Debates in Screen Documentary B (P4107B)

15 credits, Level 5

Autumn teaching

This module will introduce you to the major debates in documentary film studies, a burgeoning field within the discipline of film studies. The documentary is notoriously difficult to categorize or define, but John Grierson’s provisional definition as ‘the creative treatment of actuality’ is as good a place as any to start the investigation of this shapeshifting form.

Gaining in popularity and expanding in form well beyond its traditional televisual format, documentary studies has become an exciting area of research with a literature that is expanding exponentially. A survey of the field will include (but is not limited to) interrogations into questions of:

  • representation of reality
  • documentary authorship
  • objectivity and subjectivity
  • the essayistic and experimental modes
  • other key themes.

Movements and trends in documentary will be covered including a range of practices that have spurred heated debate, such as the mockumentary, the interactive documentary, and the incursion of documentary into the art world. Case studies from international documentary will be integrated into the module, depending on the specialism of the convenor.


80%: Lecture (Film, Lecture)
20%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 60 hours of contact time and about 90 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.