MA Film Studies

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
From Documentary to Mockumentary

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM71011
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course explores documentary film history and theory. The first block of study focuses on the documentary as a genre, explored through a historical perspective. Students will explore key innovators in the documentary form, such as the Lumière Brothers, Robert Flaherty, Dziga Vertov and the filmmakers of the British Documentary Movement and Cinéma Vérité. The second block of study focuses on documentary film approaches and contexts that have given new meaning to the genre including reflexive filmmaking, radical voices, television documentaries, interactive documentary, drama-documentary and mock-documentary. Throughout the course, students will gain an understanding of the key debates and theories that have influenced thinking around the documentary genre. The ethics of representation, claims to ‘truth’, style, narrative construction and reflexivity will be recurring themes as we examine how different documentary approaches continue to shape our perception of reality on screen.



  • To provide students with a systematic understanding of historical and contemporary documentary film approaches
  • To provide students with a critical awareness of the key debates and insights that have shaped critical thinking around the documentary form
  • To equip students with a comprehensive understanding of the skills and language needed to conduct their own original critical analysis, with a focus on strategies and issues of documentary authenticity, representation, mode, narrative, form and aesthetics


Teaching and learning methods

The lectures for this course unit will be delivered online.

Knowledge and understanding

  • demonstrate a systematic understanding of the history of documentary film, including alternative documentary film approaches
  • demonstrate a sophisticated critical awareness of key areas of debate and new insights in documentary film analysis and theory
  • demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the techniques needed to critically analyse a range of documentary films and evaluate diverse approaches to issues of authenticity, representation, mode, narrative, form and aesthetics


Intellectual skills

  • recognise the limits of knowledge, and its influence on analysis and interpretations, and to use this to develop sustained responses to presented documentary films as well as identify areas for on-going learning in documentary film studies
  • synthesise complex material systematically and creatively in order to frame questions about documentary film and key concepts around authenticity, representation, mode, narrative, form and aesthetics
  • develop articulate, convincing arguments about documentary film, especially about topic areas that are complex, uncertain and ambiguous


Practical skills

  • Demonstrate self-direction and originality in managing their own learning, including making use of advanced research scholarship in the area of documentary film studies
  • communicate complex, multi-layered arguments and counter-arguments effectively, in written and verbal form
  • grasp and effectively apply ethical principles in the area of documentary film studies


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • demonstrate an advanced ability to self-manage learning – to ask questions independently, identify relevant research material, take initiative, make decisions, and develop independent and sustained responses to complex problems
  • demonstrate an advanced ability to develop sustained arguments and present these effectively in written and oral form


Employability skills

Employability skills that students can expect to gain from successful completion of this module include: advanced critical thinking, problem-solving and planning skills advanced ability to exercise initiative and personal responsibility working productively as part of a group and independently in learning environments that present complex and unpredictable challenges ability to effectively adapt self-presentation to different audiences/contexts, especially when communicating complex topics

Assessment methods


Assessment Task

Formative or Summative


Essay Plan



Written Essay or Video Essay




Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Essay plan





Recommended reading

  • Bruzzi, S. 2006. New Documentary (second edition). London and New York: Routledge.
  • Kahana, J. and Musser, C. 2016. The Documentary Film Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • McLane, B. 2013. A New History of Documentary Film. Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Rosenthal, A. and Corner, J. (Eds.) 2005. New Challenges for Documentary. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Winston, B. (Eds.) 2013. The Documentary Film Book. London: BFI.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Seminars 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 261

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Johannes Sjoberg Unit coordinator
Sophie Everest Unit coordinator

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