FT3CD-Contemporary Documentary

Module Provider: Film, Theatre and TV
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn and Spring (Double presentation)
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Simone Knox

Email: s.knox@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module is taught twice to two different cohorts of students - first in the Autumn term and then repeated in the Spring term.  The 200 contact hours are listed for the first iteration of teaching in the Autumn term, and these same contact hours are repeated for the second iteration of teaching in the Spring term.

The module will examine some of the fundamental issues in recent and current documentary film-making for film and television. The module will do so by exploring a number of case studies that, individually and collectively, consider documentary in terms of the aesthetic diversity and complexity of existing practice, and particular attention will be paid to the relationship between production process and aesthetics as well as politics of representation. The case studies will be drawn from both Anglophone and non-Anglophone contexts, and may include: animated documentary, Chinese documentary, docudrama, documentary and authorship, documentary and poetry, ethnographic documentary, mockumentary, and observational documentary.


This module aims to develop analytical skills for and production knowledge of non-fiction film and television through close analysis of texts alongside an engagement with broader industrial, technological and institutional, as well as cultural contexts. Students will engage with critical debates and conceptual issues through discussion and analysis of texts, applying this knowledge to analysis of creative decision-making and wider ideological concerns.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of this module, it is expected that students will be able to:

- analyse and evaluate some of the major debates about the role of documentary in film and television.

- demonstrate a critical understanding of the relationship between production process and aesthetics in documentary practice.

- make sophisticated use of methods of textual and contextual analysis to consider the effects of choices and decisions in the construction of meaning in documentary-making

- demonstrate a critical understanding of documentary practice within its wider industrial, institutional, technological, as well as cultural and ideological contexts.

Additional outcomes:

The module plays a significant role in the continuing development of other skills and competencies which are central to the course. It is expected that the level of skills and competencies achieved in the following will be appropriate to the level of study: oral communication and argument in group situations; deployment of research using printed and electronic resources; critical analysis and coherent argument; undertaking self-directed, independent work; presentation of written work using IT; identifying and addressing problems in the analysis of documentary film and television; creative deployment of technology in the development and presentation of analysis.

Outline content:

The Autumn term will cover a series of case studies pertaining to contemporary documentary film and television. We will begin by mapping out the foundational debates and critical issues for documentary. We will also look at documentary and authorship, which might include the work of Kim Longinotto, Michael Moore, Errol Morris and/or David Pearson. We will also study ethnographic documentary, and films here might include Sweetgrass (Lucien Castaing-Taylor, 2009) and/or Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, 2012). We will also look at animated documentary, such as Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008) and Tower (Keith Maitland, 2016). We will also explore hybrid forms of documentary that problematise the line between fact and fiction, such as docudrama and/or mockumentary, and examples here might include Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006) and Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy and Thierry Guetta, 2010). We will also look at Chinese documentary films, such as Tape (Li Ning, 2010) and/or Though I am Gone (Hu Jie, 2007). We intend to have at least one documentary practitioner come in as a guest speaker. (Note: this outline content is indicative, and may vary in practice).

Global context:

The case studies examined on the module draw on both Anglophone and non-Anglophone contexts.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Within the two hour class a range of teaching styles will be used and vary from week to week. Short lectures may be used where appropriate to introduce contextual or critical issues for discussion. The primary teaching method will be discussion based around prepared reading and close analysis of texts screened in advance. Short presentations or new media-based activities may be involved, prepared by individuals or small groups for larger group discussion. 

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 18
Supervised time in studio/workshop 32
Guided independent study 150
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Resubmission of failed coursework

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 4 December 2018


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