann Center on a first draft of Critical Mass: Social Documentary in France is part of a year-long support in the form of a research fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Critical Mass centers on 18 documentaries produced between 1927 and 1962. It began as a study of early postwar documentaries by Georges Franju, Alain Resnais, Chris Marker, Jean Rouch, and Agnès Varda that contributed in significant ways to practices associated with French New Wave films between 1958 and 1963.  Research on the production and reception of these postwar documentaries led to a first wave of late silent-era films (1927-1930) devoted to everyday life in and around Paris.  A major thesis to be tested throughout the project involves efforts among filmmakers in both periods to direct documentary toward social missions ranging from critique to militancy.  Documentaries by André Sauvage, Jean Vigo, and Elie Lotar are central to charting the relevant continuities and differences among interwar and postwar practices.