19-20 MA2052: Documentary

This course examines the ideas that both audiences and filmmakers commonly use to discuss documentaries. Each week students will examine a single film whose construction highlights a particular issue, and will discuss it in conjunction with a selected written text. The aims of the course are:

1. to understand the main issues in contemporary documentary;
2. to explore how particular filmmakers have addressed these issues in their practice;
3. to understand how we, as contemporary viewers, relate these ideas to our own viewing experience;
4. to explore, as far as possible, the diversity of possible responses to documentary films.

The ideas which are examined fall into three related groups. The first is that of the development of documentary:

*What is documentary?
*How have the ideals of documentary changed over its history?
*What has been the role of technology in the development of documentary?

The second is that of the filming process:

*What are the limits of what can be filmed?
*What happens when people know they are being filmed?
*What kinds of performance are acceptable and even necessary?
*Can truthfulness ever be established?

The third is that of our own experience and expectations as audiences:

*What kinds of construction or even manipulation do we want in order to make factual footage comprehensible?
*Can we cope with ambiguities?
*What do we want from photographs, moving images and recorded sounds?
*What happens when we see and hear exceptional or traumatic events through documentary?