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Documentary Cinema

ENGL 392.401
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

This course will engage the multiple historical, technological, and economic changes that have made contemporary documentary cinema arguably the most vital and inventive film practice today. During the first part of the semester, we will examine the historical traditions that have defined documentary film through the twentieth century: from early “actualities” and the films of Robert Flaherty in the 1920s through the experiments with cinema vérité and direct cinema in the 1950s and 1960s. Alongside these practices, we will read various critical and theoretical positions, such as those found in the writings of Dziga Vertov, John Grierson, and Jean Rouch. The second half of the course will tackle the dynamic variety of documentary work made since 1980. This will include films by Chris Marker, Errol Morris, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and others where the confluence of a digital revolution and the global expansion of different film practices have rapidly redefined the potential and importance of documentary cinema. Requirements will include a seminar presentation, a short analytical essay, and a research project. There are no prerequisites.