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MCH2086 : Analysing Documentary Practices

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Alastair Cole
  • Lecturer: Dr Emre Caglayan
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


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, 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. To frame 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 relates 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.

Major themes:

- 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 ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00Concepts, theoretical underpinnings and debates
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion160:0060:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching122:0024:00Seminars - Screenings and discussions
Guided Independent StudySkills practice138:0038:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops121:0012:00Small group based teaching on practice elements of documentary filmmaking.
Guided Independent StudyProject work154:0054:00N/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 fortnightly 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 log1M502000 word reflective log on five practical editing based exercises set throughout the module.
Essay1M502000 word essay on an aspect of creative documentary theory and practice.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The rationale for the first reflective assessments 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, personal representation.

The second essay assessment is to enable the students to show their intellectual grasp of documentary theory and aesthetics and to illustrate this through a scholarly essay.

Reading Lists