Ethnographic and Documentary Cinema

Subject SCRN40003 (2013)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2013.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2013.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 4.5
Total Time Commitment:



Admission to the postgraduate diploma or fourth year honours in screen studies or screen and cultural studies, the Master of Cinema Management, Master of Arts and Cultural Management (Moving Image).



Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.

The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Jeanette Hoorn

Subject Overview:

This subject investigates the place of documentary and ethnographic film in contemporary film theory. Students should become familiar with the postmodern debate surrounding documentary film-making and realism, and the critique of ethnographic cinema as linked to nationalism and imperialism. The films of French, British, American and Australian ethnographers are taken up, with classic works such as Flaherty's Nanook of the North among those studied. Recent films which are critical of ethnography and the ethnographic gaze such as Marlon Fuentes's Bontoc Eulogy (1996) are considered. The use of ethnography for entertainment as well as surveillance is examined through popular movies such as The Gods Must be Crazy. Students should develop a knowledge of the four classic modes of documentary cinema, namely the Griersonian, 'cinema verite', direct interview and self-reflexive modes, of the relationship between documentary and ethnographic cinema, and of the colonial propaganda film.


Students who complete this subject will:

  • have a broad knowledge of ethnographic and documentary cinema from its inception to the contemporary period; and
  • have a detailed knowledge of the theoretical debates surrounding ethnographic and documentary film making and its reception.

A 5000 word research essay 100% (due in the examination period). Students are required to attend a minimum of 80% (or 10 out of 12) classes in order to qualify to have their written work assessed. Any student who fails to meet this hurdle without valid reason will not be eligible to pass the subject. All required written work must be submitted in order to pass the subject. Essays submitted after the due date without an extension will be penalised 2% per day. Essays submitted after two weeks of the assessment due date without a formally approved application for special consideration or an extension will only be marked on a pass/fail basis if accepted.

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • be skilled in research;
  • possess advanced skills of critical thinking and analysis;
  • possess an ability to communicate knowledge intelligibly, economically and effectively; and
  • have an understanding of social, ethical and cultural context.
Related Course(s): Bachelor of Arts (Honours)(Media and Communications)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts (Media and Communication)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: 150 Point Moving Image
200 Point Master of Global Media Communication
200 Point Moving Image
Media and Communications
Screen Studies
Screen Studies
Screen and Cultural Studies

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