This semester’s documentary film class

TMA 293, DOCUMENTARY AND NON-FICTION FILM, WINTER 2013

Course objective (which, you will notice, is not a mission statement, nor a list of assessment measures): to watch and enjoy a lot of non-fiction films.  To consider the idea of the nonfiction film from its beginning to the present day; to explore a range of approaches, styles, institutions and individuals associated with the documentary idea; to consider some of the social, political and ethical issues that have informed the documentary, and that emerge out of the making and viewing of documentary films; finally, to consider how our own lives (as film makers, film critics, and simple citizens) are or ought to be informed and shaped by documentary sensibilities.

 

Required Texts:

Documentary, by Erik Barnouw, 2nd revised ed.; Introduction to Documentary, by Bill Nichols, 2nd ed.

 

Class schedule:

Week 1    INTRODUCTION; OUTSIDE/IN I

Jan. 8     Microcosmos (1996), A Christmas Carol (1984), Smoke (1995); Life in a Day (2011)

Jan. 10    The Ax Fight (1975); Cannibal Tours (1988)

 

Week 2    THE RANGE OF DOCUMENTARY; OUTSIDE/IN II

Jan. 15    Creature Comforts (2003), Ryan (2004); Nostalgia for the Light (2010)

Jan 17      Pink Ribbons, Inc. (2011)

 

Week 3    HISTORICAL FOUNDERS

Jan. 22    Edison films: Sandow, Caicedo with Pole, Bucking Broncho, ‪Annie Oakley, Fire       Rescue, ‪Mess Call, ‪Black Diamond Express, ‪American Falls from Above, American Side, ‪Fifth Avenue, New York, ‪Gold Rush Scenes in the Klondike, ‪A Storm at Sea, 1901,High Diving Scene, ‪Pan American  Exposition by Night, ‪Electrocuting an Elephant; The Lumiere Brothers’ First Films (1895-1903; 1996)

Jan. 24    Man of Aran (1934); How the Myth Was Made (1978)

 

Week 4    DOCUMENTARY AND IDEOLOGY I: FORMALISM AND RHETORIC

Jan. 29    Stride, Soviet (1926); Here and Elsewhere (1976)

Jan. 31    The Plow That Broke the Plains (1935); Remembrance of Things to Come (2003)

 

Week 5    DOCUMENTARY AND IDEOLOGY II: INSTITUTIONAL AND INDIVIDUAL VOICES

Feb. 5    Housing Problems (1935); Neapolitan Diary (1992)

Feb. 7     Seal Island (1948); Les Enfants du Silence (1962); Fishing With John (1991)

 

Week 6    HISTORY AND COMPILATION (EXPOSITORY MODES)

Feb. 12    Warclouds in the Pacific (1941); Point of Order (1964)

Feb. 14    City of Gold (1957); The War Game (1965)

 

Week 7    CURRENT ISSUES/CONTEMPORARY DOCUMENTARY I

Feb. 2     Chasing Ice (2012)

 

Week 8    OBSERVATION AND PARTICIPATION I (DIRECT CINEMA)

Feb. 26     Bronx Morning (1931), Les Racquetteurs (1958); High School (1968)

Feb. 28    Lonely Boy (1961), Railway Station (1980); The Act of Seeing with One’s Eyes (1971)

 

Week 9    LYRICISM AND THE PERSONAL VOICE

Mar. 5     Blacktop (1952), Ted Baryluk’s Grocery (1982); Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010); final paper proposals due

Mar. 7     Pina (2011)

 

Week 10    OBSERVATION AND PARTICIPATION II (CINEMA VERITE)

Mar. 12    Chronicle of a Summer (1961)

Mar. 14    Restrepo (2010)

 

Week 11    HISTORY AND EDUCATION

Mar. 19     Toute la Memoire du Monde (1956); A State of Mind (2006)

Mar. 21    The Dust Bowl (2012)

 

Week 12    REFLEXIVITY AND DECONSTRUCTION

Mar. 26    The Bridge (1928), H20 (1929); The Debussy Film (1965)

Mar. 28     Animated Motion #1 (1976); Close-Up (1990)

 

Week 13    PUBLIC POLARITY AND THE RISE OF IDENTITY POLITICS

Apr. 2     The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

Apr. 4     Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (2011); This Is It (2009)

 

Weel 14    PROPAGANDA, ADVOCACY AND TRUTH

Apr. 9     The Back-Breaking Leaf (1959), The Hutterites (1964), Mighty River (1994)

Apr. 11    Called to Serve (1987), Family Scriptures (2003), Birdie (2008); New York Doll (2005)

 

Week 15    LAST WEEK; CURRENT ISSUES/CONTEMPORARY DOCUMENTARY I

Apr. 16    A cool film…

 

 

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2 comments
  1. Today, during a first-day-of-class getting-to-know-you activity at USC, we were asked to name our favorite undergrad class. I said Dean Duncan’s documentary class. After some nostalgic googling, I was delighted to find this site. I hope your current students find this course as eye-opening and life-changing as I did.

    • This is very kind, Andy, and most appreciated. It’s great to hear from you. I hope/trust you’re doing well in Los Angeles. I may know some of those USC folks, from my own old days there. Greetings to you all!

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