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Issues in Documentary

This module will provide a detailed examination of the history and aesthetics of film and television documentary, from the ‘actualities’ of the Lumière brothers to the present day. Through this historical framework you will explore a range of different documentary modes, and the interrelated questions of approach and style will be central to our concerns. As well as exploring historical trends in the documentary form, over the course of the module you will analyse documentary texts through a range of critical and theoretical perspectives. These might include: questions of dramatization and narrative structure; the relationship between factuality and art; the impact and use of technology; performance; hybridity; and documentary’s relationship with notions of indexicality and ‘the truth’. We will also explore the impact that particular movements (e.g. direct cinema), institutions (e.g. the GPO), and individual film and programme makers (e.g. John Grierson, Errol Morris, Molly Dineen) have had on the form’s development. By the end of the module you will have an in-depth understanding of the history of the documentary form in cinema and on television, you will be able to engage in detailed discussion of different modes of documentary and you will be able to interrogate and use a range of relevant critical and theoretical scholarship to interrogate the documentary form.

Module Leader


Dr Richard Wallace