Elena Dirstaru

University of Essex

Project Title: Interviewing the Interviewee: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Documentary Interview’

This study addresses the extent to which mediation and representation may be determined by physical and discursive constraints during an interview and whether the interview in representation truly has the power to legitimise and give a voice to people who might not otherwise have one.

The bulk of scholarly writing on the documentary interview focuses on the interview in cinema verité, with scholars foregrounding the reflexive interview, where the negotiation of space between filmmaker and interviewee is acknowledged and emphasised; I propose a more balanced, comparative study that focuses on the broader use of the interview across disciplines. Is the discursive space different from one situation to another? In what way may a police interrogation differ from an interview on TV? There is an agreement in recent literature that the interview is primarily a means of exchanging knowledge, but there is no definitive interdisciplinary work that compares the different discursive spaces in interview situations and the influence they may have on the scenario and outcome of the interview. This study will focus on the representation and the practice of the interview in documentary film, linking the film interview to its scientific counterparts through an interdisciplinary approach in the discussion and the practice of the documentary interview.

In order to answer these questions, my study has an empirical component, foregrounding the experiential dimension of the interview with a pluriperspectivist approach, as the interview is essentially experiential, a “particular case of being towards the other”. My research will thus be based upon a series of critical dialogues with practitioners and subjects of interviews which will be used to formulate an interview scenario, which I will then articulate in a documentary film. The interdisciplinarity of this project will bring together Sociology, Communication, Media Studies, Psychology, Anthropology, and History and their interview practices and apply their methods to the study and the practice of Film.

Supervised by Dr John Haynes.

About me

I’m a documentary filmmaker and a PhD student at the University of Essex, studying towards getting a PhD in Film by Creative Practice. I studied Film and Creative Writing as an undergraduate and have an MA in Film Studies from the University of Essex.

I made my first film, 'Bethnal Green' in 2012 as part of my degree. The film tells the story of the 1943 London tube disaster, focusing on the stories of two survivors. My second film, 'Monashay' (2013) is a documentary that focuses on the lives and personal stories of Roma women living in rural Romania. The project applied Feminist Film theory to practice and had an intersectional approach to representation of the lives of the people on screen, being primarily concerned with foregrounding the influence the means of representation can have on the construction of an identity outside of the dominant hegemonic culture. The film has received public screenings in London at the Human Rights Action Centre, Amnesty International UK, at the University of Essex as part of the Essex Transitional Justice Network Film Programme, as part of the National Association for Travellers‘ Conference in Ilford, in Prague at the Beyond Borders: Migration and (In)Equality in Central Europe in Comparison Conference as part of the short film programme, and in California at the Indie Fest, at the Essex Feminist Collective’s International Women’s Day in Colchester, at the Ethnografilm Film Festival in Paris, and is part of the 2014 Videotheque at Sheffield Doc/Fest.

I have recently directed documentary film focusing on the lives of women in Nepal. The film focuses on Nepali activism concerned with the education of women and the impact it has had in the past few years, as well as its current influence on changing gender roles.

Research Interests

Film Studies, Filmmaking, Documentary, Film and Human Rights, Gender in Representation.

You can find out more about me on my website.