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2022 Spring


Mary Angiolillo
For information about registration please contact our admissions.

This course surveys the history and contemporary vitality of non-fiction films, teaching students to appreciate the social significance and aesthetic possibilities of the form that is considered the taproot of cinema. The curriculum is divided into three sections: in the first, we identify the distinctive development and attributes of documentary; the second explores the range of subjects these films can address, using the largest human rights festival in Europe as a practical laboratory for writing about their topics, and the third outlines documentary’s current characteristics, as a historical chronicle, free associative essay, tester of truth, and ongoing inspiration for fiction films.
Course Contents
(Origins and Definitions, Creative Choices: Technologies and Approaches,Social Effects,
Modes and Experiments)
(Writing about Documentary, Documentary and the Group, Documentary and Individual Performance, Documentary and the Body,Documentary and Memory)
(Documentary as a Historical Chronicle, Documentary as a Playful Essay, Documentary Plays with Truth ,Documentary Inspires Fiction)

Here is the course outline:

1. Documentary Film Course Introduction

Feb 7

Introductory Lesson

2. Early documentaries

Feb 14

We will understand the conditions surrounding the emergence of early documentary film; identify the first documentary filmmakers; discuss the landmark film Nanook; understand expository mode of documentary. The Lumiere and company project is described and assigned.

3. Film Truth, City Symphonies

Feb 21

We will discuss Vertov’s theories of film truth, and look at a subgenre of documentary popular in the 1920s - the City Symphony film. Clips screened from Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera and other city symphony films, including Rain by J. Ivens, 1929. Reflexive and poetic modes of documentary discussed. Questions related to "Fascination with Reality" exercise clarified.

4. Lumiere exercise (Fascination with Reality)

Feb 28

We will screen the short "Lumiere and Company" /Fascination with Reality exercises (to be uploaded before class)

5. British Film Movement and Propaganda

Mar 7

Lesson on British Documentary Film Movement and Propaganda

6. Guest Filmmaker: Francesco Montagner

Mar 14

One World entry Brotherhood, directed by Francesco Montagner will be screened in class with discussion by filmmaker following screening.

7. One World / Direct Cinema &Cinema verité

Mar 21

Students can attend an entry into the One World documentary film festival in Prague between March 23 and 28. Class examines the influential movement in the 1960s known as Direct Cinema and as Cinema Verité

8. guest filmmaker - Rene Kmet + The Thin Blue Line

Apr 4

9. Guest Filmmaker + Documentary Storytelling - Re-enactments

Apr 11

Discussion of storytelling techniques in documentary. Clips from The Thin Blue Line (Errol Moore, 1988) and The Children’s March (Robert Houston, 1963) are screened to compare re-enactments. Performative mode of documentary discussed.

10. Meeting with filmmaker/Development of a treatment

Apr 25

We will meet with the director of a contemporary documentary to discuss her film and process. We will also discuss how treatments are prepared in preparation for final project of treatment and pitch.

11. Documentary activism Description: Michael Moore

May 2

We will discuss the development of a documentary treatment + focus on documentary activism through the films of Michael Moore, looking at clips from films, discussing technique and themes. We will watch the extended clip from Sicko (2007).

12. This class was cancelled

May 9

Characteristics and method for preparation of time-lapse documentaries. Discussion of work by Helena Trestikova, with screening of one of her films.

13. Time-Lapse Documentaries

May 16

We will look at the work of Helena Trestikova. Written treatments are due.

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