ARTS 643
The Changing Character of the Documentary Film

Lisa Molomot

Course Summary

This course traces the development of the documentary film from the late Nineteenth Century to the present.  The goal of the course is to learn critical thinking skills as they relate to nonfiction film.  As students learn about the construction of documentary films, they will be able to question what it is they are actually seeing and critique the films in class discussions and papers.

Methods of Evaluation
Class Participation: 25%
Mid-term paper: 20%
Final paper: 25%
Journal assignments: 30%
Journal Assignments and Papers

Each week students will write a two-page journal entry about the film(s) viewed outside of class. There will be both a mid-term paper and a final paper.

Course Materials

Students are required to purchase Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film by Erik Barnouw and The Documentary Tradition by Lewis Jacobs.  Students will be required to watch a film outside of class each week.  All films are on reserve at Olin Library.  Ask for the dvd's with the call number and specify that it's a video.  Please return all DVD's back to the reserve desk.  Films are also available at Best Video in Hamden-(203) 287-9286, through Netflix and at other local video stores.

Attendance Policy

Students are expected to attend all 12 classes.  If anyone misses more than 2 classes, they will be unable to pass the course.

Course Schedule
Class 1
September 15

Introduction to Documentary Film 
In Class:  Short films by the Lumiere Brothers

Class 2
September 22

Robert Flaherty and John Grierson, the fathers of documentary
In Class:  The March of Time

Assignment Due:
Nanook of the North-Robert Flaherty
Night Mail-Harry Watt and Basil Wright
Read: Jacobs pp.12-21, 381-382 and Barbouw pp.33-51, 85-139
Journal Assignment:  Is Nanook of the North a fiction film or a documentary?

Class 3
September 29

Avant-Garde and Poetic Films of the 1920's
In Class: Rain 

Assignment Due:
The Man with a Movie Camera-Dziga Vertov
Read: Jacobs pp.49-63 and Barnouw pp. 51-81
Journal Assignment:  What is Vertov's POV about filmmaking in The Man with a Movie Camera?

Class 4
October 6

World War II and Propaganda
In Class: Why We Fight-Frank Capra
The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl-Ray Muller 

Assignment Due:
Triumph of the Will-Leni Riefenstahl
Read: Jacobs pp.138-140 and Barnouw pp.139-172
Journal Assignment:  Why was Triumph such a successful film?

Class 5
October 13

Postwar Documentary and Television 

Assignment Due:
Night and Fog-Alan Resnais
Read: Jacobs pp. 276-282 and Barnouw pp.172-182
Journal Assignment:  How is the voiceover narration similar to or different from the VO used in documentaries today?

Class 6
October 20

New Technology of the 1960's/Cinema Verite and Direct Cinema
In Class:  Le Joli Mai-Chris Marker 

Assignment Due:
Chronicles of a Summer-Jean Rouch
High School-Fredrick Wiseman
Read: Barnouw pp.230-262, handout
Journal Assignment:  Do you feel the presence of the camera altered the manner of acting and speaking of the characters in Chronicles?

October 27 October Break
Class 7
November 3

In Class: Greg Ford For Congress-Stephen Lipscomb 

Assignment Due:
Grey Gardens-The Maysles
Read: Jacobs pp.400-405, handout
Journal Assignment:  What ethical issues do you imagine may have come up for the filmmakers while filming Grey Gardens?

Class 8
November 10

Documentaries of the 1970's and 80's


Assignment Due:
The Thin Blue Line-Errol Morris
Roger and Me-Michael Moore

Class 9
November 17

Watch and discuss: The Gleaners and I-Agnes Varda 

Assignment Due:
For extra credit: watch Fighter and respond

November 24 Thanksgiving Break
Class 10
December 8

PBS/ Storytelling and the 3-Act structure
In Class: Beyond The Border-Eren McGinnis and Ari Palos

Assignment Due:
Read ITVS proposal for Beyond The Border

Class 11
December 1

Contemporary Independent Documentaries  

Assignment Due:
51 Birch Street
Daughter from Danang
Blue Vinyl

Final Paper assignment will be handed out

Class 12
December 15

Editing a Documentary
In Class: Companeras-Matthew Buzzell and Elizabeth Massie 

Finals due Friday December 18

On Reserve at Olin Library

1. Workers Emerging From a Factory-Lumiere brothers
2. Nanook of the North-Robert Flaherty
3. The Man with a Movie Camera-Dziga Vertov
4. Rain-Joris Ivens
5. Night Mail- Harry Watt and Basil Wright
6. Triumph of the Will-Leni Riefenstahl
7.Why We Fight (series)-Frank Capra
8. Night and Fog-Alan Resnais
9. Chronicles of a Summer-Jean Rouch
10. High School-Fredrick Wiseman
11. Grey Gardens-The Maysles
12. The Thin Blue Line-Errol Morris
13. Roger and Me-Michael Moore
14. The Gleaners and Me Agnes Varda
14. Fighter-Amir Bar Lev
16. Daughter From Danang-Gail Dolgin and Vincente Franco
18. Blue Vinyl-Judith Helfand
19. Companeras Liz Massie
20. 51 Birch Street Doug Block