Skip to main content


POL3107 : Documentary Film and World Politics

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Simon Philpott
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

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

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


This course aims to explore the emergence and effects of documentary film and its ways of communicating and analysing key events, issues and ideas in international politics. The course aims to show how documentary film is a specialised and specific medium for communicating international politics. The course then aims to show how documentary has evolved over time through the examination of issues, events and ideas and their presentation in documentary film. The course aims to present a sophisticated account of visual analysis as well as presenting ideas on how visual analysis can be synthesised with other textual forms. Overall the course aims to provide students with an opportunity to examine of the politics of documentary film and the ways that documentary films present a unique perspective on international politics.

Outline Of Syllabus

To introduce students to the ways in which international politics has been documented through the visual medium of the documentary film.
To introduce students to the history of documentary film as a medium of political analysis.
To introduce students to key debates in documentary film as a medium of communication.
To introduce students to different approaches to visual analysis.

Topics may include:
•       The history of documentary film
•       The political economy of documentary film
•       The politics of seeing and the visual
•       Popular documentary vs underground documentary
•       Activating empathy
•       Violence, trauma and documentary film
•       Appropriating the past and making the present
•       The possibilities of animation
•       Whither documentary in the age of social media

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion1165:00165:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00Present in person lectures
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities31:003:00Drop in assessment surgeries
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00Present in person small group seminars
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are crucial to provide students with an introduction to key ideas, actors, concepts, texts, and events. Lectures make extensive use of visual materials to help re-enforce students’ understanding. The lecturers own expertise and research into these topics provides engaging examples and contributes towards the goal of research informed teaching. Seminars provide a live, synchronous environment students to follow up these ideas and issues by asking questions about readings and films, debating amongst themselves. It provides the context for students to articulate their knowledge and understanding and to help them prepare for written assessment. The feedback hour gives students the chance to drop in and ask questions about films, readings and assessments of the ML, who may also use the time to expand on recorded lectures and clarify key themes. Assessment surgeries allow students to check their understandings of the ways documentary films engage with issues in world politics and facilitate the research and development of high quality essays.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2A901 x 3500 word essay worth 90%
Essay2M101 x 500 word essay plan for formative and summative feedback
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Essays allow students to research, interpret and present sources and information documentary film and world politics. Moreover, essays assess critical thinking, written communication and argumentation. Prior to writing their essay, students will be invited to submit a detailed essay plan for formative feedback. Students will be provided a list of questions from which to choose. It is important that students understand the different modes of documentary filmmaking and the reflective exercise encourages students to evaluate different approaches to filmmaking, particularly the suitability of different modes to particular issues and problems in politics. Reflection on two modes provides students with an opportunity to learn the strengths and weaknesses of different modes and will guide students to those of most interest to them in essay planning.

Reading Lists