Exploring the formal and informal distribution mechanisms for Colombian documentary films
, PhD thesis, University of Salford.
Historically, documentary films have always encountered very serious problems of distribution and have struggled immensely to find reliable audiences, even though, ironically, documentaries are accepted by many as significant tools for the promotion of important historical, social and cultural values. There is a very serious lack of proper tools and strategies to allow documentaries to reach their potential audience in a manner that is consistent with the importance of these films as enablers of important discussion and analysis inside a society.
This is especially true in the case of most developing countries, where open discussion about social, economic or cultural issues that documentaries are perfectly suited to confront and explain is more than necessary. And among these countries, the case of Colombia will occupy this research as a remarkable case study, since it is a country that is producing a large number of documentaries about pressing matters but which unfortunately are not being seen, while at the same time it is a country whose ambivalent attitude towards film production and distribution embodies the contradictions between formal and informal economies as well as between legitimate and illegitimate ways to obtain access to films and other media.
Considering this situation, the main concern of this research is to review and analyse the different mechanisms that have been used to distribute and promote documentary films (although in some cases, such as the informal markets, the focus will be placed on issues pertaining both fiction and nonfiction films), with the intention to understand how these mechanisms have failed or succeeded in allowing these films to meet their primary objective: reaching their audiences. To provide this analysis, this study will resort to several different resources such as economic studies, surveys, reports, interviews with filmmakers, producers and film distributors –both legal and illegal– from different countries, along with other different sources that will provide what is hopefully a well-rounded account on the complex situation of film distribution in developing countries in general, and Colombia in particular,
and the challenges that result from such scenario. As a consequence of this analysis, this work also aims to propose new alternatives for the distribution of documentary films; alternatives that could ultimately be of use in improving the communication between documentary filmmakers, their work and their potential spectators.
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