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MCH2086 : Analysing Documentary Practices

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Alastair Cole
  • Co-Module Leader: Ms Lucy Jolly
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


This module explores the representational capacity of the creative documentary. This will involve an examination of a range of the technical, stylistic, aesthetic and representational dynamics and discussions of the ‘truths’, ‘fictions’, styles, genres, ethics and modes. This module will provide a critical understanding and insight into current documentary practices, which are informed by ‘professional practice’ and also through established and cutting-edge academic research, as well as provide students with the opportunity to create non-assessed practical exercises within these themes. The module also examines documentary traditions that lie outside and/or challenge the more mainstream documentary or television documentary practices.

This modules aims to:
1. Enable students to develop knowledge, intellectual and critical understanding and insight into current documentary practices, which are informed by ‘professional practice’ and also through established and cutting-edge academic research.
2. Enable students to study the forms, aesthetics and production methods of documentary practice as they have developed historically and in a contemporary context. The modules frames this study with a theoretical engagement with questions of representation, culture and ideology, while maintaining a strong theoretical and practical sense of the political and ethical including through fortnightly practical exercises.
3. Investigate the different ways that avant-garde, experimental documentary practices, and select visual art-practice relate to and enhance documentary practice.
4. Reflect on the relationship between practice and its relationship to theory in creative documentary practice.

Outline Of Syllabus

Students will study the practice of documentary film and engage with the debates that have shaped the academic critique of documentary films.

Possible themes include:
- The emergence and history of documentary as a genre – global context
- Theorising documentary and the representation of reality
- Cinematic documentary and the aesthetics of reality through contemporary documentary filmmakers
- Aesthetic and ethical approaches to visual representation: reality, representation and cinematic expressivity
- The reflexive film theorist - writing about the filmmaking process

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00Concepts, theoretical underpinnings and debates. Delivered in person (online if required)
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion151:0051:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities45:0020:00Creative practice-based activities.
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities112:0022:00Directed in-person viewings (online if required)
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities114:0044:00Required reading and online film viewings.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops111:0011:00Post film viewing group discussion workshop. Delivered in person (online if required)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops111:0011:00Small-group-based on-campus teaching on practice elements of documentary making. Online if required.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study130:0030:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This module will be delivered through a combination of lectures that set out key theories and concepts, and screening-based seminars that will expose students to a range of important documentary films and filmmakers. There will also be workshops which will introduce further theoretical elements, introduce and critically reflect with students on practical microfilm tasks, and engage students in small-group discussion.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Reflective log1A401600-word reflective log on creative practice exercises set throughout module
Essay1A5010min audio visual essay on an aspect of creative documentary theory and practice.
Prof skill assessmnt1M10participation and engagement
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The rationale for the reflective log assessment (40%) is to first enable the students to demonstrate their ability to reflect academically on the practical exercises that are set throughout the module, and tie their own practice in with taught theory. Each practical exercises explores a different area of documentary practice, such as narrative construction, archive use and personal representation.

The professional skills assessment (10%) will account for your classroom contribution and module citizenship. This is not based solely on registered attendance - workshop and seminar contribution, including sharing creative practice in class and peer-to-peer engagement will be monitored on a weekly basis.

The audio visual essay assessment (50%) is to enable the students to show their intellectual grasp of documentary practice theory and aesthetics and to illustrate this through a scripted audio visual essay, which will continue to develop their film editing skills alongside their critical scholarly engagement.

Reading Lists