Post-Cinema and Found Footage

Written By: Alice Locatelli

In the 21st century cinema has been subjected to an historical transformation, with the introduction of new techniques and narratives, and experienced a process of digitalization that brought some theorists to talk about “post-cinema”. The use of this term does not imply that classic cinema has completely disappeared, but that the forms of telling a story have changed and evolved, and as stated by Denson and Leyda in their book Post-cinema: Theorizing 21st Century Film:

[…] we reject the idea of post-cinema as a clear-cut break with traditional media forms and instead emphasize a transitional movement taking place along an uncertain timeline, following an indeterminate trajectory, and characterized by juxtapositions and overlaps between the techniques, technologies, and aesthetic conventions of “old” and “new” moving-image media

The impact of digitalization has been fundamental for the transformation of cinema, and new formal strategies have been developed: contemporary films “use digital cameras and editing technologies, incorporating the aesthetics of gaming, webcams, surveillance video, social media, and smartphones, to name a few” (Denson, Leyda, 2016).

One of these new formal strategies is the so called “found footage technique”, in which a film consists of fake video recordings that are presented as they have been discovered. The introduction of small and handy digital cameras in the production of movies, allowed several directors to make these types of “fake documentaries” with a reduced budget and a moderately use of resources (the 2007 movie Paranormal Activity, for example, cost only 15,000$ and gained at the box-office almost 200 million$). This type of style works in particular in horror movies, because of the sense of tension that handled cameras sequences transmit. This technique became well-known thanks to The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sànchez, 1999): the marketing of the movie was so well effective that a lot of young people actually believed that the events narrated were really occurred (Baron, 2014, 48).


In recent years, this narrative strategy became a genre, and a lot of famous directors used it, like J.J. Abrams (who produced Cloverfield, 2008) and M. Night Shyamalan (The Visit, 2015).


Baron, Jaimie (2014). The archive effect found footage and the audiovisual experience of history. London; New York: Routledge.

Denson, Shane; Leyda, Julia (eds.) (2016). Post-Cinema: Theorizing 21st Century film. Falmer: REFRAME Books.




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