One persistent connection in documentary film production in the post–World War II era has been the use of archival footage to show how the past is a part of the present.

In this writing assignment, describe and analyze how one of the films in this Letterboxd list uses archival footage to show how the past is alive in the present day (i.e., the time when the documentary was produced or released). You may consider how the film either edits archival footage together from a variety of different sources—or how it blends archival footage with original footage, such as interviews—to revive the past.

What Do You Mean By "Archival Footage?"

It might help to think of the differences between what historians call a primary source and a secondary source. A primary source is any artifact generated by the event. A secondary source is an "after-the-fact" account of the event. By "after-the-fact," it helps to ask whether there is historical distance between the account and the event.

Archival footage would be like a primary source—something generated by the event. The documentary itself would be a kind of secondary source that examines the event using primary and other secondary sources. Primary sources would include archival footage, while secondary sources would include new footage shot by the filmmakers, current interviews with witnesses and participants, and newly created explanatory titles and voiceover narration.

Your analysis should focus on specific sequences in the documentary film, referencing at least one of following formal elements:

Be sure to describe the sequences you’re analyzing in detail. Do not use timecode: it doesn’t help me visualize the scene you’re discussing in your paper. Feel free to include a few screen captures from the film in your paper to illustrate your description of the sequence. Do not analyze the entire film, and do not summarize the plot. Also, do not use the word “successful” (or a synonym) anywhere in your essay.

You don’t need to do any outside research for this assignment, but if you do use any bibliographic sources, you will need to cite those. Please remember to italicize the title of the films—don’t put the title in quotes.

Your paper should be about 1,200 words in length and is due in class on the date specified on the syllabus. Please do not email me your paper. Upload a double-spaced PDF document to Canvas to the assignment named “Essay 2: Documentary and The Archive.”