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"What in the World Distinguishes Fiction from Nonfiction Film?"

Sellors, C. Paul



Advocates of blurred boundaries between fiction and nonfiction film identify shared narrative and representational practices to justify scepticism about nonfiction film’s ability to depict and convey views about reality. Such arguments fail because the distinction between fiction and nonfiction rests in reference, not appearance. Fiction and nonfiction films differ in where their denotative content has truth-value. Utilising speech act theory and Robert M. Adams’ actualist theory of modality, I argue that fictions refer to and represent fictional worlds, which are impossible worlds, while nonfictions refer to and represent the real world and its possible states. As representations, nonfiction films convey filmmaker(s) views and beliefs about reality. Errors in nonfiction films do not make them somewhat fictional, but express false utterances about the factual universe.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2014
Deposit Date Jun 1, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 9, 2016
Journal Film and Philosophy
Print ISSN 1073-0427
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Pages 105-123
Keywords Blurred boundaries; fiction; non-fiction; documentaries; film;
Public URL
Publisher URL
Related Public URLs
Contract Date Nov 9, 2016


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