But when six pioneers discuss “The Auteur vs Collective Authorship” at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto, it’s difficult not to get lost in the oft-quoted “digital dust”.

One proposition, three speakers in favour, three speakers against. The setup is called an “Oxford-style debate”, and this afternoon’s proposition is “The auteur documentary is a dead duck in the digital water.” In other words, traditional documentary authorship will not survive in the age of user-generated content. But why?

daniel-crossDaniel Cross, a Canadian filmmaker who works with activist groups and homeless communities, argues in favour of the proposition. In his view, the audience get “too suspicious” when an auteur is “too privileged or too much in control”. He sees documentary filmmaking as a collective process involving many different “directors” (such as cinematographers or editors) as well as the communities in which the documentaries are made. According to Cross, this dynamic process is “killing auteurship”. For his current website, “Homeless Nation”, Cross gives cameras to street people who record their own images and have their own blogs.

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