Media and film studies

Debates in Screen Documentary B

Module code: P4107B
Level 5
15 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar, Film
Assessment modes: Coursework

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.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate an appropriate understanding of the key themes, issues, and debates in documentary studies.
  • Identify major films that have influenced the field and their contribution
  • Identify the key historical movements in documentary practice
  • Demonstrate the ability to integrate critical sources in their construction and development of written analysis and argument.