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BA Film Studies and History of Art / Course details
Year of entry: 2023
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Course unit details:
From Documentary to Mockumentary
|Unit level||Level 3|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 1|
|Available as a free choice unit?||No|
This course explores documentary film history and theory. The first block of study focuses on documentary as a genre, explored through a historical perspective. Students will explore key innovators in the documentary form, such as the Lumiere 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, dramatised narrative 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.
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)?
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
- To provide students with an overview of historical and contemporary documentary film approaches through critical analysis and contextual research
- To introduce students to a range of debates and theories that have shaped critical thinking around the documentary genre
- To equip students with the critical and analytical tools needed to identify and analyse the representational, ethical, formal and aesthetic strategies of a range of documentary styles
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 their awareness of key areas of debate and contestation in the history of documentary film analysis and theory
- demonstrate an ability to critically analyse a range of documentary films and evaluate their approach to issues of authenticity, subjectivity, narrative construction and reflexivity
- understand how the hybrid forms of contemporary documentary both intersect with and refashion historical modes
- 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 in order to frame questions about documentary film and key concepts around authenticity, subjectivity, narrative construction and reflexivity
- develop articulate, convincing arguments about documentary film, especially about topic
- areas that are complex, uncertain and ambiguous
- 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 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
Formative or Summative
Weighting within unit (if summative)
Written Essay or Video Essay
2500 or 10-15 minute video essay
Formative or Summative
Presentation and essay - oral and written
Presentation and essay - written
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.
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Practical classes & workshops||33|
|Independent study hours|
|Sophie Everest||Unit coordinator|