The Art & History of Documentary
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Level: Undergraduate
Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Media Studies
Department: Communication
Course Number: NFLM 3489
Course Format: Lecture
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
In this course, students will gain an in depth understanding of how the field of documentary film has been divided into a handful of broadly understood formal approaches, which developed in rough historical succession: montage and propaganda; poetic forms, narrated exposition, fly-on-the-wall, participatory and performative. As each approach, or mode, was developed, it enjoyed its day in the sun. Today, they are essentially all up for grabs, filmmakers picking and choosing which method(s) works best for their project at hand. Why did they emerge when they did, and what – if any – is the preferred mode of the present? Do these different approaches signify different degrees of “truth” vs. “manipulation?” These historical, formal and ethical questions will be discussed in the context of close viewing of some of the great examples in each genre, as well as assigned readings - a combination of filmmakers’ and scholarly writings. Students will additionally have the opportunity to gain direct experience with a few of the primary documentary modes via a number of optional hands-on exercises. The course thus provides a working familiarity with the body of theory that has developed for over a century of documentary filmmaking, and offers a good foundation for the student wishing to embark on further academic research or his/her own documentary project.
Course Open to: Majors Only