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									   Study Questions
Use for Midterm Review
Documentary Tradition 2010
                                    Week 1: Sept. 13
                  Discussion Questions for discussion section, Week 2
          based on Nichols, Ch. 5; Juhasz, “Documentary on YouTube (A&deJ);
                          Barnouw, Ch. 1; lecture, screenings
1. Where, in Barnouw’s reference to historical documentaries do you think the description most
       requires the reader to see the moving image? Why? What point would be confirmed or
2. Why does Nichols say of the Lumière films that they “seemed” to record and “appear” to
       reproduce the event before the camera?
3. How does the documentary “what you see is what was there” work as rhetoric, ie. help
       filmmakers to make an argument about the world?
For example: How does Capturing the Friedmans go against our beliefs about the world? What
       argument about the world does the documentary treatment make in this case?
4. Nichols says that documentary uses the same narrative devices as fiction. Test the following on
       Capturing the Friedmans:
       a. Problem leads to solution
       b. Viewer’s desire for solution-out come delayed (suspense = delay)
5. How is the documentary interest appealed to in Why Mrs. Jones Got a Divorce (1900) like or not
       like the documentary interest encouraged by Capturing the Friedmans?
6. What, in Juhasz, seems contradictory about using Eisenstein’s definition of the “slogan” to
       describe the politics of work posted on YouTube?
7. Where does Juhasz think YouTube fails, as exemplified by the “Lesbian Community” search term
       and the videos it yields? What search term example would you give to illustrate the politics of
8. See, on YouTube, the documentary footage from “Needa Before She Gets Shot.” Consider how
       it rallied Iranians living outside Tehran in the aftermath of the rigged 2009 elections there.
       How does the footage of Needa qualify or confirm Juhasz’s position?
    Study Questions Week 2. Sept. 20: Documentary Voice
                    Nichols, Chs. 3 & 4
1. How is “voice” akin to “style”? List 4 ways.
2. What is meant by the ethical dimension of documentary voice?
3. What are the means available to the maker for the conveyance of
     “documentary voice”? List 6 (1 of your own)
4. How is the viewer called upon to “infer” the voice of the perspective?
5. Consider the documentary voice in Capturing the Friedmans in terms of the
     3 Cs of rhetorical discourse. Which “C” does it use?
6. What does he mean by film may “refuse to compel belief in the truthfulness
     of its representation”? Describe and give examples.

1. How does Nichols use Hospital (Frederick Wiseman, 1970) to illustrate the
      difference between examples and concepts?
2. What definition of documentary does Nichols need to use in order to say
      that documentary “activates our social consciousness” ?
3. Nichols says that The Body Beautiful (1991) argues that “Family life is like
      this.” Read his description of the film (to be screened on 9/27 in class).
      How can this family be said to work (or not work) as a metaphor?
                     Week 3: Defining Documentary: China
            Study Questions for Discussion Week of Sept. 27:
                Nichols, Ch. 2 “How Do Documentaries Differ?”;

1.   What do you think is the difference between a reproduction of reality and a
     representation of the world?
2.   How do we know that 60 Minutes is documentary reportage rather than
3.   What do reflexive strategies “unsettle” and “undercut”?
4.   What assumptions do spectators bring to the viewing of a documentary
     that they do not bring to a film based on an imaginary situation?
5.   Why does Nichols argue that documentary (in contrast with the fiction film)
     relies less on continuity editing to create a credible world that the viewer
     perceives as “real”?
6.   What is the impact of the “indexical whammy” and why can the fiction film
     not claim this?
7.   What is epistephilia and how do you think documentary stimulates it?
                      Week 8: Study Questions for Week Nov. 8; Nichols, Ch. 7;
                    Gaines, “Political Mimesis”; Wallerstein, “Revolution as Strategy”
1. What, according to Nichols is the problem with representing working class “others” as helpless?
2. How does Nichols explain the failure of so many films about housing problems
•           since 1935 to change the conditions of public housing in the U.S. or the U.K.?
3. What did the Griersonians take or not take from Dziga Vertov’s ideas about cinema
•           and revolution? Why?
4. Explain why radical filmmaker Joris Ivens made the decision to “break the edges
•         of the shadow” in his film about the struggles of Belgian miners, Borinage (1934).
5. What is the best example of what the new “We speak about us to them” of
•        “identity politics” did to classical documentary ethnography?

