Public Imaginations

A Survey of Documentary Form

Dec 12–30, 2019


Sisters in Law. 2005. Great Britain/Cameroon. Directed by Kim Longinotto, Florence Ayisi. Courtesy Women Make Movies
  • MoMA, Floor T2/T1 The Debra and Leon Black Family Film Center

Comprised entirely of films in MoMA’s collection, this series illustrates the documentary’s singular ability to both organize and interpret reality. This diverse selection illustrates the Museum’s ongoing commitment to acquiring cutting-edge nonfiction works, while also posing larger questions about the boundaries of the form itself—malleable and generous, representing the full range of filmic techniques in portraying subjective and “objective” experiences with a capacity unique among art forms. From Jean Vigo’s 1930 avant-garde city snapshot À propos de Nice to the immersive digital marvel Leviathan (2012), and ranging from cultural criticism to autobiography, this series roughly charts how advancements in technology and socio-cultural movements have cemented the documentary form’s role as an enduring tool for crafting views of our world.

In addition to being held in MoMA’s film collection, most of these films have previously screened at the Museum in myriad landmark series over the last 80-plus years, including the inaugural New York Film Festival in 1963, Cineprobe, New Directors/New Films, and any number of career-spanning retrospectives.

Organized by Olivia Priedite, Senior Program Assistant, Department of Film.

Support for the exhibition is provided by the Annual Film Fund. Leadership support for the Annual Film Fund is provided by the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation and Steven Tisch, with major contributions from Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP), Yuval Brisker Charitable Foundation, The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, Marlene Hess and James D. Zirin, Karen and Gary Winnick, and The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art.



If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].