Documentary Film as a Liberal Art [CRN 31326 Course] [CRN 31327 Lab]

456:
Discipline: Journalism and Media Communication
Instructor: Janes
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1400
End: 1520
Field Work: Day 1 | March 18, 2019 | South Africa
Prerequisites: Students must be of junior or senior academic standing Download Syllabus

This course will introduce students to the history, theory, traditions, techniques, and approaches of documentary film from a Liberal Arts perspective. Through screenings, class discussion, readings, and critical writing, students will review and assess how individuals, societies, cultures, and politics are depicted in non-fiction films, and how these representations seek to actively reshape our understanding of the world. We will explore the various styles and approaches documentary filmmakers use (observational, reflective, expository, etc.), and how these approaches are used to construct a specific worldview that might influence or persuade their audiences.  Particular attention will be given to aesthetic, scholarly, and ethical questions, including the simple-sounding but increasingly contentious:  How do we know if something is true? Through written assignments and a practical documentary exercise designed to introduce students to how they might visually express social/cultural issues, this course will help students further develop their critical thinking, written argumentation and analytical skills, and creativity.  Films for the course will be a mixture of classic documentaries and contemporary programs about people and places in countries to be visited on the voyage.

By the end of this course students will:

  1. Develop a greater understanding of the historical, theoretical, critical, social, and political contexts of the documentary film genre.
  2. Have a greater understanding of the history, methods, styles, and approaches of documentary filmmakers.
  3. Gain a better understanding of key concepts and debates underlying documentary film including the relationship between theory, artistic expression, and societal impact.
  4. Develop a greater appreciation for the role that research, evidence, and ethics must play in documentary filmmaking.
  5. Recognize the role that documentary film may have in influencing efforts of social and political change across a global and culturally diverse landscape.
  6. Have a more effective understanding of the creative and technical processes involved in the writing and production of documentary films and the influence these things may have on content.
  7. Develop a greater appreciation of how documentary film can serve as a platform for a larger liberal arts discussion

This course is also offered as LB 456, through the CSU Department of Liberal Arts.

Field Work

Country: South Africa
Day: 1
Date: March 18, 2019


After viewing the documentary Searching for Sugar Man, students will have the opportunity to meet with one of the principles of that film, record store owner Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman who assisted in tracking down singer-musician Sixto Rodriguez in Detroit, as featured in the documentary. We will discuss his role in the making of the Academy-Award winning documentary directed by Malik Bendjelloul. We will also meet with documentarian Jacqueline van Meygaarden of Cosmos Productions. There we will have the opportunity to talk with Ms. Meygaarden and other professional media makers and storytellers from the Mycelium Media Colab about documentaries and the role they can plan in social change. Lastly, the class will meet Kurt Orderson, view his recent documentary film, Not In My Neighbourhood, and engage in a question and answer session. Throughout the day the class will discuss approaches to documentary production and storytelling and how they might be used to convey meaning and messages.

Learning objectives:

Students will gain a greater awareness of and understanding about:

• the role that documentary film may have in influencing efforts of social and political change across a global and culturally diverse landscape.
• the power of music to mobilize public opinion about key social issues and bridge diverse global cultures
• images of apartheid and how they circulated around the world (as photos and film) creating pressure on the South African government to end discriminatory policies
• the power of the filmed documentary to inform publics around the world about issues formerly unknown to them
• the creative and technical processes involved in the writing and production of documentary films and the influence these things may have on content.