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Death and Life through the Tourist's Gaze: Reflections on Gianfranco Rosi's Boatman

Bollington, L; (2021) Death and Life through the Tourist's Gaze: Reflections on Gianfranco Rosi's Boatman. The Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies , 10 (3) pp. 407-419. 10.1386/jicms_00136_1. Green open access

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Abstract

This article examines Gianfranco Rosi’s first documentary Boatman (1993) from the perspective of the touristic gaze deployed by the film in its portrayal of the sacred city of Benares, India, and the activities that take place there on the banks of the River Ganges, from washing to funerary rites. I situate the film in relation to persistent ethical questions regarding documentary encounters with death, arguing that Rosi’s self-reflexive alignment with ‐ and interrogation of ‐ several touristic gazes opens a set of primarily political concerns. These are elucidated in dialogue with the thought of philosopher Roberto Esposito on biopolitics and the ‘immunitarian’ paradigm. Through this lens, the documentary’s self-conscious adoption of touristic perspectives may be understood as revealing and challenging an exoticizing fantasy, animated by contagion and immunity, that frames Benares as a space exempt from the modern biopolitical impulse to protect the boundaries of individuals from the shared fabric of the commons.

Type: Article
Title: Death and Life through the Tourist's Gaze: Reflections on Gianfranco Rosi's Boatman
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1386/jicms_00136_1
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1386/jicms_00136_1
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Benares; Boatman; Gianfranco Rosi; Italian documentary cinema; Roberto Esposito; biopolitics; immunitarian; touristic gaze
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10132072
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