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Fake Pictures, Real Emotions: A Case Study of Art and Craft

Abstract

This chapter investigates the function of morally ambiguous characters in documentary film; it argues that such characters can persuade documentary viewers to renegotiate their moral values, transcend the differences between authentic artworks and replicas, and transgress established social boundaries. It takes, as a case study, the documentary Art and Craft (dirs. Sam Cullman & Jennifer Grausman, 2014), which chronicles the life of Mark A. Landis, an American art forger living in Laurel, Mississippi. This study reveals that the viewers’ sympathy and transgressive emotions often undergo a similar trajectory for both documentaries and fiction films. However, the difference is that documentaries provide an alternative access to engagement, due to the genre’s special relationship with reality, as evidenced in Art and Craft.

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