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Notes on Documentary Film

by: Talia A. Lubin

Notes on Documentary Film ENG260

Marketplace > University of Oregon > Foreign Language > ENG260 > Notes on Documentary Film
Talia A. Lubin
GPA 3.4
Media Aesthetics
Dr. Anthony Hayt

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About this Document

Covers the foundational concepts and history of documentary film, as well as basic terms, categories of documentaries, and rhetorical positions used in these films.
Media Aesthetics
Dr. Anthony Hayt
Class Notes
documentary, Film, mockumentary, reenactment, direct cinema, ethnographic, subjective, objective, explorative, interrogative, analytical, persuasive, cumulative, contrasting, developmental, nonfiction, non-narrative, scenic, topicals, actualities, truth
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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Talia A. Lubin on Thursday February 19, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to ENG260 at University of Oregon taught by Dr. Anthony Hayt in Winter2015. Since its upload, it has received 145 views. For similar materials see Media Aesthetics in Foreign Language at University of Oregon.


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Date Created: 02/19/15
Media Aesthetic 260 Notes Documentaries 1 Truth on film a A questionable assumptionconcept because there is nothing that we are going to see on film that is accidental or untouched Meaning that all film is manipulated in some way so it can only come so close to being truth Something that is an accident may show up while filming eg a bird flying through the frame a subject answering a question in an unexpected manner etc and the filmmakers may choose to keep it but we are still only getting a version of the truth b A documentary is not just one thing It is not just cumulative or contrasting etc It is a combination of techniques and effects 2 The Beginnings of the Documentary a Actualities Early films were simply short vignettes of everyday life Eg A train pulling into a station workers knocking a wall down etc b Scenic Actualities from afar Animals plants people from other places around the world These were the beginning of ethnographic filmmaking c Topicals News travel again often ethnographic or history many topicals were reenactments 3 Categorizing Documentaries a Nonfiction getting back to the idea of truth on film A film that purports to offer supported fact visual scientific interview etc May have a story structure but these films are not created in the way that a fiction film would be b Nonnarrative A film that eschews a standard narrative as its organizational structure instead relying on lists repetition contrast or association The main focus of the documentary is not to tell a story It is to give the viewer facts of some sort 4 Documentary Organization a Cumulative A catalogue of images or tableaus that don t tell a specific story but give an overall impression of a subject b Contrasting A variation on cumulative the main point is presented through the contrasting of various images stories and events Used a lot for ethnographic filmmaking c Developmental A nonnarrative structure that presents a progression of change through the facts presented Could be a documentary on the civil rights movement climate change etc really anything that shows some sort of developmental progress 5 Rhetorical Positions a Explorative attempts to Show the world as an impartial witness It is actually impossible to show up somewhere with a film crew and camera no matter how small and not have everyone suddenly act differently Something about your presence there is going to change things b Interrogativeanalytical Based on QampA format Can be voiceover voice off camera voice on camera or combination of these things i Can be problematic A voiceover can be recorded in postproduction with a different toneimplied meaning than what was used in the actual interview Can change the context of the subject s answer to the original question c Persuasive Often combined with other forms attempts to convince a viewer of a specific stanceopinion d ReflexivePerformative Calls attention to the filmmaking process or to the fact that all documentaries are tainted by production Selfreflexive Kind of a metaproduction 6 Types of Documentary a Social Attention on some specific group Not necessarily political but it can be i Political iteration Explorescelebratesdemonizes some political cause ii Historical Not always political but driven to show some version of history Often tied to a specific historical figure b Ethnographic Studies of various cultures of those outside of or at least underrepresented in Western culturehistory Doesn t have to be from some faroff land Could just be something like quotqueer urban populations in Texas the point is to examine an underrepresented group i Anthropological Explores cultures both living and extinct c Cinema Verit and Direct Cinema Cinema of Truth i Can blur the line into fictional filmmaking ii Generally considered a political form often confrontational addressing people where they live work play assemble protest etc iii Often times it simply shows up and it makes the crowdpeople present a part of the film whether they want to be or not Think Michael Moore d Personal or Subjective Films concerned with individual peoples stories told by themselves Sort of autobiographical e Reenactment Of questionable veracity these supposedly reenact on film an event that already happened i Putting these in the documentary category is problematic Blurs the line with fiction Have to write a screenplay to show a real event f Mockumentary Takes on the documentary form but has fake subjects with at least some of the crewproducers knowing that the project is fake g Fake Documentary Completely fictional films staged as documentaries Eg The Office Parks and Rec Best in Show etc i Totally fictional but set up as if it is a documentary 7 Suggested Documentaries 9995 Exit Through the Gift Shop Best in Show 2000 The Watermelon Woman 1996 American Grindhouse 2010 This Film is Not Yet Rated 2006


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