• Course Description:

    Description: This course explores the categories of truth and fiction in the cinema through the lens of the documentary. Our focus will be on the history and legacy of an international film movement known as cinéma vérité, which challenged conventional notions of documentary “truth” and “objectivity” in the 1960s and 1970s. By examining core concepts and techniques of the movement—for example, its experimentation with improvisation, participation, and provocation—we will develop an understanding of how and why cinéma vérité filmmakers tried to revolutionize documentary modes that had dominated much of the 20th century. In the process, we will consider how cinéma vérité continues to influence documentary filmmaking and the broader politics of race, gender, activism, and knowledge in film and related media. The documentary will serve two broader functions in this capstone seminar: 1) Each week will be devoted to using the documentary as a way to think through a foundational category in cinema studies—e.g., realism, spectatorship, ideology, postmodernism, race—so that students develop a deeper understanding of how broad conversations in the discipline are negotiated in a specific subfield. 2) The various ways in which documentaries use evidence, questioning, and argumentation will be used as frameworks for helping students develop their own analytical skills for using evidence, developing questions, and making arguments while writing in the discipline.