Module Catalogue 2022/23

SEL3346 : Contemporary Documentary 1: Theory and Practice

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Tina Gharavi
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



To have an introduction to the historical developments of documentary practise in the 20th century focusing on more recent 21st century documentary practitioners.

Students will also be taught a range of skills in production to develop an understanding of the practical implications of documentary production to have an immersed understanding of the codes and conventions of the discipline.

Students will be able to critically analyse contemporary documentary work.

Outline Of Syllabus

Through lectures, screenings, technical workshops, production practice and a short series of visiting lecturers, students will have the experience of studying documentary as a genre and becoming aware of its various strands. Students will give presentations on a range of filmmakers whose work will be introduced through the course of the semester, they will analyse methodologies including codes and conventions and be able to make some practical experiments with the medium.

Students will be required to give oral presentations, create a short documentary, and write an essay on an aspect of contemporary documentary practice or, alternatively, will be able to make a proposal to create one of a select number of final projects which can be practice based.

All practice-based final submissions (in lieu of a formal essay) will also have a written element in which students are expected to reflect on their experience of practice, self-analyse their completed production and place their work in a historical and contemporary context.

Not all students may be allowed automatically to follow the practice-based option. There may be a selection process for this according to the quality of applications and the availability of resources.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

Student will learn about the history and context of documentary filmmaking, with a focus on contemporary documentary practice
Student will gain an understanding of the issues in documentary ethics
Student will learn to analyse a documentary
Students will learn the process for making documentary content

Intended Skill Outcomes

Ability to create a documentary programme
Students will learn to synthesize material for presentation in documentary form
Ability to reflect critically and analyse documentary practice and methodology

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture113:0033:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical145:0045:00Fieldwork, practical filming and creative practice
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity112:0022:00Student-led study groups
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1100:00100:00Self-directed study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This is a practice-based course that explores documentary film-making in the framework of understanding theory in practice. Students gain practical skills while reflecting on theoretical ideas in contemporary documentary.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A80Essay (of 3200 words) or Documentary Practice Film (plus 2000 word reflective commentary)
Oral Examination1M2010 minute in class/on-line oral presentation
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

There are two options for this course:

OPTION ONE: Students will write a 3,200 word (+/- 10%) essay on a documentary maker and their practice.

OPTION TWO: Students film a 4 minute documentary self-portrait and this material will then be edited using a computer based non-linear editing system, and be submitted with consent forms signed by participants. Students following this option will write a 2,000 word essay reflecting on their own practice and contextualising their work in the practice and ideas of other filmmakers or movements.

Students working in teams also give an Oral Presentation that is assessed. Lastly, attendance and group work are assessed. Attendance is essential as workshops missed are critical skills that are difficult to obtain elsewhere. Also as there is a high degree of teamwork, student attendance is therefore essential.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes

Note on assessment: (handed in with all final submission deadlines at the end of the semester)

For the second part of the assessment (worth 80% of the marks available for this module), students will either write a 3000 word critical essay, or make a film and then write a 2000 word commentary on their film (the commentary will be worth 25% of the marks available for this part of the assessment, the film 75%).

Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.