Module UXS-2059:
Understanding Documentary

Module Facts

Run by School of Music and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Dyfrig Jones

Overall aims and purpose

This module will give students an overview contemporary documentary film. Developments in documentary film history will be explored within a theoretical context, which will enable the students to understand the ways in which documentaries have evolved over time. This module will also look at the work of a number of key documentary film-makers examining their films within the context of documentary theory.

Course content

This course will look at the development of documentary film, attempting to place important developments within a theoretical context. The course will begin by looking at the way in which the early pioneers of documentary film emerged in the 1920s, and seek to understand the contributions of John Grierson, Robert Flaherty and Dziga Vertov, and the relationship between their work.

This will be followed by an examination of the emergence of Direct Cinema and Cinema Verité during the 1960s, and the challenges faced by those attempting to work within observational documentary. The rejection of the purely observational mode of documentary, and the rise of the participatory film-maker will follow, leading on to an examination of reflexive documentaries, the role of dramatisation within documentary film, drama-documentary and docudrama.

The final part of the course will look at the influence of new technology upon documentary film, analysing the influence of both computer generated imagery and animation upon documentary film. Specific attention will be paid to the work of film-makers such as Albert and David Maysles, DA Pennebaker, Nick Broomfield, Molly Dineen, Errol Morris, and Kevin MacDonald among others.

Assessment Criteria

threshold

Threshold (40%+)

Submitted work is adequate and shows an acceptable level of competence as follows:

  • Generally accurate but with omissions and errors.
  • Assertions are made without clear supporting evidence or reasoning.
  • Has structure but is lacking in clarity and therefore relies on the reader to make links and assumptions.
  • Draws on a relatively narrow range of material.

excellent

Excellent (70%+)

Submitted work is of an outstanding quality and excellent in one or more of the following ways:

  • Has originality of exposition with the student's own thinking being readily apparent.
  • Provides clear evidence of extensive and relevant independent study.
  • Arguments are laid down with clarity and provide the reader with successive stages of consideration to reach conclusions.

good

Good (50%+)

Submitted work is competent throughout and occasionally distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It demonstrates:

  • Good structure and logically developed arguments.
  • At least in parts draws on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student.
  • Assertions are, in the main, backed by evidence and sound reasoning.
  • Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style.

Very Good (60%+)

Submitted work is competent throughout and distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It demonstrates:

  • Very good structure and logically developed arguments.
  • Draws on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student.
  • Assertions are backed by evidence and sound reasoning.
  • Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style.

Learning outcomes

  1. Identify milestones in the recent development of film and television documentary

  2. Critically evaluate both form and content in documentary

  3. Apply film and television theory to the critical evaluation of film and television texts

  4. Identify and describe major documentary film theories

  5. Identify and critically analyse the work of a number of specific documentary film makers

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Annotated Bibliography 50
Essay or Video Essay 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Private study 156
Seminar

Seminar, 1 hour per week

11
 

Film screening, 2 hours per week

22
Lecture

Lecture, 1 hour per week

11

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Resources

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: