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BA Film Studies and East Asian Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
From Documentary to Mockumentary

Unit code DRAM31012
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Drama
Available as a free choice unit? No


The course will explore documentary film history and theory. The first block of study will focus on the documentary as a genre, presented through a historical perspective and exploring key documentary film directors and producers, such as the Lumiere brothers, Robert Flaherty, Dziga Vertov, John Grierson and Jean Rouch. The second block will focus on documentary film approaches that have given new meaning to the traditional documentary genre, including television documentaries, ethnographic film, participatory video, reflexive documentaries, dramatised documentaries and mock-documentaries.





Available on which programme(s)?

L3 Drama, Drama and Screen, Drama and English, Music and Drama; Film minor programmes


Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)?



Pre-requisite units

Any L1 Drama Study or Practical core option


Any L2 Drama Study core option - Practitioners in Context 1; Practitioners in Context 2; Screen, Culture and Society



Co-requisite units





•          To explore a range of aspects of historical and contemporary documentary film approaches through critical analysis and research.

•           To stimulate and broaden students’ intellectual curiosity in relation to documentary film

•          To provide students with an engaging point of access to understanding, exploring,              
              interrogating documentary film theory and history

•             To introduce students to and develop students ability to apply key methods, technical terms, analytical approaches in the area of documentary film studies


Indicative syllabus (representative only – all of the topics listed below may not be covered every year):


Week 1: “Let there be Lumière”: The Origins of the Documentary Film Genre

Week 2: “…to distort a thing to catch its true spirit”: Robert Flaherty and the ‘Documentary’

Week 3: “…a fresh perception of the world”: Dziga Vertov and the ‘Kino Pravda’

Week 4: “….the drama is on your doorstep”: John Grierson and the British Documentary

Week 5: “…a filmic truth”: Jean Rouch and Cinéma Vérité

Week 6: Reading Week

Week 7: Introduction to Television Documentaries

Week 8: Ethnographic Films

Week 9: Participatory Videos

Week 10: Reflexive Documentaries

Week 11: Dramatised Documentaries

Week 12: Mock-documentaries

Teaching and learning methods

The course will be taught via:

·         Lectures

·         Discussion exercises

·         Creative tasks as appropriate

·         Screenings


The course unit will be complemented by a Blackboard site that conforms to minimum requirements including a course handbook, weekly course breakdown, provision of reading material, reading lists. Supplementary material from workshops will be added as appropriate. The blackboard site will be prepared and available to students at least one week prior to the beginning of the first teaching week each semester.

Knowledge and understanding

•             demonstrate a systematic understanding of key aspects in the area of documentary film studies  

              including alternative documentary film approaches


•             demonstrate the acquisition of coherent and detailed knowledge in the area of documentary film 

              studies informed by research at the forefront of defined aspects of the research  



•            describe and comment on aspects of current research or advanced research in the area of

              documentary film studies


•            demonstrate their awareness of key areas of contestation in relation to documentary film


•             demonstrate an ability to critically evaluate arguments, concepts and documentary films through 

              close textual analysis of documentary film 

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 and related

              research,  as well as identify areas for on-going learning in documentary film studies


•          synthesis complex material in order to frame questions about documentary film and media 



•          develop articulate, convincing arguments about documentary film, especially about topic

             areas that are complex, uncertain and ambiguous, including media objectivism and


Practical skills

•          manage own learning, including making use of advanced research scholarship in the area of  

             documentary film studies, at least some of which was identified independently


•          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

Analytical skills
¿ advanced critical thinking, problem-solving and planning skills
Group/team working
¿ working productively as part of a group and independently in learning environments that present complex and unpredictable challenges
¿ advanced ability to exercise initiative and personal responsibility
¿ ability to effectively adapt self-presentation to difference audiences/contexts, especially when communicating complex topics

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 60%
Oral assessment/presentation 40%

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Essay 1 and essay 2 - oral


Essay 1 and Essay 2 - written



Recommended reading

Barnouw, E. 1993. Documentary: a history of the non-fiction. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Barsam, R. 1992. Nonfiction Film: a critical history. Bloomington Ind.: Indiana.
Hockings, P. 2009. Principles of Visual Anthropology. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Kilborn, R. and J. Izod. 1997. An Introduction to Television Documentary. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Rosenthal, A. and Corner, J. (Eds.) 2005. New Challenges for Documentary. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
White, S. (Ed) 2003. Participatory Video. Images that Transform and Empower. New Delhi : Sage Publications.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Johannes Sjoberg Unit coordinator

Additional notes

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