Week 5 – Review & Modes revisited

This week, with our first assignment due, we take stock of where we’re at by reviewing the territory covered so far and looking ahead to what’s coming up. In particular it’s time to start thinking about your own documentary.

1.Assignment 1 due:

Any issues? I will be checking all the blogs this afternoon.

2. A very quick review:

In an effort to consolidate the territory we’ve covered, a quick review is in order…

In Week 1 we:

  • asked What is Documentary? (and what isn’t)
  • watched and discussed works by Yung Jake
  • watched and discussed the short documentary, Lovely Andrea (2007)

In Week 2 we:

  • watched excerpts from some early films where the territory of  documentary was being forged and the styles that we are so familiar with today began to emerge.
  • We discovered some ways to categories docoumentary film by examining Bill Nichols 6 modes of documentary. (what are they again?)
  • watched the influential Man with a Movie Camera (1929) and discovered that documentary has a long tradition of a ‘creative treatment of actuality’

In Week 3 we:

  • investigated issues around ethics and the documentary film by watching excerpts from 2 films, Land without Bread (1933) and the BBC produced The Family.
  • We discovered that the act of pointing a camera at a subject raises myriad of ethical issues that we need to be aware of.
  • we made our short observational documentaries – Nature on Campus.

In Week 4 we:

  • considered Michael Renov’s proposition that documentary is in fact always an encounter between seer and seen and that while ‘the seen’ (or the world on the other side of the lens) has traditionally been emphasised, there’s no reason why  documentary can’t purely be about the ‘the filtering sensibility’. We watched an example of such a film (Stan Brakhage’s The Wonder Ring) where you could say  the film is about the interrogation of vision itself. We therefore can consider our own Nature on Campus documentaries in this more subjective mode. This was further emphasised by the fact that despite having the same subject matter, each of our documentaries were very different.
  • discovered interactive documentary by watching and discussing some examples
  • looked at the software Korsakow, which enables the creation of interactive, database films
  • discovered the genre of docofiction by watching and discussing an iconic film in this mode – Close Up (1990) by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami.

3. Class activity – Watching, note-taking, and talking:
In groups of 3, watch extracts from the following documentaries, and discuss which mode of documentary (following Nichol’s system) you think each most embodies. (To make things more complicated, remember the notion that documentaries frequently display aspects of more than one mode!)

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) David Gelb

The River, 1937, Pare Lorenz

The Night Mail (1936)

Nanook of the North (1922)

Berlin, Symphony of a Great City (1927)

The Fog of War (2003) by Errol Morris

Film Ist
(1998) by Gustav Deutsch

Reassemblage (1983) by Trinh T Minh Ha

The Gleaners and I (2000) by Agnes Varda

Tarnation (2003) by Jonathan Caouette

Metallica Some Kind of Monster (2004)


Jesus Camp (2006)

This is Shell (1970) Geoffrey Jones


4. Class Activity 2 – Re-Make ‘Nature on Campus’:
Join with your group of 3. In the remaining time, make a quick turnaround documentary where you re-make the ‘Nature on Campus’ documentary using one of the above modes (your mode will be allocated to you). You will need to discuss with your group the particular aspects of this mode which will affect the way you construct your film.

Upload your film to Vimeo and link it to your blog…..include the mode you used in the film title.

5. Assignment 2 & 3
Check the Assessments link on the blog and read again the requirements of Assignments 2 & 3.

6. Homework
This week you need to make your first blog post for Assignment 2. Write down all your ideas for a short documentary (Assignment 3) including any ideas about the style, mode or aesthetic you may have. Watch other examples, link them to your blog, etc. In general begin this reflective/research process.

Be prepared to bring and pitch your ideas next week to the class


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