BA Film Studies and Arabic / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
From Documentary to Mockumentary

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM31011
Credit rating 20
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, experimental new voices, television 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.


Pre/Co/Antirequisite 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


  • 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 style

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

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 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

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

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


Written Essay or 10-15 minute Video Essay



Written Essay or Group Creative Proposal and Project Report



Feedback methods

Feedback Method

Formative or Summative

Presentation and Essay – oral and written


Presentation and Essay – written


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
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sophie Everest Unit coordinator

Additional notes

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