Contemporary Documentary

Course Description:

For well over a century, non-fiction film has figured prominently in the public sphere as a powerful means of persuasion. We will address the predominate creative, technological and political movements in documentary history, with a particular focus on circulation from the late 1950s to the present. Specifically we will explore the role of documentary as observer, catalyst, weapon, and vehicle of movement. We will also investigate the intersection of documentary production and globalization, especially as new media technologies become more integrated in our daily lives and documentary viewing becomes a site of social convergence.

Texts (Selected Readings From):

Barnouw, Eric. Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film. New York; Oxford University Press, 1993.

Kahana, Jonathan. Intelligence Work: The Politics of American Documentary. :New York: Columbia University Press, 2008

 Course Requirements

Creative Assignment: The first four weeks we will explore documentary as a movement with artistic impulses. You will choose a movement or impulse and develop a creative project around it. I would like you to embrace, respond to or (re)create the artistic impulse through an original media project. I encourage you to use the equipment you have readily available to you. Each student will have a production pod but will turn in their own 3-minute project or the equivalent.

Research Paper: You will write one 15-page research paper of your choice. It must be a thesis driven essay, well researched, focused and topic approved by the instructor. You will be expected to have at least 10 source citations and most should be from scholarly journals.

Journal Discussion Assignments: We will be engaging in class discussions about the scope, function, strategies, consequences and public negotiation of documentary. You will be expected to contribute to our discussion AND comment on the input of others. Your journal assignments are designed to help you with preparing for these discussions. You should have your journal assignments completed before class. You may choose to keep a journal in a traditional composition book or online with a blog. This will be a place where you can informally explore your own ideas about contemporary documentary, respond to the reading and write documentary reviews. What is required each week:

Film Critiques: Each week you will be expected to choose a documentary artifact that engages, in your estimation, a unique contribution to documentary history, theory or production. You will watch one documentary each week and complete a critique the work.

Reading Response: You will write a journal entry specifically addressing each assigned reading, drawing connections with other readings, thinking historically and extracting the key ideas. You will also include questions for discussion.

Each week the journal assignment is equivalent to five double spaced pages of writing. This is how I will asses your preparation for class. I will be grading the thoughtfulness of your entries, your attention to the specific assignment details, your application and understanding of documentary as well as your willingness to contribute to the ideas of others. Journal assignment

Final Seminar Project: You will do a project on a genre, collective, or approach to contemporary documentary. You project might written or creative. The project will require original research and thought. The project should be equivalent to a 25-30-page seminar paper, ready for conference submission.

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