Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures

Vivre Ici: Space, Place and Experience in Contemporary French Documentary

by Alison J. Murray Levine (2018)

Vivre Ici in vites the reader on a journey through the vast viewing landscape of contemporary French documentary film, a genre that has experienced a renaissance in the past twenty years. The films explored are connected not just by a general interest in engaging the “real,” but by a particular attention to French space and place. From farms and wild places to roads, schools, and urban edgelands, these films explore the spaces of the everyday and the human and non-human experiences that unfold within them. Through a critical approach that in tegrates phenomenology, film theory, eco-criticism and cultural history, Levine in vestigates the notion of documentary as experience. She asks how and why, in the contemporary media landscape, these films seek to avoid argumentation and in stead, give the viewer a feeling of “being there.” As a diverse collection of filmmakers, both well-known and lesser-known, explore the limits and possibilities of these places, a collage-like, in complete, and fragmented vision of France as seen and felt through documentary cameras comes in to view. Venturing beyond film analysis to examine the production climate for these films and their circulation in contemporary France, Levine explores the social and political consequences of these “films that matter” for the viewers who come in to contact with them.

Introduction  p. 1
Renaissance  p. 21
Planet  p. 37
Roadp. 73
School  p. 101
Farm  p. 133
Edge  p. 161
Concluding Remarks  p. 189
Notes  p. 193
References.  p. 252
Index  p. 285.


Alison J. Murray Levine is an Associate Professor of French at the University of Virginia.



'This is an excellent study of issues of space and place in recent French documentary, offering rich and evocative readings of individual films and detailed engagement with the material specificities of documentary production in France. It will be of major interest to researchers and students.'
--Laura McMahon, Cambridge

'Vivre Ici marks a major advance in thinking about contemporary documentary in France and about documentary in general. It does this by mobilizing aesthetic, cultural, and institutional approaches.'
--Steven Ungar, University of Iowa

'Vivre Ici represents a useful curation of French documentary and a worthy addition to an expanding subfield of Film Studies that will be of much interest to film scholars, researchers, and students of French documentary.'
--Matthew Gibson, Modern Language Review.

‘One of the impressive strengths of Levine’s study is the further comparative aesthetic and ethical questioning the analysis triggers. Her attention to the extra-textual context surrounding each film, with a focus on audience response, combined with her meticulous attention to the multisensory experience of film space, brilliantly underlines the impossibility of separating the social and political role (and responsibility) of documentary film, from its equally important status as an art form that affects and moves the spectator in more ways than one…Scholars and students of French history, cinema and cultural studies, and of documentary film studies more generally, will find the book an inspiring and informative pedagogical resource to draw on.'
--Albertine Fox, H-France Review

‘Alison J. Murray Levine’s latest book Vivre Ici: Space, Place, and Experience in Contemporary French Documentary is a refreshing, accessible read that invites readers to appreciate the unique ability documentary, and more specifically French documentary, has to connect us to the world around us.’
--Audrey Evrard, Modern & Contemporary France


Reviewed by Oliver Brett.
In: French History 33,2 (Jun 2019), pp. 328–329.

Levine’s study focuses on the in crease in French documentary output in the last two decades, specifically on what she describes as ‘documentaire de création’. She asserts that this is different to the average television documentary and can in stead be considered as high quality ‘auteur documentary’ that is shaped by detailed research, long-term engagement on the part of the documentarist and a mode of address that politically re-positions the spectator. Levine makes a significant contribution to the field of documentary studies in her articulation of documentary as a ‘creative ecosystem’ wherein ‘space’ is experienced and shared more broadly by those in volved in ...


Levine, Alison J. Murray [1968-]
Vivre Ici: Space, Place and Experience in Contemporary French Documentary.
Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2018, x, 303 p., ill., 25 cm.
(Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures, 50.).
ISBN 9781786940414 (hb., GBP 90,00)
ISBN 9781786948236 (pdf, GBP 75,00)
[Bibl. refs.]