On ethics and documentary: A real and actual truth

Garnet C. Butchart, University of South Florida


This article brings recent psychoanalytic theory to bear on contemporary moral opinion about ethical practice in documentary film and video. A critical distinction is made between ethics and morals, and Alain Badiou’s (1993/2001) philosophical conception of an ethic of truths is used to challenge the restrictions put upon documentary. It is argued that visual perception remains the truth of any documentary, and three modes are proposed according to which an ethic of disclosing this truth may be practiced with a view to overcome the obstacles of morality-based ethical systems.