Film theory and philosophy have in recent decades rightly critiqued earlier theorists' claims for the fundamentally realist nature of the cinema, and of photography generally. While cognizant of the problematic status of "realist" representation-of photography being somehow purely or naively representative-this essay nevertheless deliberately recuperates a realist discourse with which to value some forms of nonfiction film. The essay sees "nonfiction film fragments" as a form of witnessing, and tries to articulate our experience of such film in terms of memorializing the people and events it bears witness to. The essay goes even further in its claims on behalf of a realist cinematic memory, suggesting that nonfiction fragments constitute a mode of perception that affords trustworthy historical witnessing. That is, the fragmentary status of some film is what paradoxically restores "wholeness" to the person or place of which it is a glimpse. In a Bazinian and Cavellian mode of writing, this introductory essay to the phenomena of nonfiction film fragments aims as much to be evocative of our experience of film as public memory, as critical of it.

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