Documentary Cinema - FILM6020

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


This module addresses a series of documentary films in their historical context and in relation to the different modes of non-fiction filmmaking. Documentary narrative techniques including the use of archival footage, staged reconstructions of past events, and talking-head interviews, are investigated by means of close textual analysis and through a comparative approach to diverse documentary films. This module also explores the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction and, while articulating a definition of documentary film, it studies film forms that present an interplay between the two, such as Mockumentaries and Essay Films.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 60
Private study hours: 240
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Essay 1 (2000 words) (35%)
Essay 2 (3000 words) (45%)
Seminar Participation (20%)

Indicative reading

Stella Bruzzi, New Documentary: A critical introduction, Routledge, 2000, on contemporary documentary.
John Corner, The Art of Record - A critical introduction to documentary film, Manchester University Press, 1996, is an excellent introduction to theories of documentary form, and to British television documentary.
Kevin Macdonald and Mark Cousins, Imagining Reality: The Faber Book of Documentary, Faber, 1996, includes interviews and covers a wide range of documentary forms.
Bill Nichols, Introduction to Documentary, Bloomington: Indiana Un. Press, 2001.
Carl Plantinga, Rhetoric and Representation in Nonfiction Film, Cambridge Un. Press, 1997.
Michael Rabiger, Directing the Documentary, Focal Press, 1992.
Michael Renov, Theorizing Documentary , ed Michael Renov, Routledge, London 1993.
Brian Winston, Claiming the Real, British Film Institute, London, 1995.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
- demonstrate a knowledge and critical understanding of the questions, theories and controversies that have informed critical debates on Documentary Film in relation to fiction film and other forms of non-fiction film;
- demonstrate a historical understanding of the development of documentary film forms and its relation to different modes and sites of exhibition;
- acquire an acquaintance with the technical and stylistic resources deployed by documentary films;
- acquire an awareness of the significant methods of enquiry and able to evaluate their relevance to analysing form and meaning in documentary films.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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