. Why is “social change” such a vague concept today in the West and what are the everyday
       consequences of the disconnection between “social change” and “revolution”?
2. Why are the empirical questions about social change so difficult to answer and how did Sergei
       Eisenstein get around these difficulties?
3. Why does political mimesis begin with the body and it is this mimesis empirically measurable or
4. Why would filmmakers in the radical tradition want to make as visceral as possible the representation
       of contemporary or historical struggle? What conventionalized images would they then choose to
       use in their work?
5. What is the discredited political downside of any theory of cinematic mimesis?
6. According to anthropologist Taussig’s theory of sympathetic magic what is the source of the power of
       the image? How is this relevant for documentary film and video?

1. List and consider the reasons that Wallerstein gives for explaining why those who do not benefit from
         the capitalist world-system do not seek to transform it today. Which reason do you think offers
         the most comprehensive explanation and why?
2. The author argues that there were consequences to the “worldwide revolution of 1968” for the Left.
         Evaluate these consequences in addition to his 6 points and make a case for one as most
         pronounced in the moment of the “Great Recession.”
3. If the Marxist-Leninist concept of “revolution” is no longer viable, what, according to the author is, and
         with what would you replace “revolution”? Or, alternatively, if you seek to “change everything in
         order that nothing change” what counter-revolutionary strategy do you propose?
                                  Midterm Preparation

    To Prepare for Midterm, in class Nov. 15:
    1) Answer all Study Guide questions
    2) Review key ppt. lessons posted on MediaThread
    3) Be certain you have seen all film/video titles screened in class
    Reading for Midterm: Bruzzi, 153 – 155; 171 – 180 NOTE pgs. shortened!!!!
    Bruzzi’s def.: “documentaries are a negotiation between filmmaker and reality and, at heart,
     a performance.”

                             Midterm structure: 100 pts. total
1) From Readings: Multiple choice: 25 questions – 50 pts.
2) From Lecture/discussion: Essay questions: Choose 2 of 4 – 50 pts. Examples:
       a. Compare Aoi (Good Woman of Bangkok) and Sandro (Bus 174) as
    exemplifying the tradition of the “documentary victim.”
       b. What is the difference between the “indexical whammy” (Nichols)
    and the “pornography of the real” (Godmilow)? Explain with an example of
    a moment from 1 film screened in class.

       3. From your class papers: You may be asked to write about the position you
       took in Assn # 2 Rewriting Radical Documentary History or Assn # 3 Documentary
       Classification, so writing your last paper will be itself a review for the midterm.
ppt Slides for Midterm Review
     (“We speak to us about them”)
        First World – Third World
    Subject of gaze – Object of gaze
      Camera – Photographic material
  Outsider – Insider (world of informant)
Advanced technology – Primitive technology
          4B. Ethical Dilemmas

1. ethical ideal: do not misrepresent the
2. ethical condition: representation is
   always misrepresentation, anyway
3. Representation = a standing in for
         the thing itself
                    1. Review: a. Documentary Codes
                Solution to Problem of Documentary Realism:
      Documentary = codes of realism signify “authenticity”
      stylistic conventions used by makers & recognized by viewers

1. Voice-of-God narration
2. Long takes
3. Synchronous sound
                                           high shooting ratio
4. Black and white film stock
                                           invisible editing = erasure
5. Archival footage
6. Hidden camera and
    microphones                             location sound
                                            ambient noise
7. Apparently unrehearsed
                                         visible camera & microphone
8. Hand held camera                      video diary mode:
                                            acknowledgment of camera
          4B. Ethical Dilemmas

