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Module Specifications..

Current Academic Year 2023 - 2024

Please note that this information is subject to change.

Module Title Documentary on Screen
Module Code CM528
School School of Communications
Module Co-ordinatorSemester 1: Roderick Flynn
Semester 2: Roderick Flynn
Autumn: Roderick Flynn
Module TeachersRoderick Flynn
NFQ level 9 Credit Rating 10
Pre-requisite None
Co-requisite None
Compatibles None
Incompatibles None

The aim of this course is to provide students with a theoretical and historical understanding of the development of the documentary form. Documentary is investigated as creative and artistic practice, as a public process of engagement, and as a powerful tool for communication and for fostering understanding and change. The course also stresses aesthetic, scholarly, and ethical considerations involved in representing individuals and cultures.

Learning Outcomes

1. Students will be able to trace the historical evolution of the documentary form, and relate films to the historical, cultural and socio-political context in which they are made.
2. Students will critically relate a range of approaches to documentaries to wider cultural and critical theories.
3. Students will identify and analyze different forms of documentary in its characterization as creative treatment of actuality : documentary as historical archive, as social advocacy, as propaganda, and as aesthetically and formally innovative art form.
4. Students will engage with the ethical debates involved in documentary making, including the burden of representation, and responsibilities towards interviewees and participants.
5. Students will negotiate and debate the epistemological frameworks within which documentary functions, including the contingency of truth in the context of documentary as personal and social expression.
6. Students will investigate the place of documentary within an information-led society, where the wider democratization of documentary practice has led to issues of credibility and public trust.

Workload Full-time hours per semester
Type Hours Description
Lecture44No Description
Assignment Completion30No Description
Independent Study30No Description
Independent Study146No Description
Total Workload: 250

All module information is indicative and subject to change. For further information,students are advised to refer to the University's Marks and Standards and Programme Specific Regulations at: http://www.dcu.ie/registry/examinations/index.shtml

Indicative Content and Learning Activities

Lecture 1
General outline of documentary debates – ethical, aesthetical and representational with specific reference to Bill Nichols’ “Documentary Modes of Representation”, “The Domain of Documentary” from Representing Reality.

Eyes on the Revolution
the creative and political development of Non-fiction cinema in Russia – “Kino-Eye”, Dziga Vertov, Eisenstein. Agnes Varda and the historical archive (found footage and the art of gleaning).

Representing Survival
Robert Flaherty, romantic, explorer and advocate, and the ethics of representation.

Documenting the workers
The Griersonian film project, British Documentary Movement, and John Grierson’s critics.

The aesthetics of fascism, and documentary as communal mourning.
Leni Riefenstahl, Alan Resnais; Claude Lanzmann and documenting the unspeakable.

The Cinema Verité movement, reflexivity, and modern ethnography
Jean Rouch & Edgar Morin

Direct Cinema and Reality Fiction
Frederick Wiseman, Richard Leacock and American movements in documentation-realism.

The cinema of social concern, the modern crusading polemic, and documentary in the age of (mis)information.
Errol Morris to Michael Moore

Documentary and multiculturalism
The Black Film Collective. The concept of “Third Cinema”, and its radical possibilities.

Ethnography and surrealism
Creativity in documentary, reflexivity and meaning.

Gender and Documentary
Tracing the contribution of female directors through documentary history and exploring the notion of a "female gaze" in documentary cinema.

The Sensory Turn: tracing the impact of New Queer Cinema in Documentary Practice
Tracing the emergence of a queer aesthetic in documentary cinema since the 1980s and how it fractured extant media standards for presenting truth and evidence.

Assessment Breakdown
Continuous Assessment100% Examination Weight0%
Course Work Breakdown
TypeDescription% of totalAssessment Date
AssignmentOne essay (3,500-4,000 words) chosen from a set of 5-6 titles100%
Reassessment Requirement Type
Resit arrangements are explained by the following categories;
1 = A resit is available for all components of the module
2 = No resit is available for 100% continuous assessment module
3 = No resit is available for the continuous assessment component
This module is category 1
Indicative Reading List

  • Bill Nichols: 2017, Introduction to Documentary, Third Edition, 3rd, Indiana University Press, 9780253026859
  • Betsy A. McLane: 2022, A New History of Documentary Film, 3rd, Bloomsbury Academic, 1501385151
  • Lisa French: 2021, The Female Gaze in Documentary Film An International Perspective, Palgrave McMillan, 978-3-030-680
  • Michael Rabiger,Courtney Hermann: 2020, Directing the Documentary, 7th, Routledge, 0367235579
  • Bill Nichols: 1991, Representing reality, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 0253340608
  • Erik Barnouw: 1983, Documentary, A History of Non-Fiction Film, Oxford University Press, New York, 0195078985
  • edited by Michael Renov: 1993, Theorizing documentary, Routledge, New York, 0415903815
  • Kevin Macdonald, Mark Cousin: 0, Imagining Reality, 0571177239
  • Harvey O'Brien: 2004, The real Ireland, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 0719069076
  • William Guynn: 1990, A cinema of nonfiction, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, Rutherford, 0838633404
  • Paul Swann: 0, The British documentary film movement, 1926-1946, Introduction, Manchester University Press, 0521334799
  • edited with an introduction by Annette Michelson; translated by Kevin O'Brien: 1984, Kino-eye: The writing of Dziga Vertov, Introduction, Pluto Press, 0520047605
  • Richard M. Barsam: 1992, Nonfiction film, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 0253311241
  • edited by Alan Rosenthal: 1988, New challenges for documentary, University of California Press, 0520057252
  • William Rothman: 1997, Documentary film classics, University of Cambridge Press, 0521456819
  • Coner, John: 1996, The art of record: a critical introduction to documentary, Manchester University Press,
  • Vlada, P. ed. by Waugh, T.: 1984, Show us life - towards a history of asthetics of the committed documentary, Esther Shub: Film as a Historical Discourse, The Scarecrown Press,
  • edited and translated by Richard Taylor; co-edited with an introduction by Ian Christie: 1988, The Film factory, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 0710096283
  • Jay Leyda: 1983, Kino, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 0691003467
  • Vlada Petrić: 1987, Constructivism in film, (Vertov / Eisenstein controversy) 'The man with the movie camera, a cinematic analysis', Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 0521443873
  • Edited by Luda and Jean Schnitzer and Marcel Martin. Translated and with additional material by David Robinson: 1973, Cinema in revolution, Dziga Vertov Chapter 5, Secker and Warburg, 0809013703
Other Resources

59481, DVD, Robert Flaherty, 1922, Nanoon of the North, 59482, DVD, Dziga Vertov, 1929, Man With A Movie Camera, 59483, DVD, Leni Riefenstahl, 1934, Triumph of the Will, 59484, DVD, Basil Wright, 1936, Night Mail, 59485, DVD, Claude Lanzmann, 1985, Shoah, 59486, DVD, Alain Resnais, 1956, Night and Fog, 59487, DVD, Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch, 1961, Chronicle of A Summer, 59488, DVD, Albert Maysles and David Maysles, 1969, Salesman, 59489, DVD, Errol Morris, 1988, The Thin Blue Line, 59490, DVD, Michael Moore, 1989, Roger and Me, 59491, DVD, Octavio Getino and Fernando E. Solanas, 1968, The Hour of the Furnaces, 59492, DVD, Barbara Kopple, 1976, Harlan County USA, 59493, DVD, Agnes Varda, 2000, The Gleaners and I, 59494, DVD, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, 1995, The Celluloid Closet,
Programme or List of Programmes
MADPMasters in Documentary Practice
Date of Last Revision08-OCT-10

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