Courses / Undergraduate

Fall 2019

  • The Craft of Writing – Film Focus / Pleasures of the Real: Documentary as Art and Entertainment

    R1B-001 | CCN: 31563

    Tory Jeffay

    4 Units

    M/W 5:00pm-6:30pm, Dwinelle 215; Screening Wed. 6:30-8:30pm, Dwinelle 109 ///

    In recent years, documentary has largely shed its popular reputation as stuffy, serious, and, well, boring. It has gone from something assigned in history class to something binged on Netflix. Yet documentary has a long and fraught history with pleasure. In this class we will consider a series of questions: What does it mean for filmmakers to make art and entertainment from images of real people, places, and events? What expectations come from the label documentary and how have artists embraced, rejected, or challenged these assumptions? How are terms like aesthetics, spectacle, and sublime inflected within the documentary genre? What is the relationship between documentary art or entertainment and documentary’s historical social and political motivations? 

    Our main goal in this course will be to develop the writing and thinking skills to allow us to answer some of these questions critically. As writers, you will be encouraged and challenged to analyze texts closely and carefully. Both class discussion and writing assignments will thus direct you to consider form alongside content. By learning to identify and evaluate the formal and filmic techniques in each text, you will adopt a mode of aesthetic appreciation, all the while interrogating this appreciation and its ethical and political implications. At the same time, by adopting the methods of a film scholar, you’ll learn to translate into words what these texts are doing visually and sonically, explaining how they construct and deconstruct, reinvent and critique the ideas of truth and film, pleasure and entertainment. We’ll be standing on the margins of nonfiction filmmaking, probing its edges and connections, pondering its future. If documentary still makes you think of a slow zoom in on a sepia-toned photograph as a deep voiced narrator drones on, you’re in a for a treat.