1. ethical ideal: do not misrepresent the
2. ethical condition: representation is
   always misrepresentation, anyway
3. Representation = a standing in for
         the thing itself
                        Documentary Rhetoric:
•    1. Explicit voice:
                           Voice and Story
   – Interview: “talking head” on screen
   – Voice-of-Authority voice over
• 2. Implicit voice: See Nichols, p. 43 “style plus”
   – point of view vs. reproduction of “reality”
   – documentary’s informing logic vs.
              fiction’s compelling story

    3. Social movement use of documentary:
       uprisings and events have to be narrativized.
    4. Narrative = cause & effect relations in time
                         For Ex: a. story of a life
                                  b. story of a strike
  The Grierson “problem moment” film
   The victim documentary
1. concentration on individuals
   social issue vs. personal portrait (Nichols)
   Bus 174: personal and social inextricable?
2. heroic worker becomes “social victim”?

3. power relations: us vs. them

4. problem “moment” structure: no causes, only
                            Social problems can be
                            solved, if...
Study Questions after Midterm
                         Week 10 Study Questions: November 22

           Bruzzi, 67 – 74; Lioult, “Framing the Unexpected” www.ejumpcut.org

1. How does Lioult convince you that there is a problem with the staged-unstaged
dichotomy that has historically defined documentary practice?
2. How can a documentary scene be understood as both spontaneous and arranged?
3. Why does Lioult need to add the category “framing the unexpected” to
Ponech’s Type I “flexible” plans and Type II “more restrictive” plans as
strategies for documentary practice?

1. According to Bruzzi, Nichols’s position on observational cinema is that it comes at the
       expense of loss of voice? If Nichols has seen “voice”
       “style plus,” what is at stake here? What else is lost? List.
2. Consider the 4 different direct quotes Bruzzi attributes to U.S. direct cinema makers
       about their documentary practice. How have these statements been construed?
       What are other possibilities for interpreting these statements?
3. What are 3 practical aspects of basic film and/or video making that make the ideal of
       pure cinema impossible for makers to sustain?
4. How would direct cinema makers (for instance, the Maysles in Salesman) defend the
       manipulation of events to suggest a story?
5. Bruzzi says that observational cinema has been mis-defined, mostly by observational
       filmmakers. What new definition does she offer? Does this definition apply to all
       documentary films?
                Assignment # 3 Documentary classification
       Due: Mon. Nov. 8 in class – 5 pg. double-spaced + Appendix
    Readings for assign: Nichols, Ch. 8 How to Write about Documentary
1.Refine your original definition of documentary to fit these films.
See Nichols, p. 168 2nd paragraph; Re-read Nichols, pp. 20–22; 32-34.
2. Locate a prototype as starting point. See Nichols, 191-199 list, websites
      below, explaining why it has basic features you will isolate.
3. Produce a working filmography (3 films min.) as list in Appendix
4. Write a 5 pg. paper in which you argue that you have discovered a new
      tendency. Describe the features of your examples in terms of
      documentary codes or conventions, and, if relevant, documentary
      voice/style, performance, etc. Disagree with Nichols if necessary.
Note: For your purposes, documentary is not a genre but a mode. You are
      discovering a new sub-mode.
5. Appendix (in addition to 5 pgs) Filmography (alphabetical use format in
      Nichols, p. 191; Bibliography (class readings only, format as on
www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlineessays/jc (articles and clips) Not do outside
In-text citation to class readings: For ex: (Bruzzi, 32) Do
www.nfb.ca (National Film Board of Canada)
            Assignment # 1
       Due: September 27 in class
• Define documentary mode:
• ½ page paragraph -- double-spaced
Agree or disagree with lectures, readings; use
  examples from films viewed inside or outside
  class if that helps.

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