Attuning to the Pluriverse: Documentary Filmmaking Methods, Environmental Disasters, & The More-Than-Human
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Attuning to the Pluriverse: Documentary Filmmaking Methods, Environmental Disasters, & The More-Than-Human


This practice-theory dissertation focuses on expanding the documentary form to better attune to the more-than-human in order to trace the slow violence that leads to environmental disasters. At the heart of this dissertation is a new mode of filmmaking, called multispecies cinema which centers the more-than-human through several methodological expansions. The groundwork for the collapse of an ecosystem is often invisible within a human timeframe, encompassing connections across species, elements, genres, time and space too temporally and spatially vast, too micro- or macroscopic to be captured as visible evidence, and instead, needs speculative practices to register these scalar frequencies. While multispecies cinema is rooted in hard science and ethnographic fieldwork methods, it attempts a reorientation and a recalibration of the senses: to relearn different ways to see, to hear, to feel and to understand an ecosystem in flux. In essence, this dissertation explores how cinema can be a potential world-making methodology that allows us to decenter the anthropos in the so-called Anthropocene. The Anthropocene, however, is not a monolithic event, but rather an ongoing patchy, emplaced aggregation of slow violence that is bleeding-through to the present – and future. This work considers how a multispecies cinema requires new techniques to challenge human exceptionalism and practice attuning to the pluriverse. This includes expanding the interview beyond the human, expanding the act of listening beyond the human ear, and expanding the close-up beyond the human face. In tandem, two expansions of the term attunement are proposed: thick emplacement, which argues for deep, place-based observations, and panesthesia, which argues for an awareness of all human senses in order to form an active correspondence with the more-than-human. Building on these place-based methods, waterscapes launch us into a different type of world-making practice, and are a prime site to investigate the bleeding-through of slow violence. The dissertation examines interactive documentaries (i-docs) which focus on bodies of water, and how multilinear narrative structures provide new opportunities to decenter the human in the representation of environmental disaster. The main case study is the The River Runs Red (2018), an i-doc which showcases the world’s largest tailings disaster on the Rio Doce in Brazil. The project attunes to the river’s more-than-human ghosts to challenge an anthropocentric, totalizing narrative around the aftermath and the river’s many stories. This work culminates in a deep ethnographic dive into the ecological collapse of the Mar Menor lagoon in Southeastern Spain, as portrayed in the feature film A Mirror of the Cosmos (2022). The film¬ and the writing center the lagoon, and explore how Mar Menor as an ecosystem struggles to survive centuries of destructive anthropogenic actions. In conclusion, this dissertation argues for a close attunement to the more-than-human in order to challenge human exceptionalism and practice attuning to a pluriverse in the hopes that what futures are possible are a shared decision, a consensus for which a multispecies cinema can have a pivotal role.

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