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This course examines the potential of images for revealing aspects of cultural normally obscured by the written word and for transmitting different, sometimes undervalued insights and knowledge of the social world. The central focus of this course is documentary film, and we will consider both the theory and practice of the documentary in the United States and abroad as it has evolved over time and as it is evident in contemporary filmmaking. In the course of the semester, we will examine some of the ways in which filmmakers, and ethnographic filmmakers in particular, have approached the task of documenting and understanding different aspects of social reality. Among the questions that we will consider are the following: What is the relationship between written texts and images? What is it that documentary films “document?” What is the relationship between images and stories, and should the techniques used in fiction films to construct voice, point of view, identification, narrative sequence, etc. apply as well in the creation of nonfiction films? What is the role of film in anthropology, and how does ethnographic filmmaking relate to anthropology and to the broader documentary film tradition? In the last part of the course, we will consider the proliferation of cell phone videos and platforms such as Youtube and Instagram and their significance for the documentary film genre more generally.
Format: seminar; The class will be taught remotely and will include pre-recorded lectures, conversations with filmmakers and producers, and weekly online discussions
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
Weekly response/critiques of assigned films, a longer written paper (10-12 pages) or video essay of comparable scope
Anthropology/Sociology majors, open to first-year students
FMST Core Courses