Mehubarot: Visual Biographies in a Televised Docu-Realism

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 47 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ayelet KOHN, Department of Communication, David Yellin College of Education, Israel, Photographic Communications, Hadassah Academic College, Israel
The Israeli television series Mehubarot ("Connected") aired on the Israeli TV on July-August 2009. The five participating women were asked to document their lives with a video camera for at least one hour every day. The final cut was produced by the series creators. In light of the series' success, the network produced a follow-up series in 2010, this time featuring five men.

The paper discusses the phenomenon of a photographed intimate diary which gradually unfolds an ongoing biography. Unlike blogs or videos uploaded to the internet, which are contemporary precedents for this kind of intimate exposure in the public arena, the genre under discussion relies on established conventions of television and cinema to convey authenticity. This marks the difference between a personal (filmed) blog and the television show and its docu-realistic character. Mehubarot is inspired by written diaries, documentaries and films that use voice-over, "I movies" in Duvdevani's (2010) terms. Two central representation frameworks: monologues to the camera and semi-staged interactions, will be discussed as means to use visually-packaged spoken language to convey different levels of exposure and sincerity to the viewers.

The series also adopts patterns of confession and exposure commonly used in soaps and reality shows. Thus it adapts the televised platform that follow ongoing projects of identity-construction, and frequently present them as journeys of self-discovery and personal development (Aslama and Pantti, 2006; Hamo 2009; Cameron 2000; Holmes 2004; Holmes & Jermyn 2004).

The paper suggests a multi-modal discussion of how the series participants use the combined tool of camerawork and spoken language to both explore and construct their identities on various levels: their private-public identity, social and family identity, and “celebrity” identity, considering the context of Israeli society and its culture. The case of journalist Dana Spector will serve as a striking example.