Ethnographic and Documentary Cinema

Subject SCRN40003 (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

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

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2014:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

2 hour seminar and 2.5 hour screening per week

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
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, 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 postmodern debates surrounding documentary film-making and realism, and the critique of ethnographic cinema as linked to nationalism and imperialism and what we might describes as the filming of the ‘other’. A central issue for discussion will be that of the ethical challenges which face documentary filmmakers.

We will study a wide range of classic works such as Nanook of the North (Flaherty, 1922), The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter (Field, 1980), The Thin Blue Line (Morris1988), Bowling for Columbine (Moore, 2002) and Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man (2005). There will be a focus on recent forms of documentary film that have taken up contemporary social issues such as sexuality, gender, race, the environment, social violence and the plight of non-human animals. Students should develop a knowledge of various forms of documentary cinema, including self-reflective modes, 'cinema verite', direct interview, surrealist documentary, docufiction and mockumentary. Also important will be an understanding of aesthetic issues such as the ethnographic gaze,realism, point of view and haptic visuality.

Learning Outcomes:

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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