Documentary Film
General Catalog Course Title:
Terms Offered:
Spring 2016
Spring 2015
Spring 2014
Spring 2013
Spring 2012
Spring 2011
Spring 2010

This course surveys the history, theory and practice of the film/TV genre called Documentary. We will attempt to explore the varied approaches to “non-fiction” film that fall under this rubric. We not only ask what Documentary film is, but what we, as viewers want from Documentary films that is different from other film genres.  We examine the major modes of documentary filmmaking including cinema verite, direct cinema, investigative documentary, ethnographic film, agit-prop and activist media, autobiography and the personal essay as well as recent post-modern forms that question relationships between fact and fiction such as the docudrama, the archival film, cine-recreations and “mockumentary.” We will examine the “reality effects” of these works through formal analysis focusing on their narrative structures and the ways in which they make meaning. Through this, we explore some of the theoretical discourses and questions that constantly surround this most philosophical of film genres. We will ask: How do these films shape notions of truth, reality and personal experience? What are the ethics and politics of representation and who speaks for whom when we watch a documentary?  What do documentaries make visible or conceal? What, if anything, constitutes objectivity? And by the way, just what is a document anyway? Course work will include short response papers, a midterm, and a final paper or project.

For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.