Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Film Studies

First Advisor

Steven Ungar


Documentary and docudrama practices have expanded with increasingly convergent media. Cinema, television, and the web conspire to create new vehicles of information and entertainment. Footage is manipulated, reenacted, and narratively altered for viewers who must negotiate flexible and porous parameters of fact and fiction. Bill Nichols began a conversation about documentary’s “blurred boundaries” that has continued and intensified with scholars such as John Corner, Steven Lipkin, Alan Rosenthal, Vivian Sobchack, Derek Paget, and Jonathan Kahana. Documentary and docudrama techniques must be more closely scrutinized and categorized, with particular focus on the importance of reenactment and reflexivity.

A phenomenon that illustrates explicit interaction between documentary footage and fictional affect has remained undefined. My project proposes a new term, “documentary adaptation,” to explain the use of documentary films or television programs as source material for a fictional retelling. Films such as Rescue Dawn (2006), Grey Gardens (2009), Devil’s Knot (2013), or Loving (2016) have an uncanny and indeed literary relationship to previous documentary films conveying the same story. My research reads, theorizes, and contextualizes these adaptations. I note industrial and audience demand for narrative that engages with familiar facts. These unique dramas are sites of affective engagement with history as well as contemporary journalism. The project employs cinema and media studies terms and techniques to analyze documentary adaptation, to interpret a distinct merger of cinema and television aesthetics. This dissertation revises the dilemmas of documentary and reveals an invention to confront a new era of flexible media.


adaptation, affect, docudrama, documentary, HBO, remakes


v, 212 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 205-212).


Copyright © 2017 Katherine Steinbach