Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2008


cinema, film, National Film Board of Canada, NFB, Dresden Story


Numerous surveys of the development of documentary cinema and analyses of its transitional moments exist especially those concerning technological evolution and shifts in representational strategy. And yet few histories clearly mark out a space for the emergence of the interview subject as one of the standard rhetorical devices in nonfiction film. These “talking heads” ranging in appearance from speaking subjects directly addressing the camera to the testimony of witnesses addressing an on-screen or off-screen interviewer are a dominant feature of contemporary documentary cinema and a basic component of film and television language. While there are various discussions concerning the ideological dimension of interviews generally there is little to no critical examination of when how and why the device first emerges and subsequently evolves within specific filmmaking contexts. By localizing my inquiry and focusing on the development of the interview subject in the films of the National Film Board of Canada I hope to offer a specific account of the circumstances under which talking heads become a part of film vocabulary and documentary culture.


7 March 2016: At the time of publication, Sheridan College author Michael Brendan Baker was associated with McGill University.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher


Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences


School of Humanities and Creativity


Canadian Journal of Film Studies


Publisher's version

Peer Reviewed/Refereed Publication


Terms of Use

Terms of Use for Works posted in SOURCE.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Original Publication Citation

Baker, M. (2008). Dresden story and the emergence of the talking head in the NFB documentary. Canadian Journal of Film Studies, 17(2), 2-17.