Course Description

History of Documentary Film surveys the major developments from the first factual films of 1895 to the present. The course covers major movements within the film genre, including factual film; ethnography, war, propaganda, documentary, and compilation films; films on art, direct cinema, cinema verité; films from the third world, and films from emerging social movements.

Remote Online Course

This course will be conducted remotely over the Internet.

Most learning activities will be asynchronous, meaning that students will complete these on their own time during the assigned week. This includes readings, screenings, quizzes, essays, and exams.

In addition, there will be a certain number of synchronous activities, including a weekly discussion session on Zoom where we discuss the major issues relating to that week’s module on the history of documentary film.

Instructor

Juan Monroy

Office Hours

I will be available for individual meetings on Mondays and Wednesday, between 12:00 – 1:00 PM, US Eastern Time. Sign up for an appointment at least one day in advance at:

https://juanmonroy.com/prattofficehours

After you sign up, I will email you a Zoom Meeting link for you to join the meeting.

Assignments

Please complete all of the assignments by the date noted on the course schedule

Assigned Readings

Assigned readings are listed in the course schedule below and available from the following sources:

  1. Grant, Barry Keith and Jeannette Marie Sloniowski. Documenting the Documentary: Close Readings on Documentary Film and Video, new and expanded ed. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2014.

  2. McLane, Betsy. A New History of Documentary Film, 2nd ed. New York and London: Continuum, 2012.

Reading Quizzes

Each Thursday morning, I will post a reading quiz on Canvas. The quiz will consist of true-false and multiple choice questions.

Complete each quiz by the day before our class meeting, as noted below.

  • Quiz 1 and 2, due September 8
  • Quiz 3, due September 15
  • Quiz 4, due September 22
  • Quiz 5, due September 29
  • Quiz 6, due October 6
  • Quiz 7, due October 20
  • Quiz 8, due October 27
  • Quiz 9, due November 3
  • Quiz 10, due November 10
  • Quiz 11, due November 17
  • Quiz 12, due December 2

Screenings

Watch each of the films listed in the course schedule below. You will need to authenticate with your Pratt One Key credentials to access these screenings.

Some titles are available to stream from commercial services, such as The Criterion Channel, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and Kanopy. Where available, I have linked to Just Watch, a service that aggregates the availability of online streaming for most movie titles.

Live Discussion Sessions

All students must participate in the weekly discussion session held on Zoom. The live discussion session will last about 45 minutes.

In these sessions, we will discuss the major issues relating to that week’s module on the history of documentary film.

Essay 1: Prewar Documentary Film and National Identity

An analytic paper on at least one documentary film, made prior to the end of World War II, screened in class that addresses how national identity is articulated.

  • Guidelines
  • Length: 1,200 words
  • Due: Friday, October 9, 11:59 PM, on Canvas
  • Weight: 20%

Essay 2: Documentary and The Archive

n analytic paper that compares how the past is resurrected through the use of archival footage in contemporary documentary films.

  • Guidelines
  • Length: 1,200 words
  • Due: Friday, December 4, 11:59 PM, on Canvas
  • Weight: 20%

Midterm Exam

The midterm exam will consist of two parts:

  1. Analysis of a film still films screened in class, requiring you to explain the clip in the context of the film.
  2. Short answer questions, requiring you to engage the screenings and readings related to the major movements and trends in documentary film we covered in class.

Details:

  • Available on Canvas, beginning on Thursday, October 8
  • Due on Wednesday, October 14, at 5:00 PM, on Canvas
  • Weight: 20%

Final Exam

The final exam will consist of two parts:

  1. Analysis of a film still films screened in class, requiring you to explain the clip in the context of the film.
  2. Short answer questions, requiring you to engage the screenings and readings related to the major movements and trends in documentary film we covered in class.

Details:

  • Available on Canvas, beginning on Thursday, December 3
  • Due on Wednesday, December 9, at 5:00 PM, on Canvas
  • Weight: 20%

Course Schedule

Complete each assigned activity—readings, quizzes, and screenings—by the date listed for each module.

Module 0: Introduction, August 26

In this introductory session, we will meet each other on Zoom, at the time noted below for your session. I will discuss the format of the course, our approach to studying documentary, and our goals for understanding the history of non-fiction filmmaking.

Module 1: Beginnings, September 2

Module 2: Avant-Garde and Modernity, September 9

Module 3: Documentary and the Soviet Revolution, September 16

Module 4: British Documentary Movement, September 23

  • Read A New History of Documentary Film, “Institutionalization: Great Britain, 1929–1939,” 73–92.
  • Read Documenting the Documentary, “The Art of National Projection: Basil Wright’s The Song of Ceylon.”
  • Watch Industrial Britain (Robert Flaherty and John Grierson, United Kingdom, 1931, 21 min.) Available on Google Drive.
  • Watch Housing Problems (Edgar Anstey and Arthur Elton, United Kingdom, 1935, 16 min.) Available on Google Drive.
  • Watch Song of Ceylon (Basil Wright for Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board, 1937, United Kingdom, 38 min.) Available on Google Drive.
  • Watch Night Mail (Harry Watt and Basil Wright, United Kingdom, 1936, 24 min.) Available on Google Drive.
  • Complete Quiz 4 on Canvas.
  • Join the Live Discussion Session on Zoom:

Module 5: US Documentary and the New Deal, September 30

Module 6: Wartime Documentary, October 7

Midterm Exam, October 14

The midterm exam will be available on Thursday, October 8, and due today at 5:00 PM.

Module 7: Post-War Documentary and Internationalism, October 21

Module 8: Cinéma Verité and Direct Cinema, October 28

Module 9: Political Activism and Documentary, November 4

Module 10: Video and New Documentary Forms, November 11

Module 11: Documentary, Archives, and Truth, November 18

Module 12: Documentary, Memory, and the Future, December 2

Final Exam: December 9

The final exam will be available on Thursday, December 3, and due today at 5:00 PM.